What is a Style Guide?
A Style Guide could be described as the group of rules that define your information or document design. Although documents produced for diverse purposes are likely to require differences between individual styles, many of the essential elements will be there; only the detail will vary.
The following may be considered as a typical list for hard copy documents.
Aspect (portrait or landscape)
A4 or A5
Headers and footers
Columns (single or multi-column format)
Appendices and annexes
Glossaries and indexes
Warnings and cautions
Illustrations and graphics
Vocabulary and spelling standards (for example, UK or NZ English)
Abbreviations - rules of usage
Why have a Style Guide?
A well-defined Style Guide is of help to all concerned with the documents to which it applies. Not just the author or information designer, but all involved with the document production. This may encompass word processor operators, proofreaders, graphic designers, typesetters or desktop publishers and even printers.
A good Style Guide is also of considerable benefit to the reader or end-user of the document. Clear and recognisable styles in heading weights, fonts, contents lists, numbering systems and so on make it much easier to use a publication. In some cases the existence of a clear structure can make the difference between the document being read and not being read at all.
Benefits to the author:
If an author follows the applicable Style Guide rules when creating a document or publication, all the basic document design parameters are predefined, saving precious time spent in ‘playing’ with different layouts at the outset. The author focuses on content not layout.
If the author rigorously adheres to the rules, and is producing just part of a larger document or publication, the parts can be joined together ‘seamlessly’ to produce the whole.
Note: Using the styles in custom built templates will ensure full consistancy of documents produced by different authors, provided that:
The authors all follow the styles defined in the Style Guide, and
The styles have been set accordingly in the word templates used by all contributing authors.
By following the prescribed Style Guide, an author can be confident that the style of the document produced will comply with house rules.