Much time is wasted correcting inconsistencies in everything from your branding, which includes how staff use your logo, colors, or fonts, to which editorial styles you prefer (anyone want to argue about serial commas?). Spare yourself and everyone else who creates content for you the misery of these arguments by creating style sheets.

An editorial style sheet is a chart you fill out showing how you will use, format, and spell certain words.   You can also include rules about abbreviations, capitalization, acronyms, and anything else related to how words, numbers, and punctuation appear in your publications.  Include anything and everything that you end up correcting when editing someone else’s work. Here are some common decisions for your style sheet.

  • When do you spell out numbers? Under 10 or 100?
  • Do you use periods in acronyms or not, such as USA or U.S.A.?
  • Do you hyphenate certain words? For example is it email or e-mail? Decision-maker or decisionmaker?
  • Formatting phone numbers – use parentheses around the area code or not?
  • Formatting email addresses – all lower case or are capital letters OK?
  • Formatting website addresses—include the http:// and www. or not?
  • How do staff's proper names appear in print? Robert or Bob? Middle initial or not?

You should also create a design style guide that specifies which fonts, colors and other design elements you use, and when and where you use them.

Distribute your style guides widely and put them in places staff and volunteers can easily access, such as an electronic copy on your intranet or printed copies on an office bulletin board. Supplement the style guide with a running list of examples or answers to style questions raised by staff.