You’ve heard the saying, “Consistency is key”—and it’s right.
Part of developing a good brand is to stay consistent with your style. Think about it: if McDonald’s all of a sudden changed their colors to purple and blue on the sign out front but the inside of the restaurant was still red and yellow, we’d be a little confused.
The same goes with our writing. Style is how our writing physically looks and the more consistent we are, the more clean and professional our writing will be. Whether you’re a freelancer, run your own personal blog, or work on a marketing team, establishing your style is one important part of making your writing look professional.
Let’s dive a little deeper.
Before we get into it, I have a free gift for you! If you are just beginning your writing career or unsure what new piece to add to your writing portfolio, my guide to building a portfolio no matter your experience level is exactly what you need. Create your portfolio with confidence! Check it out:
When I created the style guide for my full-time job, there were a lot more decisions to make when deciding on style than I expected. If you are in the process of establishing your brand’s style, here are four style elements to consider for your style guide in order for everyone to be on the same page when writing for the brand.
You may include lists in your writing, but if you sometimes have solid bullets, sometimes check marks, or sometimes dashes, it looks a little inconsistent. At my full-time job, we use solid bullets unless we write that a numbered list will proceed. For example, if we write, “Here are five reasons why you should save for retirement,” then we would follow with a numbered list. But if we write, “Here are the updates to your account you should expect,” then we would use a bulleted list.
You may also want to consider whether or not to use full sentences in lists or not. At work, we like to make sure each list is either all full sentences or all incomplete sentences. Lists with full sentences will also all have periods at the end.
For example, this is how I would correctly write lists according to my work’s style guide:
Example 1 (full sentences and numbered)
Here are three updates you should expect:
- You will be prompted to update your account number.
- A one-time PIN functionality will be in effect beginning December 1, 2021.
- The quarterly deadlines will now be every third Tuesday of every month as of December 1, 2021.
Example 2 (incomplete sentences and bullets)
By signing up, you’ll receive:
- A free bag
- Unlimited online access
- 1:1 consulting
- Sentence case vs title case
At my work, we use sentence case for everything, which means that the first word of every phrase is capitalized and the rest is lowercase (except words that start a sentence or are proper nouns). Title case is where all words are capitalized—except some companies may choose to make smaller words like articles or prepositions lowercase.
For example, this is sentence case:
- The top reasons why you should become a freelancer
- Why Twitter is important for writers
- Do this before becoming a freelancer
And this is title case:
- The Top Reasons Why You Should Become A Freelancer
- Why Twitter Is Important For Writers
- Do This Before Becoming A Freelancer
This is something you’ll want to keep consistent in anything you write. Stick to one—it’s just much more professional for those details to be the same across the board. Just like how McDonald’s should keep the exact same colors on the outside sign and inside the restaurant. It would look weird if it’s different in different places.
- How to write numbers
For my style guide, I spell out numbers one through ten and anything greater than ten is written in numerals. Whatever you decide, stick with it!
- How to write time
There are several ways you might want to write time. Here are some examples:
- 3:00 pm
- 3:00 p.m.
- 3:00 PM
- 3:00 pm ET (indicating the time zone)
- 3:00pm ET
This is another small but important detail to decide to keep everything nice and consistent and, if you work with other writers, keep everyone on the same page.
Writing in style
You may have heard of AMA style, AP style, or MLA style, and those are all different style guides. You can certainly pull elements of any of them or make up your own to create your own style guide for you and anyone else who writes for the brand.
A really good example of a style guide is from Mailchimp that you can view here. You’ll see how they even go into great detail about voice and tone, another two key elements of a great style guide.
Strut your stuff with consistent style 🙂
And don’t forget about my free guide!