How to build a strong brand voice? The style guide localization (Part 3)

You read our Style Guide part 1 and part 2 and gave your editorial style guide a try. You described your tone and voice. The sentence length is there, and your guideline is brimming with examples.  

You did it—for your English-speaking market, that is. 

Now it’s time to make your Chinese, Spanish, or French website be on-brand, on-point, and on-market.

Cue style guide localization, the last—and arguably most important—piece of the puzzle. 

How do you approach it?

The prep step: hire a transcreator before localizing your style guide

When it comes to localizing, you can’t translate it.  You need to recreate it. Your localized style guide should look and feel as if it were originally written in the target language and for the target culture. But most importantly, it should reflect some basic principles of usage.

Here’s an example:

Imagine you opted for an informal tone and voice in your English style guide. When localizing it into French, it would come naturally to write your customers should be addressed with tu, not the more formal vous.

But on the French side of the net, everyone is using the vous form. The level of (in)formality is conveyed by other writing elements. It means that technically formal and de facto formal isn’t the same thing.

That’s why this job calls for a transcreator: an expert linguist fluent in target language and a flair for writing compelling copy. Most importantly, a transcreator is someone well-versed in usage.

Your localized style guide: the contents

1. Start off with an introduction

It’s not for pleasantries. 

99% of the time, you will outsource the content creation and translation. The introduction should help them get to know you and understand what your business is about. So kick off with information  like: 

  • Company mission and vision
  • Your values
  • Products you offer

2. Define your audience

Defining your target audience is crucial because your translators will have a clear picture of whom they are writing for. They will be able to solve a translation problem, knowing whom the text is written for.

3. List the items you don’t want to translate

Having accurate translations is important. Knowing what shouldn’t be translated is paramount. List the app names, product names, and other things you want to keep in English.

4. Build a strong termbase

Sit with your transcreator and compile a list of terms that your local writers should stick to. It will help avoid synonyms that don’t fit with the brand voice.

Pro tip:

If you’re betting on SEO (who doesn’t?), pair your transcreator with a digital marketing expert for a few hours. Make sure your on-brand termbase is keyword-optimized, too.

5. Create a changelog

And add it at the very top of your localized style guide. 

Let’s be realistic. You can’t expect your writers and translators to read the whole style guide every time there is an update. Do them a favor and highlight what’s new.

Let’s wrap up the Style Guide Series

A simple style guide will save you hours of back-and-forths between writers, translators, and your marketing teams. Your nifty proofreaders will spend time polishing the message instead of correcting basic mistakes.

Just remember these few golden rules:

  • Show, don’t tell. The more examples you give, the more efficient your style guide will be 
  • In defining your tone and voice, use the “this but not that” structure. It will help curb exceedingly creative flair.
  • Hire a transcreator for localizing your style guide. If you don’t have one, drop us a line. We might have just the resource you need.






How to build a strong brand voice? The style guide series (Part 2)

In our previous article, we shed some light on the importance of having a style guide. We touched upon the differences between a grammar book and a style guide. Now, let’s get down to business. Your business.

What should you include in your style guide?

Your style guide should not contain error corrections and common mistakes. Your writers have grammar books for those. It should do what the name suggests: guide your writers through the maze of choices when it comes to creating content. Here are some must-haves.

Voice and Tone

Defining your brand voice helps your writers get a sense of how official or relaxed you want to be. It defines the rules on humor and colloquialism. In short, it defines your brand’s personality

Your Voice & Tone section can be a simple bullet list. Let’s look at Mail Chimp’s example:

“Mail Chimp is:

  • Straight-faced, subtle, and a touch eccentric
  • Smart but not snobbish
  • Weird but not inappropriate

Describing your voice and tone with the “this, but not that” approach is a good idea. It will help your writers understand just how far you’re willing to push some of the traits.

Sentences, syntax, and spelling

Grammar rules are stone-strong, but that doesn’t mean they don’t allow you to express your brand image. There is plenty of room for you to define a unique voice while staying safe before the Grammar Police. For instance, you can play with:

  • Sentence length. Do you want to go for crisp? Or do you prefer longer and syntactically more intricate sentences? Sentence length dictates your pace. Shorter sentences will be brisk and feel more conversational. Longer, syntax-complex sentences will be slower and more formal.
  • Active vs Passive. Do you want the subject of the verb’s action to be clearly defined? Put a stop sign on the use of passive voice in your style guide.
  • Narrative voice. Do you address your readers directly (second person) or indirectly (third person).

To each (channel) its own

Do you manage several social media accounts, have a blog section on your website, and an emailing list? You probably want to differentiate your content and the tone a bit between your platforms.

For instance, you could define that product news goes to Facebook, while your Instagram followers get to see some behind-the-scenes, or your life at the office. You might allow a few emojis there, but not in your LinkedIn posts. Be clear about the content type and these variations in your style guide.

Examples, examples, examples

Don’t limit yourself to dos and don’ts. Examples are the best teacher.

Telling your writers they shouldn’t use long, complicated words is one thing. Showing them is another. 

For instance:

When possible, replace a longer word that stems from Latin with a shorter, Anglo-Saxon synonym.

Sounds complicated? Detangle it with an example:

Our style: We can only guess.

Not our style: We can hypothesize

Wrapping up the Style Guide Part 2

Essentially, your style guide isn’t about your company as much as it is about your audience. It allows you to define how you want to address your customers and how to make sure they have a seamless experience with your brand across all your channels and platforms.

With your audience in mind, what happens to your style guide when you have to transfer it to another market? Is it ok to just translate it? If you’re curious, come back next week, where we’ll wrap up the series by discussing what happens when you have to localize your style guide.






How to build a strong brand voice? The style guide series (Part 1)

In one internet minute, we send over 450,000 tweets. We post more than 45,000 Instagram photos and perform more than 3.5 million searches on Google. In one internet minute, in the US alone, we gorb over 2,5 million gigabytes of data. 

The e-buzz keeps on growing, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get one’s message through. Having a consistent voice across channels and platforms is vital to grab attention and evoke trust. 

Today, content production is scattered across many writers—outside freelancers most of the time. How do you ensure your unique voice remains consistent? Enter style guides.

What is a style guide?

Your style guide is your number one tool for content creation. It’s your source of truth when it comes to editorial disputes. It tells your writers what tone you want to use with your customers and how this tone translates into words.

What’s the difference between a style guide and a grammar book?

Grammar books set out rules on writing, most of which are unambiguous. But there are many cases where grammar books themselves differ in opinion. 

Is ending a sentence with a preposition wrong? Some grammarians say it is; others are more lenient. 

What about starting a sentence with a conjunction? Our 5th-grade teacher would be furious, but the honest answer is: it depends.

Grammar books talk about rules, while style guides talk about options or choices. You need to define which ones to adopt and have your content team stick to them. It’s the only way to make sure a plethora of writers will produce pieces that convey the same brand voice.

Can’t I stick to established style guides like the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style?

We swear by them and keep them on our work desks, too. These reference style guides are a great way to start. They will help you set the foundation: Things like the punctuation style, capitalization, and dates and numbers. 

But to get your unique brand voice through in your writing, you need to add your own guidelines on top of them. Will you allow the use of emojis? What will your humor be like: tongue-in-cheek or deadpan? These are things no reference style guide can decide on your behalf.

What else should I include in my company style guide?

We’ll help you with that. You have a few days to fetch that dusted Chicago Manual off your shelves and have a go at it. Come over next week, when we’ll show you how to compile your brand’s style guide.


If you want to know more about localization, check out our recent posts HERE.