Writing standards to create style

A few months back, our Office Manager Elizabeth Lazdins emailed me to say our Associated Press Stylebook online subscription was live and ready to be used. The word geek in me was tremendously excited.

I quickly added the link to my website favorites and reference the site almost every day. In my former life as a newspaper reporter, the AP Stylebook was my bible. I had the printed copy on my desk and always enjoyed flipping through the pages for reminders about state abbreviations, datelines, how to spell ZIP code and more.

At Chartwell Agency, we follow AP style, particularly for news releases, articles and other items we regularly submit to media outlets on behalf of our clients. That makes the most sense – if material is written in a style the media follows, the hope is it requires less editing and is easier to follow.

I realize businesses and organizations follow different writing styles. Even the newspaper where I worked had an internal style guide for how we wrote proper names of local landmarks and groups, for example.

I’m not advocating that everyone adopt AP style (though I am a big fan), but I do recommend organizations adopt a writing style or writing standards in the same way they often do for brand guidelines that offer direction on use of logos, fonts and colors.

Here are a few bits of common information you can address now to make your writing more consistent on everything from brand collateral to website content moving forward.

Titles. AP style generally capitalizes formal titles before a name but lowercases them (especially long titles) after a name. Do you prefer to capitalize job titles in all instances? That’s fine, but make the decision and inform your writers and editors so they know the style.

Websites. Do you prefer to use the www or leave it out? Do you like the look of Chartwell-Agency.com to make the words stand out? Again, decide what you like and keep it consistent.

Phone numbers. Seems simple, right? Decide if you want the area code in parenthesis or if the numbers are separated by dashes. Or do you prefer periods to separate the numbers?

These may seem less urgent on the business priority list, but striving for consistency in your communications helps breed trust in and respect for your brand. It also makes producing business collateral easier so your team members aren’t constantly asking about or misusing style.

And don’t forget – everyone needs an editor. The best thing you can do for an editor or supervisor is spell-check your copy and read it through one more time before submitting it. Print it out, read it aloud, even read certain passages backward, if necessary. All in the name of consistency and good style, which gives you an edge over competitors who don’t pay the same level of attention to detail.