Thursday, September 18, 2008

Content Strategy and the Editorial Style Guide

One project job that consistently falls to a content strategist is the creation of an Editorial Style Guide that is specific to that project. This important content strategy document contains style guidelines that are specific to client and project at hand. The style guide may well offer some exceptions to the AP Stylebook (or whatever has been defined as the official style book). It is critical to maintain a consistent style throughout your project with regard to spelling, capitalization, abbreviations and usage. This helps ensure that the message is strong, clear, cohesive and professional.

The process of creating the style guide can feel a lot like the movie, Ground Hog Day. You have the same discussions and arguments over and over again. As “word people” it is easy for some of these discussions to become rather passionate. We tend to have strong feelings about these sorts of things. “What! You don’t use the serial comma? Are you still using teletype machines and trying to save on transmission bits?”

It’s best to just give your professional opinion on these items, then bite your tongue and let the client have their way if they make seemingly silly decisions. “You want to hyphenate the term ‘Web-site’ in your content? Sure. Fine and dandy.”

The easiest way to approach the creation of a new style guide it to have the basic structure set up in a template that you can use over and over again on different projects.

What? You don’t have an Editorial Style Guide template you can use? Well, I just might have something to help you out added to The Web Content Strategist’s Bible bonus downloads soon.

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