Stepping Out in Style…Consistently?

Do you know how many ways there are to spell “Drive-thru”? I didn’t, until I started trying to build some print collateral for our stations’ Drive-thru Difference promotions.

  • Drive thru
  • Drive-thru
  • Drive through
  • Drive-Thru

And the list continued.

As more and more voices speak into our station websites, emails, social media posts, and printed projects it became difficult to be consistent. But consistent treatment of terms and grammar can help us provide a better user experience for our digital users.

Your station may have a style guide for the big things. Logos, fonts, and colors are probably well spelled out with the right rules of use. But you may find some value in creating some rules for even the most basic elements of your written communication.

Here are a few first-steps

1 – Start with a master style guide

There isn’t a need to start from scratch. We start with the AP Stylebook (https://www.apstylebook.com/). From there we clarify items that are specific to our brand, items where we’ve decided to differ from AP, and items of frequent use. AP also has a great Twitter account for their stylebook that can help you address current events. https://twitter.com/APStylebook

2 – Think through the terms that are specific to your brand

For our Drive-thru Difference promotions (encouraging someone to pay for the car behind them at the drive-thru), we settled on that specific capitalization, spelling, and punctuation. It isn’t more right or wrong than any other treatment of the title. It’s just one that we settled on as “our” way. Think through each of your station’s initiatives and consider ways you can be consistent in how they are presented.

3 – Think about the time

Dates and times are some of the easiest places to be inconsistent.

  • 7pm, 7:00PM, 7 pm
  • November 8, Nov 8, November 8th, 11/8

This is a place where we diverged from the AP stylebook, and just went for quick readability. Again, there isn’t a wrong treatment… just a consistent one.

4 – Assign ownership of the style guide

Give someone in your organization ownership of the style guide. This person doesn’t need to be an enforcer. In our organization we never want fear of breaking style to prevent a content creator from… well… creating. On occasion we help coach. But we have one individual who (often silently) will follow our on-air team and edit their posts to bring them into alignment with our style guide. This person can also identify elements that need clarification or editing in the style guide.

5 – Keep your style guide fluid

Things change. We keep our style guide in a “wiki” format to allow it to be edited often. Sometimes we need to address specific confusing issues. Other times, we need to address trends in written communication. Don’t be afraid to change your guide often (but in a way that is accessible, and trackable for those who need to use it).

In our style guide, we address:

  • Brand specific terms
  • Times and dates
  • Punctuation
  • Use of photos and images (licensing)
  • Capitalization of titles and headlines
  • Image quality and resolution

If you are looking for a place to start, you are welcome to use ours as a template.

Many of the references are very specific to our systems and terms. But perhaps it can give you an idea of items you can address in your style guide.

I’d love to know what your station uses. Feel free to reach out to me.

Carl E Bliss
Director of Interactive Media
Northwestern Media

Carl serves as Director of Interactive Media at Northwestern Media’s network of radio stations. You can keep up with his adventures at carlbliss.com, and twitter.com/ckbliss.

 

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