Style guides: consistency in written communications

Style GuideFollowing a recent meeting with Hampshire County Council, I was sent a copy of their style guide.

The Council describes this document as follows:

The style guide is designed to help all of us to work together to present a consistent, approachable and positive image of Hampshire County Council in our written communications.

A copy of the guide can be found here if you’d like some bedtime reading.

Although the majority of the 41 pages focus on format and layout, there is some practical advice to be found on avoiding bureaucratic language and the use of plain English.

Getting the tone right
It is important that we write in a way that creates a favourable impression of the County Council. This means writing in a friendly tone and avoiding impersonal, bureaucratic language that might alienate our readers.

Use everyday words that your reader will understand
Avoid unusual or complex words that can seem pompous and confuse your reader. If you have to use a technical term that your reader may not understand, explain it briefly in non-technical language.

Avoid old-fashioned words and phrases
Many of these originate from legal terms and can make writing seem pompous and bureaucratic. They set a cold and impersonal tone and reflect badly on the County Council.

Many organisations could benefit from developing their own style guide to help employees or freelance contractors take a uniform approach in their communications. Consistency in your written communications should encompass the practicalities of design and layout as well as the tone of voice you’d like to adopt as an organisation.

If your business releases a considerable number of documents written by a broad range of people, it adds a touch of professionalism if they share a common style.

Related post:
Don't take that tone of voice with me