Adapting your own content style guide

Last updated January 11, 2021

If you develop your own style guide, it should still adhere to UW–Madison’s core brand principles.

Why create a style guide?

The point is to make sure that all of your authors—whether a team of one or a department of 100 people—are on the same page when it comes to grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and all the other nitty-gritty details of content creation.

Getting people to use your guide

Build it into your strategy platform. Develop it online, in an intranet style location or place it wherever you source your strategy documents from (Google Docs, Box, OneDrive, other systems)

Make it searchable. Instead of sending out PDFs or handing out printed copies of the style guide, consider setting up a simple searchable, navigable website.

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Examples of well designed style guides

UW–‍Madison's look and feel

Online content should have a consistent written and visual presentation, that should match things like overall mission, goals and knowledge of who your audience is. should be the primary source for brand information for print, web, and multimedia.

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Things that might go in a style guide

Not an expansive list, but many common elements of a style guide.

Principles of writing

  • Establishing goals
  • Accessibility
  • Voice and Tone
  • Inclusivity and readability
  • Write for all readers
  • Focus your message
  • Be concise
  • Be specific

Writing for the web

  • Plain language
  • User focus
  • Actionable language
  • Directional language

Web Elements

  • Long  text/chunking
  • Microcopy
  • Headings
  • Tables
  • Error messages
  • Confirmation messages
  • Buttons
  • Video/Audio
  • Photography/ Images/Alt Tags – Use Alt tags on all images
  • Links
  • Forms
  • Tabs
  • Numbers and lists

Writing for inclusion/writing about people

  • Disability
  • Age
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Medical conditions
  • Vision
  • Mental/cognitive conditions

Grammar and mechanics

  • Common terms
  • Punctuation and capitalization

Search Engine Optimization

  • Best practices for writing when it comes to SEO

Visual Style

  • Typography
  • Color
    • Define color palette
    • Secondary colors
  • Logos

What Developer Tools are used?

  • WordPress
  • Github
  • CSS Style
  • Java Style

Visual Style

There are brand standards that UW–‍Madison provides to guide your visual style.  If the scope of your project goes beyond UW–‍Madison and other visual elements are required, the best practice is to make sure you uniformly apply visual style elements (typography, color, icons, etc…) across your online properties, and that they meet accessibility standards.