06.26.08 — Creating a Corporate Writing Style
Author Paul D Kennedy
Developing a corporate writing style will unify your company's communications and create a unique 'voice' that enhances corporate recognition and brand awareness. To ensure that your corporate writing style is applied consistently, you need a style-guide.
Writing style refers to the words and expressions - as well as to the spelling, grammar and punctuation - a person uses when writing letters and memos. Each of us has a personal style of writing which, like our speaking voice, is usually recognizable.
To distinguish itself from its competitors your company also needs its own writing style, one that will make it recognizable and enhance brand awareness.
The problem is that corporate communications are written by many people, each with their own personal style. This is especially true where particular documents, such as newsletters, technical manuals and corporate brochures, websites and ezines, contain contributions from several people.
Thus there is a need to create a company writing style that unifies written communications and reflects corporate identity and image.
If you examine the brochures and websites of major corporations you'll see that the style of writing varies - sometimes subtly but always distinctively - from one company to the next. You will also notice that the corporate literature of each particular company reflects a unified style, as if it had all been written by the same person, ie the same corporate personality.
The best way to achieve a unified writing style that is stamped with your corporate personality is to create a document called a style-guide.
A style-guide is a booklet that covers word, phrase and sentence usage, and approaches to be taken in structuring particular types of communications, such as brochures, technical manuals or ezines, as well as common errors in grammar and syntax. It lays down the 'rules' to be followed when writing corporate literature.
A style-guide should provide your corporate communications with a distinct vocabulary and cadence that is appropriate to your business. Obviously a writing style that is suitable for a financial services company or bank must differ greatly from the style of a fashion house. An appropriate style-guide will provide your company with the overall tone and word-quality you need to communicate successfully with your target audiences.
When devising a style-guide, an independent consultant is essential to preserve objectivity. Giving the job to an in-house executive may result in writing style that is contentious because everyone within your company is likely to have views on what is an appropriate and 'correct' style. An external writing consultant will have the experience needed to devise an appropriate style - it's his main job after all.
The consultant will begin with an examination of your company, its marketing efforts, communication channels and target audiences. He or she will also peruse the company's marketing communications and other corporate literature. This getting-to-know-you phase must be done thoroughly which can take time.
Once he understands your company, its communication objectives and typical audiences, the consultant will be in a position to draft a corporate style manual and agree its content with senior management. To illustrate the value of the proposed writing style, he or she should rewrite some of your recent corporate literature and show how the proposed style will enhance corporate recognition and branding.
You should always ensure that the final guide is delivered in electronic format so that it may be printed and distributed among your staff without restriction. Once it has been issued, you will also need to take steps to ensure that the writing 'rules' are followed in all communications with markets and stakeholders.
A well-thought out writing style-guide with clear understandable rules, which are applied consistently to all corporate literature - print and electronic - will ensure clarity and harmony in your corporate communications and reinforce corporate personality. It's just as important as your logo and visual imagery.
Originally published in the June 26, 2008 Entireweb Newsletter.