One of my favorite parts of being a freelance writer is meeting colleagues from around the world. One of those colleagues is Erika Cuccaro, owner of James Street Writing Company. Erika is a content writer who writes compelling stories about volunteers, beneficiaries, ambassadors and employees that help non-profit organizations communicate their value and attract new stakeholders.
Welcome to the HR Content Academy blog, Erika!
Thanks, Liz! I’m so glad to be here! I have to admit to having a “Runaway Bride” moment regarding this discussion! If you’ve seen the movie, there’s a scene where Julia Roberts’ character doesn’t know what kind of eggs she likes. She just adapts her preferences to whatever her boyfriend likes. Like her character, I adapt my style to my clients’ preferences and never thought about what *I* like! This was a great opportunity to dig deeper into what I like about style guides!
Why do you think style guides are important/what makes you recommend organizations use a style guide?
Style guides give writers the rules we need to work our magic. It frees us from having to reinvent the wheel and figure out what headings should look like and what the content should sound like, etc. And I think some organizations have a lot of fun with their style guides—like the Virgin mobile style guide you mention in your blog series, as well as the Mailchimp and Buzzfeed style guides. My favourite parts of the style guide are the voice and tone, standard spelling and anything else about the company culture.
As a writer, how does it help you when a client has an existing style guide?
It’s really reassuring when a client sends me their style guide. That tells me they’ve put a lot of thought into how they want to show up in their marketing and communication pieces. I know it’s going to save me and my client a ton of time down the road, since I won’t have to email them a billion questions about capitalization, how we handle numbers, spelling conventions, etc.
What are the challenges when you don’t have a style guide to use?
For me, the hardest part is the spelling conventions. Here in Canada, we have a colourful mix of U.K. and U.S. spelling. As well, I do a lot of work in the nutrition and international development fields. When I don’t have a style guide, I have to confirm with my client whether we’re using “anaemia” or “anemia”, for example. Then I create my own lexicon and mini style guide that I keep for that client. So it adds a lot of work up front that could be easily fixed with a style guide.
Do you have a preference for AP, APA, Chicago? And, why?
I have to admit to being Style Agnostic, but when it comes to references, I do favour Chicago style. It seems more intuitive and I use that style more with my clients.
Many thanks to Erika for joining us here to share her perspective!
By the way…whenever you’re ready, here are two ways I can help you with a style guide:
1) Learn what you need to include in a style guide. Download your copy of my Style Guide Basics ebook here for free.
2) Grab my Style Guide In-A-Box. This “plug and play” tool provides the framework and AP basics you need to have a Style Guide ready to hand off to your internal and external writing team. Instant access available here.