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Thought Leadership | 4th April 2024

Why your marketing team needs a style guide – and how to make one

Read Time: 3 minutes
By Danny Gee, Senior Content Manager at Onyx Health 


Without direction, even a team of just two writers can expect a degree of difference in their work. In larger teams with many more marketers and content creators, the risk of inconsistency quickly stacks up.

A style guide reduces that risk and gets your team singing from the same hymn sheet. Or working from the same Word doc.

Scroll on for the benefits of a style guide, regardless of your industry or headcount, with key tips and considerations for setting up your own.

What is a style guide?

In short, a style guide is a cheat sheet that governs all content produced by a brand or company. It covers everything from web copy and design visuals to traditional marketing and print materials. Here, we look at written content specifically.

Whether you’re coming up with a new look and feel for your brand or you’re just after consistency, a style guide is a must-have for any marketing, content or comms team.

What are the benefits of a writing style guide?

Working out your desired style is relatively straightforward but offers plenty pros in the long run:

A template for your writers to follow

Spelling out the specifics means your writers spend less time chasing clarification and less time getting new starters up to speed.

Hone your style and tone of voice

A style guide encourages consistency, which helps you craft a unique and recognisable style that, over time, customers and clients can relate to.

A doc that develops alongside your team

They’re best as a working document that evolves and grows, keeping up with rebrands and rejigs.

Fit for all formats

Writing guides don’t need to stick to the obvious applications like blog posts – they cover web copy to white papers and everything in between.

More efficient means more profitable

By giving your writers direction and avoiding ambiguity, your content creation becomes more efficient and, in turn, profitable.

Style guides in healthcare communications

While the above points apply across all industries, adopting a style guide in healthcare comes with additional benefits.

The ABPI Code of Practice needn’t limit creativity, but it often does. Our experience with clients and regulatory bodies tells us it’s mostly a result of pharma companies playing it safe to avoid breaching the code.

Working those parameters into your own style guide – for example, words and phrases to avoid when promoting pharmaceuticals – can help content creators work with greater confidence.

How to create a writing style guide

If you’re starting a style guide from scratch, knowing where to start isn’t easy. Especially when established examples are so comprehensive – Apple’s alone is 200-odd pages long.

The trick, though, is to start simple and build from there. These four tips help you do that:

Use an easily editable document

Start with something as straightforward as an online Word doc. It means you don’t need a complete, polished guide at the first attempt. New additions will come naturally, so choose a format that lets you easily add these as you go.

Choose a clear layout

Order all the points in your style guide clearly, such as alphabetically, so your writers can easily find what they’re looking for. This makes it easy to dip in and out of, without having to update the layout or structure every time you add some guidance.

Cover both style and grammatical points

While some errors, like incorrect spelling and grammar, are glaringly obvious, many points are less so and some even come down to opinion. Rule out any ambiguity by covering both style and grammatical preferences.

Get input from the entire team

Give all colleagues a say in how it’s put together or a chance to review before rolling it out. There are several forms of writing, each with their own related skills – relying on only a select few colleagues to create your style guide risks valuable insight on these different areas being missed.

Experts in healthcare communications

For more insight and takeaways on healthcare comms and health more widely, bookmark the Onyx Health blog, or check our case studies to see how we’ve delivered for clients.

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