There’s a lot of information documented on these pages, and chances are you may have a few questions.
Below we’ve identified some of the most common–and in some cases heavily-debated–questions about our writing guidelines across the organization and addressed them here with as much openness and transparency as possible.
Why do we need writing guidelines in the first place?
Every Sprout employee has their own experiences and preferences that inform their personal writing style. But with so many voices behind one brand, this can sometimes lead to a lack of cohesion and clarity.
In an effort to create deeper connections with our customers, we have to become a brand they can trust. And one of the easiest ways to establish trust is through consistency–specifically in how we communicate with our audience. These guidelines and standards help us do just that.
What might I use these guidelines for?
These guidelines will have multiple use cases. There may be an instance where you’re not sure the correct word or language to use in a piece of communication. Or maybe you have a formatting question where you’re not sure of whether something needs to be capitalized or the proper punctuation. Maybe you’re editing or reviewing a piece of copy and you’re unsure if it’s coming across as “Sprout.”
Let these guidelines serve as a gut check, a north star and a source of justification for every piece of Sprout communication you create to ensure it remains consistent and “on-brand.”
What if I don’t agree with something in the guidelines?
This is a living document; as use cases are unveiled, specifics are realized or change in thought occurs, we’ll update to adjust accordingly. So feel free to make suggestions, ask questions or challenge any areas you think might need changing.
If you’d like discuss anything on these pages, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org any time.
Why can’t our voice be funny like [insert fast food chain of choice]?
While we all love the latest snark and sass coming from some of today’s brands, we have to keep in mind what’s best and most appropriate for the Sprout brand, and the goals we’re trying to achieve as a business.
Remember, our brand is the reputation and relationships we build with our audience so we have to be careful and strategic with humor.
There are definitely channels where we can have some more fun, but be sure to stick to the guidelines outlined in the brand voice and tone documentation. And when in doubt, let our brand persona inform your choices: We’re the passionate professor–we like to have fun, but we’re not a goofball.
What is Sprout’s official stance on the Oxford comma?
Everyone’s got their own opinion on this one–including official style guides. But we stick by AP, whose stance is to omit the “serial” comma except when it prevents misreading.
The less technical answer is that too many commas make things harder to read. We’re not as concerned with being grammatically correct as we are with providing a good experience for our reader.
So unless your sentence is making weird things happen, ditch the extra comma.
Do we use sentence case or title case?
Ha! But seriously, we do use both depending on the context. In most product use-cases, we use sentence case. In marketing, we use sentence case for headlines and title case for titles.
You can find a breakdown of the definitions and differences in our grammar and mechanics guidelines, as well as several examples to help you figure out the proper formatting.
What about emojis?
This is a great exercise for putting our brand personality into practice. Would the passionate professor put emojis in their lesson plans? Or sign their work emails with smiley faces? Probably not.
But they might include them in a text or tweet to a friend. We’re all for using them on our social channels, but let’s be really purposeful about how–and how often–we use them. Used frequently or in the wrong context they can come off as inauthentic and immature.
Platform, tools, features, software, oh my! Which is correct?
We get this one a lot. Which is why we’ve created specific guidelines around the proper definition and usage of each–straight from our product marketing team and senior technical writer, Mandy Patterson.
If you don’t see your question covered here or in the rest of our writing guidelines, feel free to pose it in our Slack channel, #talk-ask-a-writer. Or shoot an email or Slack to a member of the brand copy team and we’ll get back to you asap!
A special shout-out—and sincere thank you—is due to Mailchimp for creating a style guide that helped inspire some of the writing pages you’ll find on Seeds.