Download My In-House Style Guide Template to Use However You Want

I’m excited to share the template I use for creating in-house style guides, as a reward for The Responsible Communication Style Guide Kickstarter reaching $10,000 in backing. Want to really improve your company’s communications? Back the Kickstarter today!

TL;DR: Here’s the link to download my in-house style guide template: the style guide as a .docx!

Keep reading for some context!

Whenever I sit down with a prospective client to work on their content, I ask about style guides: Does the organization or project rely on a particular style guide? How do they enforce style guidelines? How do they update the style guide?

I get a lot of blank stares. That’s okay, because very few of the organizations I work with are founded by trained content creators. While I know that anyone who already has a style guide in place will be easier to work with, I don’t consider a lack of a style guide a problem — at least before we start working together. I do insist, however, on making a style guide before we start on any other content projects. I need a style guide before I can create new content, audit old content, or even decide on what belongs in an editorial calendar.

Creating an in-house style guide isn’t that difficult of a process, provided you’ve made a couple dozen style guides over the length of your career. Part of that is experience. Part of that is building a template that can be customized to different organizations quickly. While I can’t give you a self-serve package of my expertise, I can give you the template that I’ve built up over the past decade or so.

I’m sharing this document as a .docx so you can easily adapt it to your own ends. You’ll want to start by reading through the style guide and adding in the information your organization needs to reference regularly (like exactly how to spell, space, and capitalize your company name). After that, you can share it with your team.

Remember, your style guide is a living document. Whenever new questions come up, add the answers to the guide. Whenever your organization hires a new person or releases a new product, add them to the guide. Whenever a content creator screws something up, add the information they need to avoid future problems to the guide. Schedule a regular review to update and clarify your in-house style guide. This template, by the way, is also a living document. I keep adding information to it, tweaking it, and looking for ways to improve it.

You’ll notice that there’s some information about writing inclusively in this guide. If this is a topic you’re just starting with, I recommend reading the white paper I released with Recompiler Media on quick changes your marketing team can make to dramatically increase your audience (PDF!) with an inclusive approach. If you aren’t thinking about inclusivity, you’re probably reaching only a fifth of your potential audience. If you are thinking about inclusivity, you can take your content to the next level by backing The Responsible Communication Style Guide Kickstarter.

My Template for Technical Resumes

Offline, I spend a lot of time helping friends with their resumes. I’ve even given a couple of workshops about technical resumes.

This is the template I use in helping someone get started in creating a technical resume:

You can also access the document here. You may notice a lot of comments in this particular document — I’ve laid out the logic and options for each section in the file so that anyone using it doesn’t have to refer to anywhere else. With that in mind, I strongly recommend copying the file to your own Google Drive and then editing that copy.

Templated Writing: One Way to Speed Up Your Writing

Writing is a creative process. Every client gets a different end result and pays you accordingly for your time. At least, that’s what we like to think. But the truth of the matter is that some certain types of writing can look very similar from client to client. You could even create a template for such pieces and at least start with filling in the blanks.

A good example is a press release. When a client comes to me, asking me to write a press release, I’ve got a form that I ask him to fill out. A lot of it is basic organizational information and standard details I need to know in order to create the press release. But each line on that form corresponds to a line in my press release template. When I get the information back from my client, I just plug it in to the template.

Of course, that doesn’t make for a great press release and I would never send a client a fill-in-the-blank press release. But it gives me a starting point that lets me get my work done a lot faster than starting from scratch each time. It’s like a very detailed outline — you know that you’re going to have to move stuff around, but you know everything you want to get across and you have a general line of thought you want to follow.

There are plenty of opportunities to use this sort of template as a starting point:

  • Resumes
  • Marketing letters
  • Some blog posts (like big lists)

I can even think of a way to turn a template into a marketing tool: release it to your customers, free of charge and then let them see why just filling in the blanks doesn’t result in a solid piece of writing. They’ll see that they need you to take their project to the next level. Of course, you’d need to refine the strategy a bit for specific customer bases, bust as templated marketing method, it’s not too bad.

Are there any other ways that you may use templates to speed up your writing? Or have you used templates in other ways to build your business?