Ghost-writing Style Guide Components
In order for multiple people to write on behalf of one person, it is important for all follow a few key ideas to ensure that all communications reflect a uniform voice and high standard of work.
Keep it Simple
- Avoid extraneous details and unnecessary adjectives.
- Leaders tend to err on the side of brevity.
- The more straightforward the writing is, the less room there is for divergence from the topic.
- Do not try to avoid harsh realities, state them plainly and clearly.
Understanding Speech Patterns
- All communications should reflect the executive's speech patterns.
- Keep track of any common phrases used by the executive and employ those whenever possible.
- If the writing piece calls for it, contact the executive for an anecdote for a personal touch.
Avoid "I" Statements
- Avoid beginning statements like "I want" or "I need" unless necessary.
- Statements like these place the executive at the center of company activities and make them seem more important.
- Replace with "we" statements if the situation allows. For example: instead of "I would like to see", use "We, as an organization, would benefit from".
Use active voice
- Use statements like "The company needs to..." rather than "If the company were to..."
- Be aware of the reason for the communication and be sure the correct emotion is conveyed.
- If the situation calls for it, emphasize empathy on behalf of the executive with the rest of the organization.
- For example, if responding to a major issue in the company, be sure to ask the executive how they would like to respond with open-ended questions that allows the reader to hear what she would like them to hear.
- Remember the relevant audience when writing. Tailor each communication to the goals and directives of the audience in question. Only include information relevant to the interests of the audience.
Research the topic
- It is important that all communications reflect the same level of understanding of the issues.
- If necessary, complete your own research on the topic.
- All communications should use the same font and citing style (APA, Chicago, MLA etc.)
- Employ the same grammar conventions. Always use Oxford Commons, proper quotation marks, indentation etc.
- Refrain from using abbreviations.
- Write out all numbers under one hundred, numbers over one hundred should have the proper commas/
- All communications should be workplace appropriate, including avoiding foul language and inappropriate references.
- Communications should refrain from using inside jokes or potentially sensitive information about other employees, such as sexuality, citizenship status etc.
- When applicable, defer to agreed upon responses to similar inquiries. Keep a select set of greetings, signatures and other necessary phrases.
- For example, always use "sincerely" as the signature for communications that require one and always phrase follow up emails as "per our last exchange".- Again, defer to language that would be used by the executive commonly.
When in doubt, consult one another
- If unclear about how to proceed with a certain communication, collaborate with other writers who have done similar work.
To complete this, we used a combination of strategies on how to be an effective communicator and of how to ghostwrite well. The first component of this was to ensure that the writers use language that is common to and appropriate for an executive. The second component, on ghost-writing for an executive specifically was to prevent the writers from straying completely away from the tone of this specific executive.
Finally, this information was written in comparison with instructions on how to build a style guide and existing style guides from businesses and universities. Multiple sets of instructions were consulted to identify the most import parts of an internal style guide. We used common references from the style guides consulted, such as using symbols versus full words, referring to other employees, etc. to decide what should be included in this list.