(Ad)Just Your Style

by Less Maness

Does your company look good on paper? Or do the print outs of your emails, newsletters, correspondence and marketing collateral look like a kaleidoscope of styles, punctuation, opinions and grammar? If it’s the latter, you are inadvertently sending a message to your leaders, distributors, customers and prospects that is very loud and very clear

“We’re not all on the same page yet.”

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to make sure your image is powerful, creative, accurate and consistent and that is to establish your company’s Style Guidelines. These are simple rules that everyone in the company must follow in all correspondence, press releases, electronic and print media, marketing material or anything the public will see. Some will simply follow the standards set by the AP Stylebook or other source you trust for punctuation and grammar guidelines. The others will be style decisions you make that apply to your unique company and segment of the marketplace. By establishing and enforcing a uniform format, your company will look more professional and you can eliminate costly errors in the final product. To get you started on your company’s Style Guidelines, here’s a few we set up for the Sheffield Report that have made life infinitely easier on everyone. Feel free to borrow whatever you feel is the “write” stuff for your company.

All original documents should be submitted to the Editor on an attached Microsoft Word document.

Do not use any special formatting (columns, tabs, page breaks, clip art inserted, auto numbering or tabs, page borders, headers, footers, etc.) and use block-style for paragraphs (no tabs, just one space between paragraphs, and one space between sentences).

When using dates, use Arabic numbers for dates only. (Example: Thursday, June 1, 2006, not June 10th, 2006.)

When indicating times, use “am” and “pm” with no periods between them and use a space between the numbers and letters. (Example: 6 am, not 6am or 6 A.M.) Include all time zones whenever needed; Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern. (Example: Thursday, June 1 at 6 am Pacific.)

When using numbers, use figures for 10 and above, but spell out the numbers below 10. Example: 15, not fifteen. Five, not 5.

All submissions must be in black text, Arial font, size 10, flush left, and single space only with only one space between sentences and a single tab between paragraphs.

Do suggested headlines and subheads in bold and Title Case only. Never use all CAPS for anything. Use underline only for emphasis so the Art Department knows to convert it to italics in the final web version. Denote hyperlinks with <INSERT LINK> in blue as shown.

Whenever possible, the author should provide a photo or other kind of illustration as an attachment. If you don’t have one, but have an idea for a good one, describe your thoughts to the Editor at the beginning of the document.

Always have someone who is qualified proof a hard copy for accuracy, typos, grammar, etc. Have the legal read and approve it for compliance issues. Once it is finalized, send over a digital copy to the Art Department.

Once a document is inputted by the Art Department, make sure it is proofed by at least two people, preferably the author and the proofing editor.

Create a Company Dictionary with all your frequently used (and misused terms, names, titles, technical terms, etc.). Make it available online or in email format, so it can be used and updated regularly.

Here’s a few things we use as examples:

  • Autoship (one word, not auto ship)
  • “and”, don’t use “&” or “+”).
  • award winning (two words)
  • email (one word, no hyphen)
  • login (one word as a noun)
  • log in (two words as a verb)
  • US (capitalized, no periods)
  • MLM, not mlm.
  • online (one word)
  • Senior Consultant, not Sr. Consultant.



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