When I’m working with a new client and ask for the company’s style guide, I often get a blank look. Until I ask that question, people are often using their own standards, rather than a true “style”–so we create one with them!
Here are the things you may want to know if you don’t already have and use a style guide for your e-learning courses.
What is a style guide?
A style guide is a document generally put together by company representatives (such as owners, managers, the marketing department, or the training department) to define how writers should handle certain writing, grammar, and formatting issues. Style guides can include anything that defines the “style” of your course (or any other written document, for that matter).
Why should we have a style guide?
Having a style guide can help writers and editors consistently use the company standards. It allows all documents published to use the same style and ultimately give a unified company image. The style guide can be used to give direction for anything–from word choice to what font should be used in printed documents and beyond.
Ultimately, having a style guide saves time! I was recently working with a team of editors and one of the editors missed the style guide memo (literally) stating where to find the guide. Fortunately, it only took her a few screens before she called me because she realized all of the bulleted lists in the course were “wrong.” I can only imagine the time we would have wasted on this project if she had edited all of the screens to her standards rather than to the correct style guide.
Where do I find it?
If you don’t know where your company’s style guide is or if they even have one, ask around. Depending on your company, it may be on the intranet, with Marketing, in Human Resources, etc. You may even find that a particular published and popular style guide is “the standard.” Some common style guides are the AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The Gregg Reference Manual.
If we don’t have one, how do I create one?
I’ve created a sample writing style guide template you can use to see some of the common things you might want to consider. The goal of this template is to help you address the issues that are the most common questions to writers and identify the areas that are truly a matter of style and preference (such as whether PM, P.M., or p.m. is correct). You’ll probably want to make changes based on your organization.
There are several right ways to write many things. The purpose of a style guide is to help you maintain consistency in your grammar and writing style from screen to screen and from course to course.