Style is a conscious act of breaking convention as much as adhering to it.
Choose what style you want to portray, a perfect gentleman or an outlaw. But live the image all through consistently in the story. If, in some pages your hero comes across as a suave James Bond and in the next page speaks like an outlaw, then you are bound to confuse the audience.
Just like the characters in a movie, companies too have an image that needs to be defined. Style guide does exactly that. It defines the character of your company. The tone, the usage, the color and the lines on your company website, all contribute to the brand. Most companies have a visual brand guideline, but not all companies adhere to an editorial style guide. But those who do follow, have a distinct advantage over the rest.
For detailed analysis and examples, click the following links:
An editorial guideline is the preferred usage of spellings, abbreviations, acronyms, and rules for capitalization, grammar and punctuation. Using a style guide helps you to be consistent.If you have a style guide in place you will avoid writing three different spellings for the same word as in: smart phone, Smart Phone, SmartPhone. Remember these are new words you will not find in the old editions of an Oxford dictionary. So it helps to refer to an online style guide like Yahoo for instance.
The tone of content is as important as the rules of grammar.
Consider the following sentences:
‘I like my coffee without sugar’.
‘I like to have my coffee without sugar’.
Both the above sentences are grammatically right, but the tone makes all the difference.
The first sentence is abrupt, informal and direct, more likely to be used by folks on social media. It has a certain sense of urgency and attitude to it. The second sentence is formal, ‘proper’ and likely to be used by those who prefer a conservative approach to language.
But you will notice, how one seems to be addressing a younger audience while the second approach is more cautious.
Defining the tone of your website depends on the purpose and target audience you are addressing. If your purpose is to appeal to a younger generation as in a Career page, choose an informal tone but showcase a stimulating environment.
On the other hand, if you want to showcase your Work and Approach, you might want to keep your tone confident and professional.
Does it mean that the Career page and the Approach page will have clashing tones on your corporate website? The trick is to use the same brand promise, whichever tone you may use. This way, you know you belong to the same house although you are entering different rooms.
Indeed, style guide helps to avoid a lot of inconsistencies and legal hassles by advocating a rulebook in advance with proper rules for the dos & don’ts of content usage.
When we say usability, we mean writing for the online medium, which is distinct from the old push style of writing with reams of print, meant for reading at leisure and recollected in tranquility.
Alas, a lot has changed drastically in the way we approach content from the era when time was a luxury vs. real-time data on demand being the need of the hour.
Either way, it helps to know before hand, and to agree upon one style so as to be consistent and avoid confusion over the meaning of the sentence, both intended and unintended.
Here are some examples of how companies such as Accenture, Apple and IBM use or ignore content style in their corporate websites. And the consequence of their decision is plainly evident.
1. See how Apple breaks grammatical conventions of a sentence and still emerges a winner in the following:
Grammatically, “To a Mac”.is an incomplete sentence. You wouldn’t have passed high school grammar by writing such sentences. But, by deliberately breaking the sentence convention, Apple is drawing your attention to the brand Mac. You have to give credit to Apple for consistently being different. After all, style is in its DNA.
2. Notice how IBM questions but doesn’t use a question mark in the following sentence:
The style statement in the sentence above is questionable. It seems like negligence more than an attitude statement. The image artist forgot to insert a question mark. If I were IBM, I would pay attention to my style guide. This brings us to the need for a more collaborative teamwork between image artists and copy editors. Content Management System (CMS) helps us only so far. We cannot completely eliminate the human intervention of a meticulous copy editor. Not yet.
3. Of all the company style guides I have studied, Accenture is the most consistent. Most companies have their own in-house style preference. There is nothing right or wrong about it. See how Accenture also breaks sentence conventions to accentuate performance by saying;
High performance. Delivered.
You will also notice the use of the name ‘accenture’ in lowercase, but the use of title case for all the other words on the menu bar. This is because the name ‘accenture’ is a logo that needs to stand out from the rest of the text. It is not a style error.
Finally, the style guide doesn’t say you can’t break rules, just break it effectively.
Like Bond who uses his weapons only when most needed.