Many colleges and universities publish editorial style guides that provide detailed information on how to write, footnote, capitalize, use punctuation and a whole lot more. Perhaps the most thorough is UC Berkeley’s Editorial Style Guide. This is essential in academia, especially in fields where research documents are commonplace and guidelines, such as the widely accepted A.P.A. Style, are strictly evaluated. Few businesses do this, but if your business publishes industry or technical information, you should create a company-wide editorial guide. It will make your company look more authoritative and may lead to increased business. Here are some ideas to incorporate so your guide is the best it can be.
Make it detailed as possible
Cover every possible aspect your employees could write about. What should be capitalized? How should numbers be written out? (Tip: write out the words for numbers one through nine and the actual numbers for 10 and higher). Talk about paragraph structure and punctuation. These details are not fun to write about and are even less fun to read. However, an industry research piece or a promotional announcement may be the first introduction to your company that a user will have. Don’t you want that first impression to be a good one?
Also, make it user-friendly for your employees. The Table of Contents should be very detailed so they can access the information they need quickly. If the company is going through the trouble of producing a thorough editorial style guide, you want to make sure your employees will use it.
Think of the most industry-applicable items
Every industry has different terminology, accepted abbreviations and many other nuances that will be covered editorially. Make sure that you define every pertinent term and aspect of your industry that your employees may write about. Again, details are critical here because you need your company to look professional and authoritative. If you were to write 100 points in an industry piece and 99 were correct, people won’t remember that. They’ll remember the one thing that was wrong. Also, go to as many pertinent industry trade shows and teaching seminars as possible to stay current on changing industry trends and information. You’ll want to incorporate those changes and update your editorial guide annually.
Consult the pros
The people who are most experienced in producing editorial style guides are colleges and universities. Reach out to one that is in your company’s city and use them as a resource. Pay them if you need to, but make sure you have some expert advice for your guide so that your editorial style guide provides the best possible information.
Don’t forget your company’s personality
The nuts and bolts of grammar are what make an effective editorial style guide. However, make sure that your company’s personality is reflected in the writings, research articles, promotional pieces or any other information you may send out to your industry or customers. Be certain there is a chapter in your guide talking about how to express the company’s personality, mission, branding or anything else you want to convey about the organization. It’s best if everyone stays on message. If your company likes to present itself as informative, but light hearted, capture that statement in the guide and make sure your employees know it’s okay to write that way.