Great Style Makes Good Content Great

Your company’s personality comes through the tone of voice of your content. Whether you’re selling sewing supplies or supercomputers, your corporate voice determines whether you connect with your audience or leave them cold.

Your voice may even vary based on the customers for each product. For example, you may want to keep technical jargon out of your user guides while keeping it in your systems administrator guides.

Defining Your Voice
Many companies rely on third-party style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the Microsoft Manual of Style. Larger companies often develop their own style guides.

Regardless of who creates the style guide, it typically covers many language issues. The following table describes some of them.

Style Guides Cover Issues Such As:

Pronouns: second person or third person?
Contractions: prefer or avoid contractions?
Pleasantries: allow or minimize words like “please?”
Active voice: prefer active voice and minimize passive voice?
Slang: allow colloquialisms?

Most organizations produce a style guide and ask everyone to read it, learn it, and follow it.

However, compliance varies widely, and even the best writers have trouble seeing errors in their own work. You could turn your best writers into editors who check every sentence, but most companies cannot afford the expense.

In addition, style guides usually focus more on consistency than voice. Does your style guide define a target reading grade level? Does it specify a target level of readability or “liveliness?” If so, how do you measure them?

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