Key takeaways in this post:

  • A writing style guide ensures consistency in brand voice and messaging across all content, reinforcing brand identity and improving brand recognition
  • By providing clear guidelines on grammar, punctuation tone, and style preferences, a writing style guide helps maintain clarity and cohesion in written communication, enhancing readability and comprehension.
  • Creating a writing style guide empowers writers by providing them with a framework and reference tool to produce high-quality content.

How you talk about your healthcare organization is a vital part of your brand. Every word you choose could make the audience a customer or a critic. That’s why having a clear brand voice and tone is so important.

A writing style guide helps bring your brand voice to life. It allows anyone creating content for your organization to develop clear, consistent and on-brand communications.

A writing style guide is a reference tool that outlines specific rules and preferences for anyone creating content for your company to follow. It establishes a consistent style and ensures alignment with your brand voice and identity across all touchpoints — from web pages, blog articles and social posts to presentations and white papers.

A brand guide and a writing guide serve distinct but complementary purposes.

Purpose of a brand guide:

  • It defines your brand’s visual identity, including logo use, typography, color palette, imagery, style and overall design aesthetic.
  • It details your brand history, mission, values and brand positioning.
  • It directs designers and others who create visual assets or materials for your brand.

For example, Target’s brand guide may detail its iconic red color, the specific font used in ads and guidelines for displaying its logo across different mediums.

Purpose of a writing style guide:

  • It provides standards for all content, ensuring messaging consistency, clarity and effectiveness.
  • It details rules for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, voice, tone, word choice and formatting.
  • It directs writers, editors, content creators, public relations, marketing and sales teams, and anyone else producing content for your brand.

For example, your writing guide may specify whether to use “healthcare” (one word) or “health care” (two words) and your preferred plain language terms for complex medical information.

A writing style guide is important for building and maintaining a strong brand voice and identity.

Having a writing style guide helps ensure the following:

  • Brand identity: The guide defines your brand’s unique personality, values and attributes through language.
  • Clarity: The guide helps writers communicate complex healthcare information clearly and effectively to different audiences, including patients, healthcare professionals, investors and regulators.
  • Compliance: The guide ensures that all content adheres to legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Consistency: The guide establishes a uniform tone, voice and messaging across all content.
  • Efficiency: The guide saves time and effort by providing writers with standardized guidelines and reduces the need for heavy editing and revisions.

A writing style guide empowers anyone creating content for your brand to produce consistent, high-quality and on-brand messaging.

When developing a writing style, consider these 8 essential elements:

1. Editorial style:

Choosing an editorial style to follow, such as AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style, helps keep the rules in your guide specific to your company. Be sure to call out any exceptions to the style you follow.

2. Voice and tone:

Your brand voice and tone — what you say and how you say it — are as much a part of your brand as your visual look and feel. A brand voice conveys your personality, whether that’s authentic, confident, conversational, empathetic or reassuring. The tone will vary based on the content type and channel. Both reinforce your brand values and allow you to connect more deeply with your audience.

3. Grammar and usage:

No one is a perfect writer. We can all get stuck on grammar rules and writing conventions we learned in school. Giving your team a resource where they can quickly find the details of grammar and usage goes a long way toward ensuring consistency and quality.

4. Punctuation and capitalization:

The details matter. They also illustrate your company’s brand voice. Punctuation and capitalization guidelines can include defining your headline style, adding clarity around the use of commas, and establishing rules about ampersands and starting sentences with conjunctions.

5. Formatting:

The layout of your content helps a reader navigate through the material, increasing readability and comprehension. Formatting rules range from how you treat bullets to the use of boldface, italics and underlining. You may also have different rules for your website and videos than you do for traditional print or PDFs.

6. Glossary and terminology:

With all the medical jargon and acronyms in healthcare, you’ll want to include a glossary of terms, acceptable acronyms and preferred spelling and terminology. These guidelines ensure everyone uses terms the same way to minimize confusion for your audience.

7. Plain language and health literacy guidelines:

Healthcare language can be complicated and overwhelming. Your writers need to help your audience process and understand your message. Your guide can include common medical or healthcare terms and their standardized, plain language replacements. Clear language is also the foundation of ensuring accessibility.

8. Writers’ checklist:

As a helpful extra, include a checklist creators can review that asks questions like:

  • Did you embody our values in your writing?
  • Does what you wrote convey our brand voice?
  • Does your tone fit the audience?
  • Did you follow our style through the editing process?

Our recent survey showed that 68% of organizations use a writing style guide with external writers. But style guides are also essential for internal writing teams. Anyone crafting communications for you should use the writing style guide. Key stakeholders include:

  • Communications
  • Content creators and writers
  • Customer service
  • Design
  • Executive leadership
  • Human resources
  • Marketing and sales teams
  • Product development
  • Public relations

Once you’ve developed your writing style guide, be sure your key stakeholders use it. Training helps them understand your writing style guide principles and know how to apply the rules effectively. Here’s how to make it come to life:

  1. Make it available: Be sure that anyone who writes for your team has access to the guide — whether they’re internal associates, freelance writers or agency partners. Email a PDF file to all those who need it and keep it on a shared server or intranet for real-time access.
  2. Hold a training session: Walk participants through the key elements, explaining the rationale behind notable guidelines and answering any questions they have.
  3. Offer resources and support: Establish a process, such as email, chat or a designated forum, for users to get help on style-related questions.
  4. Update it as needed: Your writing style guide will change over time, so appointing a person or team to review it each year is important. These reviews will ensure the guide is accurate, up-to-date and relevant to your company and customers.

Outlining all the guidelines, rules and best practices for writing and communications takes time and attention to detail. But it’s vital to the way your audience perceives your brand. When it’s time to create a writing style guide, check out these additional elements. WG Content can help. And if you need an agency to bring your content to life — we can do that too.

A writing style guide outlines a company’s specific editorial style preferences.

A writing style guide establishes a consistent approach to corporate messaging. It supports your brand identity by accurately expressing your brand.

A well-developed writing style guide includes a company’s editorial style, voice and tone, grammar and usage, punctuation and capitalization, formatting, glossary and terminology, and guidelines for plain language and health literacy.

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