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How Building a Business Identity Works

        Money | Marketing

Voice and Style

Another often forgotten, but still important, image aspect is the style and voice of your written materials, correspondence, and advertising. Does your company want to put forth a light, humorous image, or a stoic, dignified, and perhaps more professional image? The word choices and syntax of your written documents, and even the phrasing of market- or industry-specific issues may need to be examined and standardized.

Do you have employees performing training seminars that use different pronunciations for industry buzz-words? That is something you may need to correct. Use your own judgement and get as nit-picky as you need to. It does make a difference over the long haul in how your customers perceive the cohesion of your business. This may, in turn, effect how they perceive the overall quality of your business.

What is voice?

Voice is the tone that your written statements relay to the reader. It is the feeling and often emotional impact that the word choices and phrasing evoke. It can be conversational, formal, informal, colloquial, and can fall into various levels of each. The intonation you use is important, as well as the sentence structure. Think about how differently a news story is written from an editorial story. Of course, the purpose of the editorial is to relay the opinion of the author, but there is a distinct difference even when comparing the descriptions of the basic information of the story before the opinions take over.

Should your business voice follow a more formal, institutional voice that strictly adheres to the facts and leaves out any emotion or personality? Or, should it follow more informal patterns as in conversation and spontaneous speech? The decision will lie, once again, in your type of business, your level of relationship with your clients, and what types of written materials you produce. Are you a consultant? If so, you may have more of a personal relationship with some of your clients. This might lead you to decide that a more conversational tone is needed in your written materials. Do you write "How-to" books? Then you should definitely use a more conversational tone. You don't want your readers to have to translate what you're saying into everyday language. Make it easier on them.

Of course, many businesses can't operate that way because using more conversational tones may lead them to leave out some detail that might leave them vulnerable. For example, the legal industry must make sure every written statement covers all of the bases and doesn't leave anything to a potentially incorrect interpretation.

Look for answers to these questions when determining the most effective voice for your type of business. Then clearly describe the voice and tone you expect. Give examples and offer a point of assistance such as a company spokesperson or communications manager.

Style Guides

Don't forget about style details such as:

  • how your company name is written out -- Do you use ", Inc." after the name, do you put periods after any initials, do you spell out the word "and" or use an ampersand (&)? This also applies to other industry- or market-specific phrases.
  • optional spellings of words you use often
  • titles and designations of employees and managers
  • use of trade marks and their symbols

Set up a guide that addresses each of these style questions and state your requirements clearly.

Once you have established your written style and voice, make sure that they are incorporated into all of your written materials including:

  • all marketing communications
  • your web site
  • your newsletter
  • all proposals, letters, and reports
  • e-mail
  • public relations releases
  • published manuals, books, and users' guides