My first proper job was as a publishing editor, working on educational magazines, and the way we worked to produce the magazines was very structured, following set processes that had been established to streamline workflows and ensure we met our print deadlines with focused effort and little deviation from the tasks in hand.
When I started working with the internet, even though that was at another publishers, there were no established processes or workflows that would apply, and although we transferred knowledge from paper to online, there are still websites out there, so many years later, where it is clear that processes are not as rigorous as they might be.
This is always something that you notice if it is wrong; if you read a novel free of typos you concentrate on the story, but if you see misspellings and incorrect grammar that becomes what you focus on – and the message is lost.
If you are blogging or creating content online then a key tool that drives consistency is a style guide, especially if there is more than one of you creating content on a regular basis.
Investing time in creating a style guide will help to ensure that your blog or website appears professional, easy for readers to digest and, above all, promotes your brand values and establishes a consistent voice on your chosen topic.
A style guide should cover consistency and tone of voice, common spelling and grammatical issues, and how you approach search engine optimisation and usability issues. A good style guide will eliminate thinking time as you follow key established guidelines and it will speed up your productivity in creation of new content.
You can establish key principles and rules such as adopting UK rather than US spelling, how you approach capitalisation, etc, and write this up in a sharable and accessible document which can be shared with any new authors for the site. A style guide isn’t a one-off effort though, it should be a living document that grows as you develop new content for blog, website and even social media sites.
It may seem a lot of effort for something that people notice only if you get it wrong, but it will pay off repeatedly as you develop content that is consistent and authoritative in your own unique tone of voice.
Your target audience will respect you and your content more if you keep your content clear, simple, brief, user-focused and consistent – and your credibility will increase.