The best ways to ensure consistency
As your organization expands, operations become more complex, and partnerships increase, you are sure to have faced some of the problems outlined in this article.
- New personnel finds existing code difficult to understand, leading to length onboarding periods. Veterans complain that the code is difficult to develop and maintain, leading to significant waste in person-hours.
- The brochures, posters, websites, videos, and other content designed by the marketing department are often wildly inconsistent in color and version, even down to the organization's logo.
- The product interface has no uniform style, leading to chaotic switching between “you” and “user” or “email” and “e-mail.”
If you’ve read to this point, you’ve probably already figured out that all these problems can be summed up in a single word — consistency. And as many of you may have guessed, one of the best ways to ensure consistency is by creating a style guide.
What exactly is a style guide?
To put simply, a style guide helps provides a central outline of what should be done, what shouldn’t be done, and even how something should be done for new personnel to study and veterans to reference.
Different application scenarios require different style guides. The most common of which are outlined below:
Visual Style Guides
Used to outline how designers use visuals. This includes specifications for various graphics (especially logos), platform-specific design guidelines, a definition for the overall brand image, and more.
Programming/Code Style Guides
Used to prevent common style issues from cropping up in the organization's code. This includes naming conventions, structures, and encoding formats; detailed requirements for various statement types; and specifications for symbols, indentation, spaces, and more.
Editorial Style Guides
This is used to provide guidelines for the organization’s text documents and materials to ensure that they are uniform in style and tone. Style guides typically include the below.
- Word Style. Clarify the target reader, standard appellations, and proper use of grammatical persons. For example, certain tech companies tend to use “user” rather than “you.” Another example is American and British English, which require different spelling, vocabulary, syntactic structure, etc.
- UI Style. Categorize proper style in different UI application scenarios. For example, alert messages should be punctuated in sentence form, while menus and titles should use title case.
- Units of Measurements. While countries such as China use the metric system, units may need to be converted to one more appropriate target language.
- Punctuation and Special Characters. Guidelines for the use of fullwidth and halfwidth punctuation and clarification on available special characters and their application scenarios.
- Word Choice. Guidelines for proper vocabulary in different scenarios, such as specifying when an action should be described as a “click,” “tap,” or “touch.”
As we can see, style guides are critical for ensuring various tasks within your organization. A good style guide no less important for an organization than a compass is for an explorer.
The value a style guide can add to daily operations
Brand voice and professional image
Style guides can help ensure authoritative formal nouns for the organization’s name, products, and various functional terms. This allows us to impart information to our readers more accurately and efficiently, making it easier to develop a clear brand voice and professional image.
Style guides can also help protect organizations from legal risks
Certain locales that place great emphasis on “bias-free communication” may be more sensitive to specific word choices. Style guides can help organizations avoid causing any unintended offense. For example, style guides help ensure gender-neutral pronouns such as “you” rather than “he/him” and “she/her” or “chairperson” instead of “chairman.” Style guides also help avoid potentially offensive technical terminology, such as by using “blocklist” and “allowlist” rather than “blacklist” and “whitelist,” “main/sub” instead of “master/slave,” and so on. Without a proper style guide, expressions with cultural, gendered, or even discriminatory connotations may occasionally appear in your organization's content, which may result in complaints from users or even legal proceedings.
Style guides can also improve efficiency by greatly reducing editor workloads and establishing a clear set of standards
Style guides should outline common grammatical issues and provide common sense preferences for wording and sentence structure to ensure consistency. The style should be clearly outlined in areas such as adverb use in technical documents, definitions of redundant content, and so on. A unified style guide greatly optimizes the editing process, providing reduced costs and improved efficiency.
In summary, a well-written style guide helps save on plenty of internal resources and improves operational efficiency. From an external perspective, style guides improve the user experience, cultivate a stronger brand image, and even safeguard your organization against certain disputes. With over 10 years of experience, the elite technical communications team at Maxsun offers various professional language services to corporate clients, including writing and translating tailored style guides across various languages. By helping organizations navigate the hurdles of internationalization and localization, Maxsun delivers value through language. Please contact us if you wish to learn more.