Starting a Church Style Guide

March 20, 2006 by

If you have any sort of background with words you understand the importance of a style guide. Is it Gospel or gospel? Are pronouns referring to God capitalized? Is it Church or church? Oxford commas, or no? In many cases either option can be correct and it’s a matter of opinion. But having both options in the same brochure would be kind of silly. Consistency is the key, and for that you need a style guide.

Kem Meyer to the rescue! As usual, Kem offers some great wisdom on church style guides:

  • Make it friendly
  • Use examples
  • Give rationale
  • Include at-a-glance pages
  • Don’t recreate the wheel
  • Allow yourself room for exceptions

Check out Kem’s entry for the details. Wired Churches offers a communications manual for sale if you don’t want to start from scratch. And if you’re really into Oxford commas and the like, you should check out Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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9 Responses to “Starting a Church Style Guide”

  • Jonathan Blundell
    March 20, 2006

    As a reporter I’m still waiting to for someone to put together a patch for Word that will change the style guides to AP style. It would be great if someone released a similar Office patch for churches, so that it would flag or correct changes in style.

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  • Dan
    March 20, 2006

    You beat me to it.
    AP style is what I’ve grown up on as a journalist and what I tend to use almost without thinking. I think a style guide is very important for a church to maintain a professional appearance as well as avoid confusion time-consuming corrections, conversations and arguments.

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  • jessica
    March 20, 2006

    We use AP Style, but I am the only one familiar with it! A church style guide for the staff is definitely a great idea.

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  • Nick
    March 20, 2006

    The Rock Church in San Diego has one! It’s great.
    It’s one of the first things we communicate to all our staff and ministry leaders.

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  • Rick
    March 20, 2006

    This is timely. Our very first church media committee meeting is tonight. One of our jobs is to put together a style guide to be consistent with web and printed media.

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  • John I. Carney
    March 20, 2006

    Speaking of churches and AP style, churches need to recognize that in some cases AP style means that news stories about their church will use different terminology than the church uses itself internally. In the small-town Southern environment where I work, we constantly get church news items, obituaries, wedding announcements and so forth referring to a clergyman as “Bro. John Smith.” AP style won’t let us refer to him that way. But we have a number of Church of Christ congregations here who object to the term “Rev.” Sometimes it’s safer for us just to not use any title at all unless we’re sure which church “Bro. John Smith” represents and that he’s OK with the title “Rev.”

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  • RC
    March 22, 2006

    A church style guide is good…but maybe you can start with looking over Power Point presentation of worship songs to look for typos and errors and capitalization errors there! yikes!
    –RC of

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  • Meg Q
    March 26, 2006

    Er, I don’t know that I’d recommend ES&L. She has waaaaaay too many grammatical errors in that book. When I first read about it (when it came out), I thought I’d like it, but after getting through the front matter & the first chapter, I took it back to Borders for a refund – I just felt ripped off. Though I understand the feelings she expresses in the book!
    Otherwise, great post. ANY organization would do well to build their own style guide, beginning with AP (& Strunk & White – the older the better, IMO, but I’m cranky that way).
    Can’t local papers bend AP style to their will? I always thought AP should be a tool, not a straightjacket, but then I’m a j-school dropout. :^)
    RC – word on the worship songs ;^)

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  • Sarah Austin
    February 18, 2007

    At LifePoint Church, our style guide references the Chicago Manual of Style and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, which helped us address the issue of capitalizing the pronouns of deities (we don’t).
    In addition to language style, we also use the style guide for formatting specifications (page layouts, typography, etc.) and for citation specs.

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