The Anatomy of a Style Guide + Free Starter Template
Ever since I started this blog four months ago, I have been playing around with themes and trying to establish its visual branding guidelines (I realize I will have to purchase a premium theme and/or hire a designer eventually, but for now, I enjoy playing with the available resources).
While I have been pretty sure about the style of content this blog will carry, I have been quite fickle with the visual aspect.
So, every time I changed the theme, I wanted to update the color scheme of all images on the blog and social media. I have experimented with so many colors pallets (all in the same color family though) and fonts, it was difficult to keep track.
And then it hit me! Why wasn’t I using the #1 tool I have used throughout my professional life? I needed to create a style guide–or, a prescribed set of guidelines that help keep your brand’s message and messaging consistent.
The Anatomy of a Style Guide
Do You Need a Style Guide For Your Blog?
If you are anything like me, you have played around with your blog appearance several times. Experimenting with font styles, colors, images…an overall theme…trying to create a unique style for your unique brand.
It may take you several iterations to come up with a style that truly reflects your brand.
While the visual aspect of the blog gets a lot of attention from your readers and you, it’s equally important to realize your content style. Your content style adds as much value as the visual style to your brand quotient.
In addition, as you grow and bring in more hands on the deck, you need to ensure that the changes in the backend are not visible on the frontend.
Your message and tone should be consistent across your blog. Your reader must not be able to tell the difference between the posts that you write yourself and the posts that your content writer writes (unless you want your readers to know!).
Your style guide will be the one-stop reference material you and your team can consult.
A well-researched style guide:
- Allows uniformity: By establishing branding guidelines, your style guide allows uniformity across all your products—think eBooks, eCourses, printables, emails, and blog posts following the same style that is consistent with your brand.
- Provides reference: Consider your brand’s style guide as a legacy handbook. Any person who needs to know about your branding guidelines can consult the style guide.
- Saves time: Imagine how much time you would waste if you or your team did not have the style guide to consult. A new team member may need to sit around waiting for a more experienced person to guide frequently.
Which Style Guide Is Right For Me?
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It is a common practice in the publishing industry to create one’s own style guide based on the unique requirements of your brand. While the visual aspect is often built from the scratch, most organizations adapt their content style to existing industry-standard style guides.
Two common style guides you can follow or borrow from are the *Chicago Manual of Style and the *Yahoo Style Guide. I have used both of these style guides in my professional life, and base most of my current writing on these as well.
Both resources are beneficial for those using informal language, i.e. most bloggers.
For example, if you have a parenting blog, your content should be easy to understand, use the active voice, and provide actionable tasks or steps.
It should be informative but presented as quick tips (parents don’t have time to sit through a 3000-words paragraph format post). It should have a reassuring tone and highly trusted voice.
Another popular resource for establishing writing style is the *AP Stylebook. This resource is apt for serious writing.
For example, if you have a website on mental illnesses, then your writing will be very different from a more casual beauty blog. The AP Stylebook will be more apt for a blog on mental illnesses.
Download a free, fully customizable style guide for your blog NOW!
Common Sections of a Style Guide
Writing Style: This section provides guidance on the expected writing style and formatting for your content.
- Grammar and Mechanics
- Industry Language and Jargon
- Credits and References
Visual Style: This section provides guidance on the expected visual style and formatting for your content.
- Logo: Where does your logo appear? What is the size of your logo?
- Color and Fonts: What fonts do you use for your text and headers?
- Placement and alignment
- Templates: Add the image template for each social media platform you use.
At face value, this may look like a lot of unnecessary work.
But you should work with the mindset of a business owner.
Your aim should be to optimize your processes such that you or any new member that works on your blog knows exactly what to do.
Maintaining a style guide is one such resource that helps maintain business continuity.
A style guide can be as concise or as detailed as you like. It is not a fossil document; remember to modify it as your brand evolves.
To get you started, I have created a fully customizable style guide template for you. You can work with this template as is, or add further sections to your own liking.
For example, if you start writing eBooks or eCourses, you can create a separate section for the content and visual guidelines to follow. Much of this guide will overlap with your existing style guide.
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