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How to Implement a Content Style Guide

by Gerry McGovern  |  
June 8, 2004

What's a style guide? Why do you need one?

A style guide helps you to quickly and cost-effectively publish content that is of a consistent quality. It is particularly important when lots of editors and authors involved are in the publishing process.

A good style guide takes a lot of time and effort to create. Also, unless its implementation is policed, it will not achieve its objectives.

“As before, this guide is to help Microsoft writers and editors maintain consistency within and across products. It is not a set of rules.”

This is part of an introduction to a Microsoft style guide.

Imagine for a moment that this was a guide for how Microsoft writes software. Let's paraphrase it: This guide is to help Microsoft programmers maintain consistency in how code is written; it is not a set of rules.

Most organizations are accidental publishers. Managers look around one day and find their intranets and public Web sites full of content. And they wonder how they are to manage all this content.

Encouraging people to do the right thing is one approach. It doesn't always work. It is also very time consuming. Most traditional publications I have worked for were run in a dictatorial manner. The editor ruled.

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Gerry McGovern ( is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.

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