How my diet taught me to be a better writer

creating a style guide

How my diet taught me to be a better writer

I have a confession to make… my social media feeds are filled with food. I’ve pinned WAY more recipes than any human could ever possibly make, I may be overusing the Facebook save button (if a video or photo makes me drool, it’s in my recipes collection) and don’t get me started on the glorious food photos on Instagram.

But, accompanying many of these food posts is one of my least favorite words: diet. Keto, Whole 30, Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, or simply eating whatever looks good—everyone seems to have a different (and VERY strong) opinion on what the best option is.

As someone who once lost nearly 70 pounds, I’m no stranger to the challenging relationship we, as imperfect human beings, have with food. I also know we humans are an impatient bunch (instant pudding, instant rice, instant oatmeal, need I say more?). And here’s where I may lose a few friends: diets that promise a quick fix won’t give you lasting results.

So, what do diets have to do with marketing? The same principles you’d use to lose weight or establish a healthy lifestyle apply to your brand style guide.

The upfront effort is worth the long-term results

As with making lifestyle changes to improve your health, creating a style guide for your company’s writing starts (and never truly ends) with getting to know yourself (and your organization).

Here are a few tips to help you create a writing style guide that’ll go the distance:

  1. Take a good hard look in the mirror. Before losing weight, I avoided mirrors and cameras like the plague, and while it may be painful to look at the marketing materials and style guides your organization has used in the past, it’s the critical starting point to see what you have to work with. Then, find your why. This is what will keep you going (in your lifestyle change and your quest to create a working style guide) when things get tough. Why do you want to change your lifestyle or lose weight? Why are we creating (or editing) our style guide? Why did we create one in the first place?
  2. Do a little digging. This is the fun part—research! Pull together a list of every diet (or style guide) you’ve used in the past and make notes of the results. How long did you stick with it? Did others use it too or just you? Why did they fail in the past? Identify and take note of the pain points, we’ll use them later. Then, hit the World Wide Web and start collecting links to a few commonly used style guides, like the Chicago Manual of Style, APA Style and AP Style. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel when there are so many great style guides already out there. Find one that closely aligns with your organization and use this as your starting point.
  3. Write it down. You knew this one was coming and I’ve got science on my side—people who describe or write down their goals are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to achieve them. Like plotting your exercise schedule on a calendar, you should develop a style guide with the rules you plan to follow and any nuances that may be company-specific. Start with steps one and two above, and then start organizing what you’ve decided into a tangible format. If you’re hitting a roadblock, check out this handy style guide template.
  4. Test it out. Now that you’ve defined your goals/style, take it out for a spin. Take time to figure out what’s working and start to make changes—or provide extra detail in the style guide—around troublesome areas. Giving it a few weeks of trial time before implementing it household- or company-wide will allow time to work out any kinks and give you tangible results to share and gain buy-in.
  5. Tell EVERYONE all about it. After you’ve spent a few weeks living and breathing your new lifestyle or guide, start telling others about it. Don’t hold back on the details—tell them how you identified a problem (like spending WAY too much time arguing over comma placement), what options you looked at and how you landed on the style guide as it stands today. These details are crucial to getting people on board because it gives them something to connect with and results to look forward to.
  6. Don’t fix it and forget it. Just like your metabolism changes over time, so should your style guide. Take a page from Merriam-Webster’s playbook (they recently added 850 new entries to Merriam-Webster.com) and add to your style guide as new questions arise.

Take a deep breath—you’ve got this!

It can be hard to know where to start and even harder to meet the opposition of family, friends and co-workers who just don’t get why you’re changing things up, but believe me, it’s worth it.

Losing weight and keeping it off isn’t about looking good—it’s about FEELING good. It’s about not being short of breath when you take the stairs, it’s about not feeling guilty about what you ate—it’s about investing in a better life.

Say goodbye to the quick fixes that leave you with conflicting answers, annoyed colleagues and wasted time and say hello to the consistency, efficiency and overall cohesiveness that a well-researched style guide can bring to your brand.

Having trouble finding the words to say? Writing by Design plugs into our clients’ project management and style guides to help with day-to-day writing needs like blog posts, emails, landing page copy, brochures, post cards and more. Schedule a call with us today to see how we can help!

Headshot of Kayde Kempen, SEO and communications specialist

Kayde Kempen joined the Writing by Design team in 2016 as a Communications and SEO Specialist and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She has written hundreds of blog posts and e-blasts, both for Writing by Design and its clients, is the lead content writer for Writing by Design’s website/SEO clients, and assists with press releases, concept writing, script writing and more. Prior to joining the Writing by Design team, she was an associate marketing manager at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where she worked for five years and led nearly 90 website redesign projects, wrote for the University’s alumni magazine and news website, and wrote and managed a variety of print and digital marketing projects.