Nine times out 10, client style guides for editorial provide obvious top level advice on how to write. There, I’ve said it.
A ‘style guide’ should provide guidance on in-house formatting conventions (e.g. whether to use an upper or lowercase ‘g’ in government). But where these docs often fail is when they get on to the more conceptual / wooly ‘tone of voice and language’ section.
Sure, there’s the odd paragraph on how tone and language should ’embody our brand values’ (no matter how vague they are – ‘Our approach can be described as burnt ocre – not just brown’). Rarely do you see practical guidance on how to pitch the tone of copy.
Good tone of voice docs provide ‘before and after’ examples of copy. Or they build up a picture of someone tangible. One teen advice magazine I wrote for said to pitch copy as if it’s being explained by a friendly and trusted older sibling.
But what other elements make a good editorial style guide / tone of voice doc?
Has a style guidelines doc ever taken your breath away? No – I’m serious. Like, when you open the guidelines, you start reading, and you start hearing the music from Scanners and start choking. Like some lost / deleted scene from the original Evil Dead, which they edited out because despite being ‘one for the copywriters,’ it was a bit unbelievable…like THAT impressive.