ecommerce style guide

What Is Ecommerce Style Guide And Do You Need One?

AJ Saunders profile picture

By on 03 May 23 | Filed: Digital Strategy

I'm a former ecommerce founder turned growth agency owner. When not helping our clients grow, I enjoy automating my home, dogs, and architecture.

As you grow your ecommerce brand, the consistency of writing becomes more important. An ecommerce style guide is one way to ensure your team produces copy and content that speaks with a single uniform voice.


Creating product descriptions, blogs, copy for ads, and more, requires a team. In short, a single person can’t write everything while remaining sane, let alone creative! So, you’ll need to work with several writers. 


However, every marketer and writer has different writing skills, personality traits, phrasing, and their own bag of tricks. So maintaining a consistent voice and tone becomes trickier the larger the team.


By having an ecommerce style guide, you speak with a consistent tone that amplifies your brand and products, making an emotional connection with your customers.


You hopefully love the idea of creating a brand bible. However, you might need a few pointers on the best start point for creating your ecommerce style guide.



What Is House Style on a Website or Publication?

We can’t talk about house writing styles without looking back to the golden age of newspapers. It was an editor’s job to decide who the paper spoke to and what kinds of phrases and words the target reader used.


We still see this today, and a house style is a way to quickly educate new writers on the particular stylistic elements of that paper. But it’s more than that. A style guide allows writers and sub-editors to check that they are writing within the guideline and being consistent.


The same story may appear in the Daily Mail, BBC News online, and The New York Post. However, each will use their unique style to communicate to the end reader in a way that aligns with them.


A good example of a current house style is The Guardian and Observer Style Guide, which sets the benchmark for other publications, both big and small. Another great resource is Style Matters by Margaret Ashworth, an ex-Daily Mail sub-editor.


Within a few minutes of reading this style guide, you’ll realize it doesn’t dictate how someone should write but does establish the underlying tone of voice, useful slang, and how to present headings.


If you run a small ecommerce business with an equally sized website, you might wonder why you need a house style. You might feel creating an ecommerce style guide is not worth the effort or doesn’t matter.


However, consistent growth comes from having processes that make it easy for another person to complete the task. So, that’s why you should create an ecommerce style guide.



website ecommerce style guide



What Does An Ecommerce Style Guide Cover?

There are a few elements that your ecommerce style guide should include:


Your brand

Even if you’re a business of one, you must think about how potential clients and customers perceive you. Do you want people to think of your brand as fun, smart, professional, informative, quirky, etc?


Your audience

How your audience talks, should be the way you do too. Use the same slang and phrases as them. If you don’t, this mismatch will result in fewer sales and more friction in the sales process.


Consider the tone of voice you’ll use. Will it be formal, conversational, or technical?


I purposefully use conversational language when writing these blogs and imagine we’re having a chat over a drink. You’ll notice, I try to avoid overly technical language or formality. Some of you might even appreciate my humor!


Again, think about how you want to be perceived and how you feel it’s best to connect with your target audience. But don’t forget to add in your personality. These three elements together will inform the underlying tone of voice you use.


Consistent voice

You don’t want to replace your writers with robots that crank out uninspiring content and copy. However, you need to present a united front to your customers. To grow your authority in a niche, you need a consistent tone.


One way to illustrate this is to think of McDonald’s. Each of their restaurants feels and looks the same. The service you receive from the staff might vary, but each location follows the same rules.


Basic formatting

The little things matter. Basic formatting includes how you cite a source, what level of subheading you use, and how many spaces to leave after a section. As long as the underlying formatting is consistent, the writer has some freedom.



create ecommerce style guide



How To Create An Ecommerce Style Guide

Firstly, you don’t need to create a style guide as extensive as the Daily Mail or Guardian. You should achieve consistent results by having a short guide and being proactive.


For this website, I have a 6-page style guide. It starts by introducing the brand. It then covers writing style and what we expect from writers, including how to format articles and that they are required to write a meta description. Finally, we cover how to contact the editor and a plea to avoid poor communication.


It’s not a long document, nor is it highly technical. But it’s designed to be easy to use straight away.


Here are some steps to help you start creating your own ecommerce house style guide.


Start with common problems

If you have to correct a problem more than once, it should be in your ecommerce style guide.


For example, if you’re talking to an audience who uses certain acronyms, and so they don’t need defining. Next, add a list of them to your style guide. Your writer can then cross-reference them and only use the acronym.


If your writer always cites sources at the end and not as they occur, you could write in your guide that sources should appear after the sentence in brackets.


Include formatting tips

Even if you, check any copy or content before uploading it, you’ll still want to encourage your writers to think along the same lines.


For example, if you only use <h2> and <h3> in blog posts, state you only use two levels of subheadings. Should bullet-point lists end with a full stop or not? How will quotations appear? Do you want them to highlight CTAs in green, so you know later to add them to a button?



It’s reasonable to assume that a writer will add links to sources or cite them within articles. You might want them to add internal links to relevant existing posts or products. Just be clear about what you expect.


Keep evolving

As a working document, your style writing guide is always a work in progress. Don’t be afraid to adapt, tweak and refine it as you work with more writers. The worse thing you can do is leave it alone.


If you look at Style Matters, you’ll see that the tagline is “Comprehensive, updated regularly – and free”. Even after four decades on the job, Margaret is still willing to update and evolve! And so should you.


What your ecommerce style guide is not

Don’t use your ecommerce style guide to belittle your writers or air your grievances. As the marketing manager, it’s your job to give direct feedback after someone submits an article. You’re there to nurture your team, not be a big bad boss.


Instead, stick to creating the guidelines that ensure your team is consistent in tone and format. Your investment will pay dividends over the long term.

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