How to write an effective content style guide for your brand. he tools in your content toolbox may not seem terribly exciting or fun at first. It also won’t tell you how to win the internet. f you’ve already created your brand messaging strategy, you’ll want to tailor your questions to the selected brand messaging style. Finally, at a high-level, your content will be better across the board and more effective at attracting the right people. We typically see this with new startups, where they’re having these conversations for the first time -- which totally makes sense. Don't use contractions when there is a critical difference between two things, for example, between doing and not doing something. That said, you really can’t have one without the other. Tone: This is a dynamic element. As discussed in a previous blog post, âThe Importance of Brand Consistencyâ, consistent branding Instead, direct people to that website to get the information. Here’s an example of a tone pillar set, heavily altered for confidentiality purposes: Your tone pillars should not only be a seamless, natural extension of your brand voice, they should also complement each other. Check that they take people to the correct page, which contains up-to-date information, in the appropriate official language. Instead, as they go through each exercise, they should focus on providing honest opinions and having healthy discussions. The template we use at IMPACT for content style guides looks quite long, but it’s still simple and designed to be easy to use. (And they’re often the same mistakes, over and over.). Additionally, you can have as few or as many tone pillars as you’d like. For example: This report covers the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year. In some cases, people create a laundry list of tips, rules, and suggestions for people to follow as they’re crafting content. The image shows the order of information on a web page. You may be wrong about your assumption, and it’s still a great calibration exercise. Brand messaging and content style go together like peas and carrots. It would be difficult for someone using a screen reader or a mobile device to access and understand the information. Active: We may ask you to provide proof of citizenship. Once you fill out the form, here's what you're going to get: A copy of the How to Create a Content Style guide playbook; Content style guide â¦ A fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31. Sometimes, your content targets people who have in-depth knowledge of a subject. They cannot arrive late or leave early, and they cannot use their phone or other electronics during the workshop. If your roll-out strategy is “send the style guide as a link in an email,” expect to be underwhelmed by the number of people who save it to read for later… and then never do. The styles feature clearly differentiates headings from content and helps you format headings consistently. 2 A SAMpLE STYLE GUIDE Other style issues: Unfamiliar terms: Put in quotation marks for the first reference, but do not give special treatment after that. According to Statistics Canada (2012) and Canadian literacy organizations, almost 50% of Canadians have literacy challenges. Participants will have five minutes to complete the worksheet below on their own, based on the following instructions: “On the worksheet in front of you, you will see a set of four scales. Here are the most important things to know. -- but if your audience ever believes that about you, it’ll be because you proved it to them time, not because you told them to believe it. So, grab yourself a style guide book (or online subscription), determine what your exceptions are, then document those exceptions in your style guide, along with your external style guide access. Instead, you need to be clear, concise, and direct in your content style definition and direction. You might prefer to rely on your notes exclusively or you may be someone who will want to listen to the audio recording again, before you start pulling your style guide together. , record all of the answers on a single set of scales, so you can easily spot patterns. People who use assistive technology can navigate web content using links. Authors of developerWorks articles should sound as though they are speaking to a respected professional acquaintance, using clear language and short declarative sentences. . If someone is being shy, invite them to participate by asking them after someone else gives an opinion, First of all, we need to give credit where credit is due. Links to your pages from other pages may also help improve where your page ranks in search results. It won’t tell you what your messaging should be -- again, that’s an entirely separate process. You could write the following alternative text: Comparison of the ratio of women and men in the civil service between 1983 and 2010. DEFINITION:QUALITY REVIT CONTENT Quality Revit content Use the navigation pane feature in Microsoft Word. If you present content in alphabetical order in English, also present it in alphabetical order in French to provide the same intuitive experience. Do not share or discuss your answers. When the meaning of list items depends on a lead-in phrase, don't capitalize the first letter of each unless it's a proper name. In that case, ask them what was different for them about “controversial” that led to a negative reaction. So, formatting, grammar, and punctuation rules all fall under this category. Its online access allows us to include those login credentials in our style guide, so our staff can access a full set of the rules, beyond the common rules we include as an appendix. The Modern Language Association Stylebook (MLA)The preferred style guide for academics in the liberal arts (and the nemesis of most college students). Positive: