House Rules: How to Talk about Your Company Consistently Using a Style Guide

Why an Editorial Style Guide Might Be Right for Your Company

When people think about branding, they typically think about visuals. You wouldn’t dream of changing your logo’s colors or font with each use. Yet if you don’t have a company editorial style guide, you might be doing a similar thing when communicating about your company in writing. Just as your brand needs a consistent look, it also needs a consistent sound.

Creating a style guide that standardizes all internal and external communications solves this issue. A style guide will ensure that your company’s communications are clear and consistent and reflect your company’s values.

An Existing, Published Style Guide Will Cover Most Things, But Isn’t Company-Specific

For most things, such as punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, using an existing style guide is a good idea. Many businesses use the Chicago Manual of Style. But there are other items specific to your business that a standard guide won’t address.

For example, how does your company refer to customers? Are they customers, clients, users, guests, or something else? How about employees? Are they employees, associates, team members, staff, or something else? 

The Best Businesses Standardize Communications with a Style Guide and Scripts

You may think that your employees and customers won’t be fazed by these seemingly minor differences in terminology. But successful companies are specific about how they talk about their business.

For example, at Target, employees are always “team members” and customers are always “guests.” Target also has processes unique to retail, and they always use the same names for these processes. For example, arranging products on the shelves after the store has closed is referred to as “zoning.” And the sections of the store are always referred to the same way as well—the area with pillows, blankets, and sheets is always “housewares,” never bedding. 

They also standardize how employees (er, team members) interact with guests. If a team member sees a guest with that deer-in-the-headlights look on their face, they’re supposed to use the company line, “Can I help you find something?”  It’s not “How can I help you?” or “What are you looking for?”  It’s always “Can I help you find something?” 

Editorial Style Guides Give Your Company Messaging Clarity

Target understands that clarity is paramount in all company communications. Whether you’re crafting your company’s largest advertising campaign or firing off a routine email, by discussing business in a consistent way, you can reduce confusion and ensure that your company has a polished image.  

In creating your style guide, think about all the specific language decisions company employees make every day. For example, are there any specific benefits of your company’s products that you want to highlight in all marketing? Should employees be referred to by their company titles in all external communications? Are the little people in your programs kids or children? 

A company style guide need not be long—a few pages should suffice. With everyone operating from the same playbook, you can ensure that every company communication is clear and consistent.