How to Create a Style Guide with Company-specific Grammar Choices
Creating a company-specific AP (Associated Press) style guide with grammar choices tailored to the organization's needs can be valuable for maintaining consistency and brand voice in written communications. Here are the steps you can follow to develop your own AP style guide:
1. Understand the AP Stylebook: The AP Stylebook is a widely-used reference guide for journalists and writers, providing guidelines on grammar, punctuation, spelling, and writing conventions. Familiarizing yourself with this resource is essential, as your company's style guide should build upon the AP Stylebook's standards.
2. Identify Company-Specific Preferences: Consider the nature of your company, its target audience, and its industry. These factors will influence the writing style and preferences. For instance, a technology company may lean toward a more informal and tech-savvy voice, while a law firm may require a more formal and precise approach. Determine the specific grammar, style, and writing preferences that align with your company's brand and voice. These preferences may include preferred spellings, capitalizations, abbreviations, and usage of certain words.
3. Compile a List of Terms: Create a list of industry-specific terms, brand names, product names, and other unique vocabulary relevant to your company. Define how each term should be used in writing to avoid ambiguity and ensure consistency across all communications. Include capitalization, spelling, and use rules within the style guide.
4. Grammar and Punctuation Rules: Establishing clear grammar and punctuation rules is essential for maintaining a professional image. Address common issues like subject-verb agreement, correct use of semicolons and colons, and the appropriate usage of dashes and ellipses. And the most controversial decision of all; decide how your company will use the comma. Will your company follow AP Style comma rules, or will you go "old-school" and use an Oxford comma?
5. Formatting Guidelines: Formatting consistency enhances the professional appearance of your company's content. Decide on font styles, heading hierarchies, font sizes, and spacing guidelines. Consistency in formatting also ensures that your content is accessible and easily read.
6. Address Tone and Voice: Defining the tone and voice of your company's communications helps establish a consistent brand identity. Determine whether your writing should be authoritative, approachable, humorous, or any other tone that aligns with your brand.
7. Usage of Numbers and Dates: Decide how numbers, dates, and times should be formatted and presented in your content. Establish conventions for numerical ranges, percentage representations, and handling dates in different contexts (e.g., month/day/year vs. day/month/year).
8. Incorporate Legal and Compliance Requirements: If your company operates in a highly regulated industry, ensure the style guide incorporates relevant legal and compliance requirements. Address any necessary disclaimers or disclosures and explain their use in specific communications.
9. Review Existing Content: Analyzing past content can reveal recurring issues and inconsistencies. This review process helps avoid historical mistakes and identifies gaps to address in the style guide.
10. Seek Input from Writers and Editors: Involve your team of writers, editors, and other content creators in developing the style guide. Their insights and feedback can provide valuable perspectives and improve the guide's quality.
11. Organize and Document: Organize the style guide in a clear and accessible format. Use sections and subheadings to categorize different rules and guidelines. Consider using examples to illustrate proper usage. The guide should be easily searchable so writers can quickly find the necessary information.
12. Update and Maintain: Language evolves, and so should your style guide. Set up a review schedule to periodically update the guide to reflect changes in language conventions, industry practices, and your company's evolving voice.
13. Distribute and Train: Ensure that all relevant team members have access to the style guide and understand its importance. Conduct training sessions or workshops to familiarize employees with the guide's content and its application in their day-to-day work.
By investing the time and effort into creating a well-crafted company-specific style guide, you can streamline your company's writing processes, improve consistency, and present a unified and professional brand voice in all written communications. Remember that the style guide should be a living document that adapts to meet the changing needs of your organization.