You're entitled to part of the deduction. Each has a question associated with it. Given the complexity of their organization and its size, history, and tradition, however, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Include a summary in plain language for: People will view your content on different sizes of screens. Instead of: We received your request for funding, which we've thoroughly reviewed and approved in a timely manner. (If you're still not convinced, the team at GatherContent does a great job of explaining why style guides are so important to ensuring that consistency.). Available in print and with an online subscription -- although the latter is geared in pricing toward institutions, such as universities. Also, if you’ve already created your brand messaging strategy, you’ll want to tailor your questions to the selected brand messaging style. They can only use the words presented to them, as-is, but they are encouraged to expand upon their thinking when it’s their turn to share their answers. And we’re now going to teach you how to facilitate it on your own! Of course, as with organizational changes of any kind, that’s easier said than done. Once you have your style guide finalized, it’s time to put it out into circulation for use. Principles. If you plan to have it available in print, that’s fine, too. every time they need to write a 900-word blog post, especially if it could have been shortened to the length of a press release and been just as effective in explaining what they needed to know about content style. The context will make it clear that the things they "must" do are requirements under the act. When list items are grammatically independent of each other or follow a heading, capitalize the first letter of each list item. They generally contain too much information for people to understand when they're scanning. identify your highest weeks of insurable income in the shortest period below: return the completed form in person to the, Spanish and Portuguese, write "(Spanish and Portuguese only)", be Canadian or legally able to work in Canada, have lost your job through no fault of your own, be ready, willing and able to work each day but still can't find work, stay in Canada while you're getting EI help, created a list out of the items in the text, replaced complex nouns with verbs and complex verbs with simpler forms, divided a complex table into several simple tables that are more accessible and can be viewed easily on mobile devices, applied the inverted pyramid approach to provide the summary or conclusion first, followed by increasingly detailed information, updated titles to reflect capitalization requirements, used existing subheadings embedded in the original example to create table headers, made sure that the last 3 column headers reflect the unit value of the information in each column, added zeros to provide relevant information in otherwise empty cells, removed empty cells, rows and irrelevant information (underlining) and subheadings (such as those that were not aligned with the column headers). If someone asks what a word means, tell them however they want to interpret it, and they should do so for ALL exercises. The person responsible for official languages in your institution can help answer questions about your obligations and about exceptions. Avoid complex and compound sentences. Instead of: If you started a new claim within the last 52 weeks and there are still weeks payable on that claim, Service Canada will automatically renew your existing claim. Writing content at a reading level above grade 8 can make it difficult for many people to understand or complete their task. What Else Shouldn't Go in Your Style Guide? You can use various tools to do this. CONTENT STYLE GUIDE FOR YOUR BUSINESS LIZ MURPHY Content Strategist, IMPACT @naptownpint. You can use a readability tool like Flesch-Kincaid to check the reading level of your English content. Literally. For you, the facilitator, that’s still true, but there’s a little more to it. Sometimes those changes might be small, like a pivot in certain editorial or style rules. Period. Here are some things you can do to get better results: The web page title (Heading1) is the title you see at the top of the page when you're looking at it. If: In your page title, accurately describe what's on the page. You have three minutes.”. Remember, if you feel compelled to write a novel in order to adequately delve into the nuances of your brand’s personality, please don’t be surprised when no one wants to read it. That’s not a knock on the brand. For more guidance, including how to write inclusively in French, see the Translation Bureauâs Gender-inclusive writing: correspondence. It helps you understand how much food is recommended every day from each of the four food groups. Omit background information and messages that welcome people to your program or site. The techniques described in this guide complement the rules set out in The Canadian Style. Just like your organization, content style guides are not static. In this context, style refers to what your content looks like. Most people come to a government website to complete a task and expect us to provide information that will help them. No matter how you format this section -- our way isn’t the only way -- your goal is to create a moment where the brand comes to life, as if it were a person, and speaks directly to your team to say, “This is who we are, and this is who we aren’t. You’ll let them know afterward. While it doesn’t need to be fancy, you still need to have a proactive and defined rollout strategy for your style guide that includes trainings and follow-up, as well as a start date of when you will begin using it. These are the rules to create web content that can be easily found, understood and