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  • Writer's pictureLeanna Coy, FNP-C

The Magic of a Style Guide

Book page showing different styles of the lower case letter "G"

When an organization is looking to establish its brand, one of the fundamental components is the brand’s voice. The voice is how they choose to present themselves publicly and is essentially the organization’s personality. This personality can be formal with sleek imagery and elevated copy, or it may be more relaxed and poking fun at itself. Regardless of how the organization presents its brand, consistency across platforms, websites, documents, and client-facing information is vital. A style guide plays a significant role in keeping that brand voice consistent across all areas of marketing. 

What is a style guide? A style guide is information provided by an organization’s editorial or marketing team to direct how the writing for the brand looks. A guide typically includes punctuation, grammar, formatting, capitalization, font sizes, and citations. It is a handy point of reference for writers to understand the personality and style of the brand. Having a common point of reference allows a variety of writers to create pieces with a uniform appearance and readability.

Commonly Used Style Guides

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS)

For publishing, journals, and general academic writing

The Associated Press Stylebook (AP)

Used by journalists, news, and media writers

The American Medical Association Manual of Style (AMA)

For writing about healthcare and medicine

Modern Language Association (MLA)

Used for academic writing in humanities and literature

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA)

A style guide adds professionalism to an organization’s copy by supplying standards for writers. As a writer, the style guide helps me to turn in cleaner copy in a format aligned with the organization’s voice. Cleaner copy means fewer edits. Without a style guide, I am left to ask a lot of questions back and forth with the editor for clarification. A style guide makes the jobs of both the writer and the editor easier while helping to maintain quality work.

Here are the top five benefits of using a style guide:

  1. Brand identity: A brand identity is the keystone for how a company presents itself. The style guide clarifies the voice and tone of this identity. By identifying consistent terminology and grammar, the style guide illustrates the company’s personality for writers to use. 

  2. Improved SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is what drives clicks to a site. Keywords are an essential component of SEO. The style guide can identify relevant keywords from the organization. Knowing these keywords helps writers improve ranking by incorporating them into the writing. 

  3. Improved reader experience: The end user/reader cannot be forgotten. It is crucial to ensure the reader experience is a good one in order to keep their eyes on the written copy. The style guide assists with this by keeping the writing at a consistently understandable reading level. This keeps the writing accessible to a broader audience. Additionally, the use of inclusive language helps limit bias.

  4. Clarity: A style guide outlines the specific punctuation, sentence structure, and preferred terms an organization uses. The guide also avoids the use of confusing jargon, making the copy easier for the reader to understand.

  5. Efficiency: The use of a style guide reduces editing time. The ability to reduce time spent on edits going back and forth between the writer and editor is a cost saver for any organization. 

Does your organization use a style guide? If not, why not?

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