When companies make a style statement

Jyothi Kiran

Jyothi Kiran

4 min read



Choose what style you want to portray, a perfect gentleman or an outlaw. But live the image all through consistently in the story. If, in some pages your hero comes across as a suave James Bond and in the next page speaks like an outlaw, then you are bound to confuse the audience.

Just like the characters in a movie, companies too have an image that needs to be defined. Style guide does exactly that. It defines the character of your company. The tone, the usage, the color and the lines on your company website, all contribute to the brand. Most companies have a visual brand guideline, but not all companies adhere to an editorial style guide. But those who do follow, have a distinct advantage over the rest.

For detailed analysis and examples, click the following links:

Editorial style guide

An editorial guideline is the preferred usage of spellings, abbreviations, acronyms, and rules for capitalization, grammar and punctuation. Using a style guide helps you to be consistent.If you have a style guide in place you will avoid writing three different spellings for the same word as in: smart phone, Smart Phone, SmartPhone. Remember these are new words you will not find in the old editions of an Oxford dictionary. So it helps to refer to an online style guide like Yahoo for instance.

Tone of content

The tone of content is as important as the rules of grammar.

Consider the following sentences:

I like my coffee without sugar’. VsI like to have my coffee without sugar’.

Both the above sentences are grammatically right, but the tone makes all the difference.

The first sentence is abrupt, informal and direct, more likely to be used by folks on social media. It has a certain sense of urgency and attitude to it. The second sentence is formal, ‘proper’ and likely to be used by those who prefer a conservative approach to language.

But you will notice, how one seems to be addressing a younger audience while the second approach is more cautious.

Defining the tone of your website depends on the purpose and target audience you are addressing. If your purpose is to appeal to a younger generation as in a Career page, choose an informal tone but showcase a stimulating environment.

On the other hand, if you want to showcase your Work and Approach, you might want to keep your tone confident and professional.

Does it mean that the Career page and the Approach page will have clashing tones on your corporate website? The trick is to use the same brand promise, whichever tone you may use. This way, you know you belong to the same house although you are entering different rooms.

Indeed, style guide helps to avoid a lot of inconsistencies and legal hassles by advocating a rulebook in advance with proper rules for the dos & don’ts of content usage.


When we say usability, we mean writing for the online medium,which is distinct from the old push style of writing with reams of print, meant for reading at leisure and recollected in tranquility.

Alas, a lot has changed drastically in the way we approach content from the era when time was a luxury vs. real-time data on demand being the need of the hour.

Either way, it helps to know before hand, and to agree upon one style so as to be consistent and avoid confusion over the meaning of the sentence, both intended and unintended.

Examples of company style

Here are some examples of how companies such as Accenture, Apple and IBM use or ignore content style in their corporate websites. And the consequence of their decision is plainly evident.

1. See how Apple breaks grammatical conventions of a sentence and still emerges a winner in the following:

Grammatically, “To a Mac”.is an incomplete sentence. You wouldn’t have passed high school grammar by writing such sentences. But, by deliberately breaking the sentence convention, Apple is drawing your attention to the brand Mac. You have to give credit to Apple for consistently being different. After all, style is in its DNA.

2. Notice how IBM questions but doesn’t use a question mark in the following sentence:

"Is your IT at the strategic center of your business"

The style statement in the sentence above is questionable. It seems like negligence more than an attitude statement. The image artist forgot to insert a question mark. If I were IBM, I would pay attention to my style guide. This brings us to the need for a more collaborative teamwork between image artists and copy editors. Content Management System (CMS) helps us only so far. We cannot completely eliminate the human intervention of a meticulous copy editor. Not yet.

3. Of all the company style guides I have studied, Accenture is the most consistent.

Most companies have their own in-house style preference. There is nothing right or wrong about it. See how Accenture also breaks sentence conventions to accentuate performance by saying;

"High performance. Delivered."

You will also notice the use of the name ‘accenture’ in lowercase, but the use of title case for all the other words on the menu bar. This is because the name ‘accenture’ is a logo that needs to stand out from the rest of the text. It is not a style error.
Finally, the style guide doesn’t say you can’t break rules, just break it effectively.
Like Bond who uses his weapons only when most needed.

Leave a reply

11 Responses

  1. Abhilash S Nair
    July 27, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Feels good to come across someone with such an intense love of the language!! Done properly, words have an ability to conjure up images, scenarios and feelings in exquisite detail giving the reader/listener a vivid impression of what is trying to be conveyed. I believe great copy is about two things, painting a story and getting the audience emotionally involved.I feel one of the first things to be thought of while designing a campaign is what kind of vibes do we want to give off?? Aggression,empathy, ‘businessy’,jovialness.Like that. Of course its never an either/or thing its a combination of all these in varying degrees, ultimately leading to a perception of the brand. The best way to have the best perception? Consciously designing it!!

    Completely agree with you Ms. Jyothi.

    PS: If you are passionate about people and words and marketing like myself do check out Seth Godin’s blog:http://sethgodin.typepad.com

  2. June 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    We don’t need James Bond to make a style statement, We could do it better then him in our style.

  3. R Pavan Kumar
    November 8, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. In fact I feel the language and its usage are undergoing a paradigm shift. This sort of style based marketing, I guess was unheard of a decade and a half back.

    Apple, I feel is the James Bond of companies in terms of its style statement.

  4. Priyanka S N
    October 1, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Having lots of ideas and no idea of how to showcase is no longer impressive.
    At this moment i can remember swami vivekanand’s speech at chicago,there were many monks but the words “brothers and sisters” of him were most attractive towards the audians.Hence delivering the things clearly and attractive is important.

  5. jyothi
    September 29, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Even Forbes magazine is confused whether to use data as singular or plural. (Data has, Data have). To use both versions in one para is a disaster.

    Check the following sentence in its article ‘The future of Data’

    Data are everywhere. To be more accurate, data has always been there, but the amount of available data have never been…


  6. pankaj
    August 2, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Style is a combination of vigor & vivacity. It gives you a unique identity. Due to this Identity/Uniqueness you will become known to others, whether it is perfect or outlaw. This is applicable for every person as well as organization. Batman having it due to his style & pepper square having it’s own. At the end “STYLE” matters.

    1. jyothi
      August 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Very well said Pankaj.

      It is indeed due to your uniqueness that you become known to others.
      But a lot of people lack the courage to nurture a unique style.
      Style is not a one day make up thingy, but you need to live it day in and day out.

      I love Apple’s bold style. A lot of people want to be like them, but they are not bold enough to go all the way.

      1. pankaj
        August 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm

        Exactly same example of “Apple” comes in my mind. what a co-incidence!!! 🙂

  7. jyothi
    July 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

    That’s true Vinod, style speaks louder than substance these days. Even digital experiences have to carry the wow, it isn’t enough to be just functional.

    How to deliver unique experiences that are both functional as well as aesthetic without consuming a lot of bandwidth is a typical challenge of the times.

    The batman is a good example of reinventing the story to suit the new generation. But like you say, hope, courage and strength are fundamental values that change very little with time..

  8. July 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Style matters the most in the 21st century. Batman in the Dark Knight Rises gets old, grey and tired, but his style and charisma never lets the audience down. We look up to his character, even when he is tired he still has hope, courage and strength like in his younger days. It’s his brand of fighting has always remained in our minds, and so it is delivered in the movie. The Batman brand has an distinct advantage over the rest.