used. Whenever possible, tell people what they may or must do instead of what they may not or must not do. A simple list of dos and don’ts will work fine as a first draft. In their eyes, if it’s “too short,” it’s probably not enough and/or must be a disservice to the nuances of their brand. Read the directions once more, with the word cloud up on the screen, and then ask if they have any questions. These organizations must follow this style guide's requirements for all public-facing websites and digital services, regardless of the technology, domain name or publishing platform used. For page titles, links and navigation labels, use the possessive adjective "your" when the audience might consider the item being referred to as belonging to them. The Employment Insurance (EI) program offers temporary financial assistance to Canadians and individuals who are legally entitled to work in Canada, have a valid Social Insurance Number and remain in Canada during their benefit period. Text in a link gets some context from the web page's content. Use headings to divide text into logical sections approximately every 200 words. of using the negative form for something that has serious consequences, of statements that avoid the use of jargon, of navigation labels that address the person, of navigation labels that don't use a possessive adjective, of statements that use "we" or "our" to refer to the Government of Canada, of statements that refer to specific institutions, of a statement that doesn't refer to Canada.ca on the Canada.ca site, of statements that express legal and administrative requirements, of question marks being used in forms, wizards, surveys or quizzes, of punctuation in interdependent list items preceded by a colon, of statements that avoid the use of abbreviations and acronyms, of statements showing differences that are critical and not critical, : Long description for the balanced scorecard, : Long description for the bar chart illustrating the proportion of men and women in the public service for selected years from 1983 to 2010, of the use of links that focus on the task, of a link that leads to content only available in French, Expanding Tax Relief for Home Care Services, Enhancing Veterans Affairs Canada's Funeral and Burial Program, Supporting the Economic Transition of Communities Economically Linked to the Chrysotile Asbestos Industry, Expanding Tax Support for Clean Energy Generation, Renewal of the Family Violence Prevention Program, Improving Health Services to First Nations Communities, Enhancing Mental Health Services in First Nations Communities, Less funds existing in the fiscal framework, Less funds sourced from internal reallocations, Expanding tax relief for home care services, Expanding library services for the blind and partially sighted, Supporting the economic transition of communities economically linked to the chrysotile asbestos industry, Improving the conservation of fisheries through community partnerships, Expanding tax support for clean energy generation, Improving health services to First Nations Communities, Enhancing mental health services in First Nations communities, Canada.ca Content and Information Specification, Related policies, standards and procedures, Directive on the Management of Communications, Canada.ca Content and Information Architecture Specification, Policy on Communications and Federal Identity, Standard on Optimizing Websites and Applications for Mobile Devices, Guidance on Publishing in the Government of Canada, Provide equivalent content in both official languages, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Techniques for improving and measuring readability are in the, recall information that isn't visible on the screen, person responsible for official languages in your institution, Start with the most important information, Use verbs instead of nouns formed from verbs, Verify whether the content is easy to understand, Address the person in page titles, links and navigation labels, Use "we" to refer to the Government of Canada, Expressing an obligation or a recommendation, more information about eligibility on the Canada.ca website, travel to or transit through the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, correct abbreviations for provinces and territories, Use a page title, headings and subheadings to show structure, section on capitalization and punctuation rules that apply to lists, Include long descriptions for complex images, Include transcripts to describe audio and video files, email@example.com, Claimant Attestation - Highest Weeks of Insurable Earnings (Variable Best Weeks) form, renew your French passport while abroad in Canada, Communicating with Seniors: Advice, Techniques and Tips, How Users Read on the Web, Nielsen Norman Group, Introduction to Administrative Justice and To Plain Language, Literacy and Access to Administrative Justice in Canada, Lower-Literacy Users: Writing for a Broad Consumer Audience, Minimize Cognitive Load to Maximize Usability, Mobile User Experience: Limitations and Strengths, Plain Language, Please! Let it happen. It also helps search engines better understand the purpose of the image. Afterwards, screen readers will be able to correctly interpret the data within the table. This worksheet will help you set the DARCI for any project. It’s cost-effective. In publishing and media companies, use of a style guide is the norm. You’ll get the best results when you curate a group with a mix of roles, responsibilities, and experience. Before you get your hopes up, this chapter will not be as instructive or hand-holding as the previous one. On English pages, write the following after a link that leads to content that isn't available in English: "(XXXX only)". Learn how we can help you reach your goals -- and to see if we're the right fit