Every organization that publishes on the Web should use an editorial style guide approved by whoever is ultimately responsible for the quality of the organization’s content. No matter what size your business is or what business you’re in, an editorial style guide will:
- save you time and money by avoiding internal disputes about grammar, punctuation and spelling;
- help you make sure all your content (not just Web content) is consistent;
- improve the quality of your Web content—help you communicate more clearly and powerfully with site visitors.
Most organizations use either The Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style (for more scholarly content). Many more editorial style guides are available for different industries, countries, professions, and media (check out this extensive list on Wikipedia). Savvy, mature organizations usually supplement a published guide such as the AP Stylebook with an “in-house” guide that covers spellings, punctuation and usage unique to their business or industry. Those internal guides should be regularly updated and approved as new editorial issues arise.
And please note that I’m talking about editorial style guides here, not graphic design style guides (fonts, color specifications, ‘look and feel’) etc. Editorial style guides should also avoid wading into ‘voice and tone’ requirements, branding issues, editorial workflows, personas, competitive analyses and other content development policies that are much more useful in higher-level content or marketing strategies developed for specific Web projects.