You don’t need a voice & tone style guide

uh oh…

Simple and clear fun with boldly authentic friends!

Style guides are all about consistency. But the only thing you’ll consistently achieve by telling writers to “use simple words” and “make friends” is contempt.

If you have to tell your writer to omit needless words, not lie, or to be “badass, baby,” then you need a new writer.

Failure to grok voice & tone

If you’re thinking that the previous selection of LOL-worthy excerpts feels biased toward the satire of this article, you’re right. Not every style guide is a joke. In fact, there are some supremely masterful voice and tone style guides out there. For instance:

Skip the style guide and proceed directly to Strunk & White

So why are we burning our resources and reputations on these poorly-executed reference documents? Best guess is that it’s because we don’t spend the time it takes to understand the true purpose of these guides. We sell them as the cherry-on-top of our abilities as a writer or as an incentive for stakeholders to sign off on a project. We’re using them as exploits to leverage our careers rather than as tools to improve brand consistency, efficiency, and impact.

Back to basics

There’s always going to be a moment when someone who doesn’t understand your voice and tone will need to write on behalf of your brand. That’s when a voice and tone style guide should come in. But it shouldn’t be a cornerstone of your writing or content design practice.

“We use the Associated Press Stylebook with the following 7 exceptions.”

How’s that for clarity?

One of the many Jason Foxes. Content designer at Chime.