An updated style guide helps establish a brand and keep all writers and editors in your company consistent.
If you write or edit for any sort of company, you should have read the company’s style guide at least once. And if the company doesn’t have a style guide, you probably know about which style manual you should refer to. But when was the last time you updated your style guide? And when was the last time you looked at it while you edited?
In “Key Elements of an Effective Style Guide in the New Age,” Esha Adhya (2015) from North Carolina State University studied why style guides are so important for companies. Adhya analyzed five global style guides, surveyed a technical writing community online, interviewed seven technical writers, and supervised online forum discussions all about the purpose and effectiveness of style guides.
Approximately 82% of the surveyed participants agreed that style guides effectively unify a company’s brand and writing, and various participants also emphasized that style guides were most effective when treated as a “living document” and updated on average every six to twelve months. Furthermore, Adhya found that communication was a key factor in ensuring that employees knew where and how to return to a style guide to promote consistency within a company. Additionally, Adhya determined that 91% of editors updated a style guide’s word-usage and terminology sections most frequently.
Ultimately, Adhya discovered that an updated style guide helps establish a brand and keep all writers and editors in your company consistent. Because new technologies and products emerge in various markets and fields each day, editors should be aware of and up to date on these developments so that they can be incorporated into manuscripts accurately. Editors aren’t alone in this endeavor; however, Adhya learned that style guides were the most helpful and up to date when all individuals within a company, no matter their role, took an interest and responsibility in maintaining the company’s style guide. So the next time you work on a project, consider finding ways to help your entire organization know where to find your style guide and how to report needed updates.
To learn more about why an updated style guide is so important, read the full article:
Adhya, Esha. 2015. “Key Elements of an Effective Style Guide in the New Age.” Technical Communication 62 (3): 183–92. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/stc/tc/2015/00000062/00000003/art00003.
—Brittany Passmore, Editing Research
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