What is a style guide? A guide to consistency starts here.

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I’ve been in plenty of situations where people argue for content changes based on their personal preferences, and that’s where a style guide comes in for brands. They take out the personal preference arguments and let teams focus on the collaborative discussions that can actually move content performance forward.

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Content consistency and brand voice matter. All the different content types – blog posts, emails, etc. – should align with your brand’s voice and style. This is where a style guide comes in – it’s a crucial tool for ensuring consistency and clarity in your marketing content, not just within a single piece of content but across all content produced.

“Consistency is really important,” says content strategist Carmen Hill on Episode 420 of “The Business Storytelling Show.” “If you go to a website and all the pages sound like they were written by different people, then you don’t have cohesiveness of the brand, who they are, what they’re trying to say. It all ladders up to brand identity, strategy, and style.”

The definition of a style guide

A style guide summarizes and shares specific rules and guidelines for writing and formatting content for your brand. It covers everything from grammar and punctuation preferences to tone of voice and terminology. Think of it as a rulebook for your brand’s written language.

But a style guide goes beyond just grammar and formatting.

“Style guides are important not just for grammar and formatting but for reinforcing brand voice, tone, and identity,” explains Carmen.

Adhering to a style guide ensures that all of the content representing your brand, from your website copy to your X posts, feels cohesive and intentional.

Why do you need a style guide?

Consistency builds trust. When your audience encounters consistent messaging across all touchpoints, it builds trust in your brand. They recognize and expect a certain style and tone from your communications. Inconsistencies, on the other hand, can be jarring and undermine your credibility.

Try the AP Style Guide

AP style guide

Clarity saves time

A well-defined style guide saves time by answering common writing questions clearly. Instead of debating whether to use “e-book” or “ebook,” your team can refer to the guide and move on – something that’s especially useful for larger teams or when working with freelancers. With a style guide, writers and editors can spend less time deliberating over minor details and more time creating great content.

Professionalism sets you apart

Adherence to a style guide shows attention to detail and professionalism. It sets you apart from brands that have sloppy or inconsistent writing. When your content is polished and error-free, it reflects positively on your brand. Carmen notes, “From a marketer’s point of view, from a brand point of view, our style choices also reinforce our brand, voice, and tone.”

What should a style guide include?

Brand voice and tone

A style guide should define your brand’s unique voice and tone. Are you friendly and casual or formal and authoritative? Do you use humor or stick to a serious tone? Provide examples of what your brand voice sounds like in practice.

Grammar and mechanics

Cover the nitty-gritty details of grammar, punctuation, and formatting. Will you use the Oxford comma? How do you format dates and times? What about capitalization for job titles? Documenting these preferences ensures uniformity.

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Terminology and usage

Create a list of approved terminology, including any industry-specific jargon. Define how to use and format these terms consistently. For example, is it “website” or “web site”? “Ebook” or “e-book”?

Brand-specific conventions

In addition to following an external style guide like AP or Chicago, many organizations need an in-house style guide to specify the treatment of product names, trademarked terms, company-specific acronyms, or other branded elements. “You might have product names; there might be industry terms that aren’t covered. So you need to account for those additions that may not even be in the AP Stylebook,” says Carmen.

Formatting guidelines

Provide templates or guidelines for formatting different content types – including blog posts, case studies, or product descriptions. Include details like heading styles, image placement, and meta description length.

How to create a style guide

Start with a template.

You don’t have to start from scratch. There are many style guide templates available online that you can use as a starting point. Popular ones include AP Style and Chicago Manual of Style. Choose one that aligns with your industry and brand voice. The online version of the AP Stylebook also lets you add to it.

Get input from your team

Creating a style guide should be a collaborative process. Get input from key stakeholders, including content creators, designers, and brand managers. These different perspectives will help you create a more comprehensive and usable guide.

