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I work with organisations that have multiple content contributors, helping them to create user-friendly guidelines and consistency checklists that make it easy for different authors to write in a consistent style.

What is an editorial style guide and what’s it for?

“Studies have shown” that it’s of paramount importance to make sure that when you write stuff (especially when it’s for publication), you don’t make mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Not only must you avoid actual errors; you have to be consistent when it comes to writing words that have two or more correct spellings, and with the use of capital letters, and a bunch of other things. Even details like how long your dashes are and whether they’re all the same length. Many people notice these things, if only subliminally. If you are slapdash with these minutiae, in the end a significant proportion of your readers won’t trust you, won’t believe what you say, won’t buy from you, etc., or at best will form a vaguely negative impression of your organisation.

The importance of correctness in the written word is uncontentious, although some people probably don’t realise quite how important it is. Note to self: get some recent real and/or made-up statistics to prove this point.

An editorial style guide is a document (or online resource) that helps an organisation’s writers by setting out an easy-to-follow house style. It also makes the job of copyeditors and proofreaders easier because their edits and changes can be more objective and less “I wouldn’t have put it like that”. If you have a well-thought-out, well-presented, usable set of editorial style rules you can save time, keep your writers and editors happy, avoid paying people to do umpteen revisions of every document they write, and make sure your published content gets your organisation deservedly perceived as one that knows what it’s doing.