What Does your Company Think of Your Writing? What’s a Corporate Style Guide?

Declan Mulkeen

12 Apr 2016

There is often a perceived tension between how you write and how your organisation would like you to write. Corporate style guides have been drafted for this very purpose – to help you adapt your writing and presentation to that of the company’s. So, what does your company think of your writing and have you ever seen a corporate style guide? Read on to discover more…

How to manage between your own style and a corporate style guide?

Trends in business writing are changing. A more relaxed writing style is now coming through

Many professionals are understandably cautious about producing bland, ‘vanilla’ documents full of corporate speak and meaningless buzzwords.

However, maintaining a personal style adapted for your reader is not incompatible with following corporate guidelines that ensure written communication reflects the professionalism and values of the organisation.

Corporate style guide

Objectors may say that they do not need to be shown how to write as they are well educated and have been writing for business for many years. However, trends in business writing change.

Have a look at the corporate style guide of Yahoo!

The example of open punctuation

An obvious example is the more minimalist ‘open’ approach to punctuation used in business writing today. This would have looked sloppy and unprofessional 20 years ago but today is part of the cleaner, fresher ‘plain English’ approach to business writing.

In addition, there are sometimes several ‘right’ ways of writing such as whether or not we hyphenate certain words.

Co-operation or cooperation?

They are both technically correct but it looks more professional if the same form is used consistently – not only within a specific document but in all written communication produced by the same organisation.

A style guide includes useful lists of these technical nuances which can be time consuming for each individual to check.

Change always takes a transition time

Clients may actually prefer documents that are fresh and easy to read and that reflect the modern, forward thinking ethos of the company they have selected

Other detractors may claim that if they adopt a slightly different writing style their clients and/or superiors may not like it. Of course, any new communications initiative such as a corporate style guide needs to be embraced from the top down.

As for clients, it is not uncommon for lawyers, as an example, to suggest that they will lose credibility if they take a more modern plain English approach and use simple language in shorter sentences. These very clients may actually prefer documents that are fresh and easy to read and that reflect the modern, forward thinking ethos of the company they have engaged.

Will your company’s style guide really add value?

A corporate style guide ensures that the company enhances its external image by developing an appropriate style that consistently delivers quality documents

There are many reasons why a style guide adds value to an organisation’s internal and external communication but here are a few.

1. Saves Time – A style guide saves time by providing quick answers to format, style and accuracy questions that occur when writing

2. Saves Money – A style guide enables employees to spend fewer hours writing, reviewing, and correcting documents. It also reduces the expense of training and avoids potentially costly mistakes

3. Ensures Consistency – A style guide promotes consistency throughout the company

4. Guarantees Professionalism – A style guide ensures that the company enhances its external image by developing an appropriate style that consistently delivers quality documents and reflects the brand values of the organisation

Writing your company’s style guide from scratch can be a daunting task and so many organisations work closely with expert consultants or follow business writing training programmes that highlight the key elements of a style guide.

 



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