Make it user-friendly

Use clear headings, examples, and explanations. Use a table of content and index for quick reference. The more user-friendly it is, the more likely your team will use it consistently. As Carmen advises, “Introduce them to it and have the sort of conversation about why it’s important. And this is how we do things.”

Use AI to get started

Taskade and other AI software programs now help you get started with a style guide. Try it here.

Treat it as a living document

As your brand evolves, your style guide should evolve with it. Regularly review it and update it. Remember that it’s a living document and can and will be updated. Always encourage people using the style guide to offer feedback for improvements.

Read next: Why brand identity is important

Implementing your style guide

Provide training – or how else will people know how to use it?

Once your style guide is complete, provide training for your team on how to use it effectively. Walk them through the key sections and provide examples of how to apply the guidelines in practice. Ensure new team members are introduced to the style guide during their onboarding.

Make it accessible

Ensure that your style guide is easily accessible to everyone who needs it. This might mean creating a shared online version, or integrating it into your content management system. Consider investing in an online style guide subscription, like AP Stylebook Online, to ensure your team always has the most up-to-date guidance at their fingertips.

Hold everyone accountable

Consistency requires commitment from everyone involved in content creation. Hold your team accountable for adhering to the style guide, and provide gentle reminders when necessary. Celebrate successes and share examples of content that exemplifies your brand style.

The impact of AI on style guides

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more prevalent in content creation, style guides are more important than ever. AI-powered writing tools can help with grammar and syntax, but they can’t replace the human touch when it comes to brand voice and style.

In fact, a strong style guide is what will differentiate your brand content from generic AI-generated writing full of overused buzzwords. Stop relying on words like “unlock,” “unleash,” and “transform,” which have become telltale indicators of AI authorship.

A style guide ensures content aligns with your brand’s unique voice and avoids generic or overused language.

The role of editors in upholding style

While a style guide is an essential tool, it’s not a substitute for human editors. Editors play a crucial role in upholding your brand style and ensuring consistency across all content.

“A great editor won’t just correct your spelling and grammar, but will help make sure that the narrative is structured well, that you have a point that is unique and strongly expressed,” says editor Patricia Chui, on Episode 660 of “The Business Storytelling Show.”

Editors can catch inconsistencies, provide feedback on brand voice, and ensure that every piece of content aligns with your style guide. They are an invaluable partner in maintaining a cohesive brand identity.

Why people feel passionate about style

Adhering to a style guide may feel nit-picky at times, but editorial standards matter. As Carmen says, “I think of myself as an editorial fussbudget, and I think it’s okay; I think of that as a good thing that’s not anything to apologize for. Somebody’s got to be a nitpicker.”

People often feel strongly about certain style choices because of the power of habit and personal preference. The serial comma is a classic example – some will adamantly defend its use while others argue punctuation should be minimal.

“I respect those choices,” says Hill. “Think of punctuation kind of like if you were writing music. I think of a comma as a rest mark. It’s not just a matter of clarity but also how you want someone to read something. And if you want to give them a pause or an interruption, then whether it’s a comma or a semicolon, or an em dash, punctuation is what helps people read and understand things in the way that you intend, it injects rhythm into your writing.”

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that style choices serve the reader. Upholding a consistent style eliminates distractions and helps your audience focus on your message.


A style guide ensures consistency, clarity, and professionalism across all your marketing communications. It’s an essential reference for any organization that wants to communicate effectively and cohesively.

Creating a style guide takes time and effort, but the payoff is worth it. A well-crafted style guide will save you time in the long run, improve the quality of your content, and help you maintain a strong brand identity.

So if you don’t have a style guide yet, now is the time to create one. Start with a template, get input from your team, and make it user-friendly and accessible. And remember, a style guide is a living document – keep it updated as your brand evolves.

With a comprehensive style guide and a commitment to consistency, content can stay on-brand, and you can eliminate those silly debates over personal preference. Define your brand voice and carry your brand strength and tone through everywhere!

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