The KST Guide to Style
I have created style guides for USPS Delivers, 3x3, Crowdtap and many other brands and businesses. I won't share their internal documents, but hope you'll instead use this as a sample for the type of living guide I could create for you.
This is the content style guide I use for my personal work. It serves as a guide for writing web copy, personal emails, text messages, party invitations and more. You’ll find notes on my brand voice, the content audience and the tone of voice for each platform, as well as grammar and word choice rules.
This a living, breathing document, just as I am a living, breathing person. As priorities shift and ideas evolve, so too can this style guide.
Brand Voice & Tone
The KST brand is...
- Smart, but approachable.
- Humorous, but not comedic.
- Pleasant, but not overzealous.
- Straightforward, but not robotic.
- Proud, but not braggadocios.
It is the best possible version of me, Katelyn. Think of me as the quietly smart book-lover who you'd turn to for help shortening a sentence, making sure your text to your sister isn't too dramatic, or answering the question, "What's that word? The one, you know, that means, like..."
I think of my clients as friends that I'm getting to know. My emails will be friendly: not stiffly professional nor blatantly chummy. I'll always hope you had a great weekend but never infer you're hungover on a Monday.
I like working with people who understand why copywriting and good content matter, and can admit that they need someone's help crafting the perfect sentence, subject line or blog post.
Grammar, Mechanics & Word Choice
All writing from KST should be concise and meaningful. I won't waste words or alienate readers with too-long sentences. If it takes a few times to read over and understand a sentence, it should be trimmed down or broken it into multiple sentences. I write with purpose.
I live by the AP Stylebook, the bible for most short-form and web publications.
- I opt against the Oxford/serial comma. A debate-starter for any word nerd, this is the comma before the conjunction (and, or) in a list of three or more items. I rarely think this piece of punctuation is necessary and, in my own writing, will only use it if the phrasing is complex.
- I always write actively. That means the subject of the sentence does the action, rather than has an action done to it. It is more inclusive, concise and human.
- I spell small numerals. One through nine are simple enough, so they become words. From 10 to 1,896,876,776,586.2 (and beyond), I use numerals. Some exceptions, of course, including a googolplex.
- I occasionally use the em dash. That is, the longest of the dashes, seen here: —. This can be used for a dramatic pause or for setting off non-necessary information in a sentence — like what non-essential information might be — and should always have a space on either side.
- But I try to avoid exclamation points. I limit myself to one or two per email (depending on how much I have to say). In text messages, I am more liberal. Occasionally, I'll use a set of these (like !!! or !!!!!!!!!!) to denote sarcasm, frustration or extreme excitement. This, however, doesn't occur in my work — only my Slack messages.
I also follow AP's recommendations for some weird words, like:
- aka — no periods, lowercase
- OK — no periods, uppercase
- email — no hyphen
- internet — it's no longer a proper noun
- am/pm — no periods, lowercase
- e-commerce — use a hyphen
Writing Web Copy
I like to think of the KST voice as "pro-fresh-ional". That is to say, professional, but smart, young and fresh.
All copy written for this website takes this professional cut of my normal voice. In real life, I can be a little more witty, saucy, daring. But here, I put a blazer on!
How often do you say "Hello" and really mean it? I'm more of a "Hi!" or "Hey there" kinda gal, so that's how I start my emails.
If an email is getting too long, thinning is encouraged. Not just trimming words, but visually thinning the space using bullets, hierarchy (bold, underline, etc.) and other tricks.
When you're done, sign off with a little CTA. "Talk soon" usually means I'll either see you soon, follow up soon or expect a response. "Best" is an all-around goodie, but can sometimes be a little guarded. Timely conclusions, like "have a great weekend" or "enjoy the day" are fun here and there.
Texts, Slacks and social media
This is where I really come alive. Here, I believe in:
- GIFs — a picture is worth a thousand words, especially if it moves.
- emojis — when called for
- exclamation points — don't start a fight with your best friend by ending a sentence with a period
- puns — make 'em glad they came!