for you. What Doesn't Go into a Content Style Guide? Research shows that people with literacy challenges: Techniques for improving and measuring readability are in the section on plain language. Consider placing related content under distinct headings and sections. This guide is all about how you package up those elements and deliver them so they have maximum impact with your audience. If a client doesn’t have one, we may put a few notes here but, more than likely, we won’t include it at all. In a lot of cases, you’ll still need some serious thinking time to bring it all together, but you’ll probably have a good idea during the workshop about some of the choices that need to be made. What you choose will depend on your industry. Brand messaging and content style go together like peas and carrots. Instead of: According to Canadian legislation, you're required to present your passport to the agent who will welcome you into the country. It’s likely that if you’re reading this, you’re probably going to assume this role -- or you’re in charge of the person who will be the facilitator -- so here’s what you need to know: If you are the facilitator, you are not a participant. In fact, there are no right or wrong answers. If you’re performing the workshop in person, collect all of the worksheets, but take notes during the discussion period. It should be used by anyone on your team -- or freelancers who work with you -- who will be creating content for your brand. For example, let’s say you see a big change in leadership at the top of an organization -- a company founder leaves and a new CEO steps up to take the reins. Businesses with lower revenue and those that deal in certain goods and services might not need to charge tax. Reinsert the technical terms once you've simplified the surrounding text. The easy path here is to assemble a group of all marketers or all executives -- or perhaps some combination of the two. For example, screen readers list all links on a page without the contextual content. If tone pillars seem too complex, don’t panic. The voice and tone exercises are virtually identical. Jargon: bench warrant (an order by a judge to arrest someone who didn't show up in court or comply with certain conditions), Idiom: to hire a helping hand (meaning to hire an employee), Expression: attack your least favourite task first (meaning do your least favourite task first). They either want to change the tense of a word or use a different (but similar) one they like better in its place. Place an X on the line for each where you think it best represents how your brand should be received to the public. Ever. This is the not-so-fun part, but you should send back work that doesn’t adhere to the new style guide. Again, your goal is not to walk away with words you’ll plug into a Mad Libs-esque content style guide template. In fact, going back the example from our friends in North Carolina, their, On the other side of the spectrum, there’s. ), explaining Canada's role with respect to a topic or issue, institution will be contacting the person, person needs to contact the institution by phone, mail or online process, role of the institution in a process is relevant to the task. Dos, don'ts, and critical best practices for rolling it out to your team. People who don't speak English or French might use online tools to translate text. This is the not-so-fun part, but you should send back work that doesn’t adhere to the new style guide. For example, listing provinces and territories in alphabetical order could be appropriate. People who have learning disabilities may find it difficult to scan and understand long sentences and paragraphs. Additionally, you should take notes as described in the previous point. You'll need to have the written proof of those rights. template we use at IMPACT for content style guides, download our content style guide template, great “Internet vs. internet” shift of 2016. They can also make the page take longer to load. So, when it comes to rolling out your style guide…. You must provide a long description if you can't describe the content and function of the image in less than 140 characters. Your goal is to create a document that your people will want to bookmark (if it’s online) or keep a hard copy of on their desk, so they can come back to it again and again, because it’s such a valuable resource. Following this guide's rules and techniques will make it easier for everyone to find, understand and use the government's digital content. If the subject of the title, link or label refers to general information, use the indefinite article ("a" or "an") or no article at all. Instead, you’re making the assumption that individuals won’t have their own personal ideas about your brand’s personality and won’t make unique choices to express it. Be concise. use consistent grammatical structure. You could write the following long description text: Source: Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Note: Includes all tenures. For example, let’s say you see a big change in leadership at the top of an organization -- a company founder leaves and a new CEO steps up to take the reins. A content style guide is a d ocumented set of guidelines and rules that break down your b rand personality , and how it is (and isnât) e xpressed through your content . Use tables to organize and present data. Was this niche previously ignored or underserved? Readability is the ease with which a person can read and understand a text. Try to keep paragraphs to 3 sentences. Don't duplicate information provided on another organization's website. These are all of the attributes of your brand’s personality; it’s what people should think about your brand as a reflex, without you having to spell it out for them.
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