Lots of organizations use style guides. In fact, according to some of our recent research, 67 percent of companies have their own corporate style guide. That’s good because style guides typically lay out all the guidelines for the content a business produces. At their most basic, they might be just a few pages and cover the fundamentals of grammar and punctuation. Meanwhile, more sophisticated guides can run to hundreds of pages. They can contain guidelines about everything from terminology, formatting, and abbreviations, to slang, capitalizations, and industry-specific words and phrases.
Having a style guide gives writers clarity and helps ensure that they create consistent, professional content. Ideally, it should be a resource that makes life easier and ensures that what content creators are writing reflects the company’s brand, style, and tone of voice. If your company doesn’t have its own style guide, there are plenty of great ones you can use.
Here are four of our favorite US style guides for B2B writers:
The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is the media bible. It contains commonly accepted journalistic standards for usage, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Most U.S. newspapers, magazines, and broadcast writers use it as their go-to style guide. It’s also characterized by its commitment to keeping writing style easy, concise, and free of bias. In recent years, marketing departments and public relations firms have also adopted it. So, if this is your area of content creation, AP is probably a good fit for you. And, even if that’s not the case, AP Style is so ubiquitous you really can’t go wrong using it.
Currently on its 17th edition, The Chicago Manual of Style is beloved by writers, editors, and publishers. It’s the standard for book publishing in fiction and nonfiction and is often used in the arts and humanities for academic papers. It has a lot of instruction on the publishing process, such as preparing a manuscript, proofreading, formatting, and citation, as well as style and usage. A more pared-down version of CMS, called Turabian Style, is also available and aimed at students writing research papers. If you’re a professional publishing your work, you’d use The Chicago Manual of Style. Many corporations have also adopted it as their preferred writing reference tool.
The Modern Language Association’s MLA Handbook is mostly used in the academic world. Recently updated to reflect modern challenges, such as web publication, it has one system that can be used across all platforms. It’s often used in teaching and lays out the principles behind citing and documenting sources, and gives detailed guidelines on scholarly writing and formatting manuscripts. It’s favored by scholars, journal publishers, and academic writers and publishers. Here, too, however, B2B writers are adopting it for content creation.
The Elements of Style is an absolute writer’s companion and possibly the grandfather of style guides. Written in 1918, it was revised decades later by Charlotte’s Web author EB White. It’s short and to the point, with an emphasis on the clarity and simplicity of proper writing. The rules are hard and fast, but set out simply. Authors, journalists, and copywriters love the “Little Book.” If you want to improve your writing in general, or need to focus on brevity and conciseness, this might be the right one for you.
Getting the Most Out of Style Guides
While style guides are a vital instrument in creating content, they’re not perfect. Whether they’re online or in physical book form, they can be hard to use. Writers aren’t going to memorize them back to front, or even refer to them when they should.
Fortunately, modern technology means that they don’t have to. Innovative software enables writers to select a style guide of their choice (or input their own) and be guided to write in accordance with it. The result is universal compliance with style guideline preferences, without the hassle of having to manually look things up or run all of your content through a team of editors. No matter which style guidelines your company uses, having the right software to help enforce them can make a big difference. Plus, you can standardize guidelines for inclusive language, accessibility, and brand tone of voice.
Find out more about how Acrolinx can help you manage and enforce your company’s style guidelines to increase the quality and accuracy of all your content. Download our latest eBook: