How to Make a Brand Style Guide
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Having a complete brand style guide is paramount to keeping a brand consistent across platforms and mediums.
It's also an important way to help all customers recognize the brand no matter where it's showing up. Employees also need a brand style guide so they can all be on the same page about the do's and don'ts of the brand. If the company you work for doesn't already have a style guide for the brand, then it might be on you to get one started.
What is a Style Guide?
A style guide is a detailed reference that helps employees and future employees all remain on the same page in the writing they do for a company. There are many forms of style guides that a company might need:
Graphic design style guide
SEO style guide
Content style guide
Ad style guide
These style guides help keep your brand representation consistent across all mediums. They can also outline the rules and guidelines for a company's content.
A copywriter's style guide will help the content from a company have the same voice, formatting, style, and grammar.
How to Start a Style Guide
Right now I work as a copywriter for a finance company called Check City, so the style guide I've helped them create includes a lot of grammar rules around numbers, figures, and financial terms. For instance, in our style guide, we've decided to spell words like paystub and paycheck as all one word.
Many writing and grammar rules are the same no matter where you work as a writer. A comma will always be a comma and a misplaced modifier will always sound weird. But there are instances of divided usage that will make your style guide a very helpful reference.
Many style guides are also based on an already existing style guide. You aren't expected to rewrite all the rules of writing and grammar. Instead, your guide should reference a bigger, more in-depth guide like the Chicago Manual of Style.
Then you can only include in your guide the items that deviate from that norm or particularly apply to your business.
How to Format a Brand Style Guide
The formatting of your style guide should reflect the style of your company's brand. So if your brand uses first-line indents then the style guide should also use first-line indents.
Generally, the basic format for a style guide includes the following elements:
A first-page header that states when the style guide was last updated
An initial paragraph outlining what other sources should be used alongside this reference
Headings that outline the style guide's material in an organized and easy to reference manner
Examples that illustrate the rules and guidelines found in the style guide
Make sure you are constantly updating the style guide anytime new problems arise or are called to your attention.
If your style guide isn't organized properly then it won't be helpful as a reference guide. This is why I like to include basic topics for my primary headings, and more detailed secondary headings whenever I am formatting a new style guide.
For instance, I like to have a "Punctuation" section in my style guides. Then, within that heading, I'll have secondary headings that go over the company rules regarding each type of punctuation. So my secondary headings within the "Punctuation" section might go like this: "Apostrophes, Commas, Hyphens, Periods"
What's Included in a Brand Style Guide?
The items you'll include in your brand style guide will depend on the company you are creating the guide for. Someone who writes for a shopping blog will have different items to include in their guide than someone who works at an accounting firm.
Below I've listed some of the basic items and headings I like to include in my style guides. But depending on who needs the style guide, even some of these basics won't be necessary.
General Content Branding Guidelines
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Style and Formatting
Numerals vs Spelled
Ultimately, you want your content style guide to be a quick and easy-to-use reference guide for how to write copy for that particular business. If it has to do with content and the company, then include it in your style guide.
Remember, this style guide isn't just for your own personal reference. As a writing team grows and changes, it will need a constant that they can look to so that all content across the brand can remain consistent and on-brand.