7 Ways to Improve Your Style Guide
3. Words are not design elements
Don't allow your compelling copy to become disjointed and shuffled around for the sake of aesthetic balance. Use fonts sizes that are easy for your donors to read.
4. Images are not decorations
What's true of words is also true of graphics. Images and copy are a team. Your writers and artists need to be a team too. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture, plus a few well-crafted lines, is worth a million.
5. Carve it in stone but not on a tombstone
A style guide is more than a list of suggestions but less than an inerrant scripture. Your brand identity is important and shouldn't be tampered with on a whim. Nor should it leave you on the side of the road of changing circumstances.
It's a good idea to review your guide once a year to make sure that you haven't strayed from your core identity, but also to make sure you're not walking around wearing your grandfather's typeface.
6. Search out and correct errors common to your organization
From the caprices of a CEO to the bad habits of a copywriter, almost every organization has a handful of malapropos that pop up more than others. There was a director once who would send background notes that included the phrase, "for all intensive purposes," for example.
While you're writing your style guide, look back over your internal communications, note the ones that seem to occur most often and include them in the style guide — and be sure to cite the source of the correction.
7. As you finish each draft, read it aloud
This is good advice for any copy you write. Even though the public won't see your style guide, you should still pay close attention to inflection and tone. Follow the same communications protocols whether you're emailing the person in the next cubicle or writing a letter to your donors. There's no downside, and it just keeps your skills sharp.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.