Boost your brand with a multi-language style guide – get the recipe.

Jan 15, 2020

When companies create content and communicate, one of their biggest challenges is to ensure a common thread and recognisability across media and platforms. And it is even harder to ensure uniformity and recognisability if the content also needs to be translated and published in several languages.


Why is it important to create a common thread in company communication?

The way in which your company communicates in writing and speech has an impact on its image and identity and thus the surrounding world’s perception of the company. It is paramount that your company ensures consistency and recognisability in its communication, because the better your company is at that, the stronger a brand it will be able to build.


How do you create a common thread in your communication?

In order to create consistency in your company communication, you will need to get both internal and external parties to make content that supports your brand. You do so by creating a set of rules and guidelines that everyone must follow.

You must therefore make sure that the guidelines have been committed to paper and that everyone has access to them. This should be the case whether it is internal staff from the communication, marketing or HR department or whether it is an external partner in the form of a communications agency, translation agency, etc.

These rules will often be part of your company’s brand and style guide, but regardless of what you call your guide, it is important that you have considered how the company wants to communicate and that this has been written into some kind of guide.


What should the guide include?

A brand and style guide contains guidelines for graphical, visual and textual content which the company produces across departments and countries.

In respect of the graphical and visual content, guidelines will be provided for e.g. colours, fonts and other elements that impact the company’s visual identity.

As for the textual content, guidelines will be provided for tone of voice, punctuation, abbreviations, use and non-use of specific words and terms, etc. It is not a grammar and language guide, but rather a guide outlining specific choices made by the company that serve to make communication uniform and adapt it to the target group and brand.


Should the guide only cover the corporate language?

More and more companies choose English as their corporate language. Therefore, their band and style guides often only provide guidelines for how they want to communicate in English.

However, few companies choose only to communicate in English when targeting consumers or companies in local markets. All studies show and support the theory that it is much easier to sell a product or service when the recipient is able to read about it in his/her own language.

That is why translation and communication in languages other than English are a parameter that the company needs to consider if it wants to create recognisability and a common thread in its communication and its brand in other markets.


Should the content of the guide be the same in all languages?

The guidelines for the graphical and visual content will almost always be the same regardless of language, however, written communication may offer some challenges, because the rules in individual languages and markets may differ.

How do you for instance best convey your tone of voice to reflect your brand while also matching the recipients in the local market? Are there any specific precautions in respect of use or non-use of words and terms in a given language?

Basically, it is a matter of conveying the rules the company has prepared for its corporate language so that it reflects the brand while also taking any cultural differences into account.

However, if you choose not to make guides for the individual languages, you risk that the uniformity you seek for your company’s communication is not conveyed into the languages you choose to translate into.


How do you get started?

Making a brand and style guide might seem like an insurmountable task. Typically, the marketing department will be charged with this task, but it is also important to get other departments involved, so that both the visual look and the use of specific terminology are taken into account.

No one knows your company and your wishes for your brand better than you. This job might therefore be difficult to outsource to an agency. However, you can choose to involve an agency to manage the process and ensure that the guide includes all the necessary information with the help of the employees of your company.

As for the linguistic side of your brand and style guide and having it translated into other languages, your best partner will undoubtedly be your translation agency.


Is it enough to make a brand and style guide when you want to ensure uniformity in your communication?

If you choose to prepare a brand and style guide for your company, and you choose to make one for all the languages you communicate in, you are well on your way to achieving uniformity in your brand-supporting company communication.

A brand and style guide can outline rules for use of specific words or terminology or specify which words or terminology are off limits. However, in order to ensure that your brand and style guide does not become too unclear, we recommend supplementing it with a term list or a glossary.

This should preferably be made in a database that is an integral part of the translation software which you use internally or which is used by your partner.

Read more about why it is a good idea to keep track of your company’s terminology and how to get started with terminology work on our blog:

Written by

Head of Global Communications & Marketing

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