What components go into a style guide?

November 4, 2007

Looking for peeps…

I’ve been contacted by someone who wants to create a “living document style guide that includes effective best practices for instructional design standards.” He wants to know what components go into a style guide. It’s his first attempt at a style guide and so far he tells me, “it’s about spelling, grammar, and minor style standards.”He wants something comprehensive but I doesn’t know for sure what that looks like. “What components go into a style guide (typically)?”

So… the problem he wants to address is to have consistentcy among the designers when creating or updating training materials/content. His group of three designs their our own in-house facilitator guides, participant guides, handouts, posters and other supplemental resources.

My problem-o? Zero bandwidth. I just can’t find the time to put something together…can you help? If you’ve got stuff on your blog, just pass along the link. I’ll pass it on.

I’ve pointed him to Cathy Moore’s blueprints as a good place to start. What else?

  • http://www.jarche.com/ Harold Jarche
  • http://www.jarche.com Harold Jarche
  • http://christytucker.wordpress.com/ Christy Tucker

    The level of detail really depends on the specific needs for the situation. However, here’s some things to think about including, specifically about instructional design standards and not just the spelling and grammar. Not all of these may apply, but he might use this as a starting point for the kinds of questions to ask.

    * Course structure guidelines (Units? Modules? Topics? How many? How are they divided?)
    * Templates to be used
    * Course length
    * When to use certain media
    * How to use images
    * Image styles (stock photos? clip art? combo?)
    * Color schemes (Are there requirements for certain clients or situations? Branding?)
    * Assessment guidelines (What types? When? How long?)
    * Course objectives (How many? How worded?)
    * Course descriptions (Sometimes there’s guidelines for these)
    * Types of interaction & practice
    * Amount of interaction & practice
    * What goes in each set of documentation (instructor vs. participant guide, handouts)

    Sometimes the style expectations can be as specific as to the font, size, and style for each type of text. I’ve worked with one client who carefully reviewed the line spacing and number of blank lines (which was a bit over the top, but it’s what they wanted). If there are visual style guidelines like that, documentation and samples can be really helpful.

  • http://christytucker.wordpress.com Christy Tucker

    The level of detail really depends on the specific needs for the situation. However, here’s some things to think about including, specifically about instructional design standards and not just the spelling and grammar. Not all of these may apply, but he might use this as a starting point for the kinds of questions to ask.

    * Course structure guidelines (Units? Modules? Topics? How many? How are they divided?)
    * Templates to be used
    * Course length
    * When to use certain media
    * How to use images
    * Image styles (stock photos? clip art? combo?)
    * Color schemes (Are there requirements for certain clients or situations? Branding?)
    * Assessment guidelines (What types? When? How long?)
    * Course objectives (How many? How worded?)
    * Course descriptions (Sometimes there’s guidelines for these)
    * Types of interaction & practice
    * Amount of interaction & practice
    * What goes in each set of documentation (instructor vs. participant guide, handouts)

    Sometimes the style expectations can be as specific as to the font, size, and style for each type of text. I’ve worked with one client who carefully reviewed the line spacing and number of blank lines (which was a bit over the top, but it’s what they wanted). If there are visual style guidelines like that, documentation and samples can be really helpful.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/weblogs/tomwerner.htm Tom Werner

    Hi Janet,

    Two possibly-relevant web sites are listed in this VNU e-newsletter about culturally-generic writing for the web:

    http://www.trainingmagevents.com/learninggroup/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003224013

    The web sites are:

    http://www.webpagecontent.com

    http://www.plainlanguage.gov

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/weblogs/tomwerner.htm Tom Werner

    Hi Janet,

    Two possibly-relevant web sites are listed in this VNU e-newsletter about culturally-generic writing for the web:

    http://www.trainingmagevents.com/learninggroup/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003224013

    The web sites are:

    http://www.webpagecontent.com

    http://www.plainlanguage.gov

  • http://blog.cathy-moore.com Cathy Moore

    A great resource on online writing style is Microsoft’s Manual of Style for Technical Publications:

    http://www.microsoft.com/mspress/books/6074.aspx

    While it doesn’t cover instructional design, it would help standardize editorial style.

    For the “living document” aspect, I’d suggest a wiki. Tiddlywiki is easiest to use and naturally supports tiny entries like you find in a style guide, but the last time I checked it can be edited by only one person.

    A centralized library of assets could help, too. It could be as simple as storing all images in one spot on the intranet (rather than in separate folders for each project). When you have everything together in one spot, it’s easier to identify what fits the visual style and delete what doesn’t.

  • http://blog.cathy-moore.com Cathy Moore

    A great resource on online writing style is Microsoft’s Manual of Style for Technical Publications:

    http://www.microsoft.com/mspress/books/6074.aspx

    While it doesn’t cover instructional design, it would help standardize editorial style.

    For the “living document” aspect, I’d suggest a wiki. Tiddlywiki is easiest to use and naturally supports tiny entries like you find in a style guide, but the last time I checked it can be edited by only one person.

    A centralized library of assets could help, too. It could be as simple as storing all images in one spot on the intranet (rather than in separate folders for each project). When you have everything together in one spot, it’s easier to identify what fits the visual style and delete what doesn’t.

  • http://blog.cathy-moore.com Cathy Moore

    I just ran across a style guide for charts and other graphics:

    http://www.sapdesignguild.org/resources/diagram_guidelines/index.html

    I’m not too keen on their suggestion that we use graphics for “decoration” but other recommendations seem solid.

  • http://blog.cathy-moore.com Cathy Moore

    I just ran across a style guide for charts and other graphics:

    http://www.sapdesignguild.org/resources/diagram_guidelines/index.html

    I’m not too keen on their suggestion that we use graphics for “decoration” but other recommendations seem solid.

  • http://blog.cathy-moore.com Cathy Moore

    And here’s another resource: William and Kit Horton have a set of Word templates you can use to standardize design documents:

    http://www.horton.com/html/elformsword.aspx

  • http://blog.cathy-moore.com Cathy Moore

    And here’s another resource: William and Kit Horton have a set of Word templates you can use to standardize design documents:

    http://www.horton.com/html/elformsword.aspx

  • http://twitter.com/tpriddle15 Tyson

    I'm on the hunt for this as well – specifically for a large corporate organisations… what are other organisations doing? have been asked to define “Best Practice” in conjunction with a style guide… right down to timings, text size, etc..

Previous post:

Next post: