Skip to main content

Verbal standards define your brand voice. When you speak/write to your audience in relatable way, a connection is formed that fosters brand loyalty. To develop this bond and provide a consistent brand experience, be sure your voice guide includes these five essentials.

1. Tone

Tone is the attitude your writing projects to the audience—your verbal personality. When readers pick up the vibe of your writing, it reinforces your brand’s personality and values. Should your brand voice be sassy or serious, friendly or funny, passionate or proper? Even a simple informative message can be written to reflect different attitudes.

Compare the tone:

Join us as we share our vision for 2019!

Attendance is mandatory at the 2019 vision meeting.

Verbal standards voice guide smiley faces Kettle Fire Creative

Your tone is like the facial expression behind your writing.

2. Syntax

In grammatical jargon, syntax simply means sentence structure. For your brand voice, syntax should be determined by considering your audience and message. Think about your audience’s age, educational level, and the amount of time they’re willing to spend digesting your content.

Syntax can also help carry your brand personality and tone. Short, punchy sentences reflect a different attitude than longer, clause-heavy ones. Some brands may use intentionally incomplete sentences. While active voice (subject-verb-object) is generally preferred, some industries require passive voice in their communications (object as subject).

Compare the syntax:

Food! Dancing! Games! Jake’s Restaurant is hosting the party of the year. Get your tickets before they sell out!

Food, dancing, and games will be featured at the party of the year, held at Jake’s Restaurant. Tickets may sell out, so get yours today.

Verbal standards voice guide architecture building modern Kettle Fire Creative

In architecture and writing, structure brings out personality.

3. Word choice

Word choice significantly affects your brand voice. Should you promote your event as fun, fabulous, or off the hook? It depends on your brand personality and target audience.

Beyond choosing appropriate adjectives, including word choice in your verbal standards will help you build the right connotations. Every industry has words or phrases that are significant and those that are easily misconstrued. There may even be terms you legally need to handle in a certain way. (The word milk has recently come under fire.)This section should also address industry jargon.

Compare the word choice:

Because PNGs are rasterized, the effective PPI diminishes with scaling.

Images saved in the PNG format will get pixelated and blurry as the size is increased.

Verbal standards voice guide caution tape Kettle Fire Creative

Every industry has phrases they should use with caution.

4. Headline styling

This may not be the most common feature in verbal standards, but it’s a very helpful one. Headlines and headings are used in print and digital media and can vary greatly in style. Think of the major newspapers and how differently they handle headlines, from a few words in all caps to complete sentences with proper punctuation.

Headline styling is a combination of tone, syntax, and graphic design preferences. Sentence case is our preference, where only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized, because it’s faster and easier to read. Some prefer title case, where every important word is capitalized. Should headings be clever or purely informative? Headings are the first things people read! They’re worth aligning with your brand voice.

Compare the headlines:

Hundreds of Satisfied Customers

We live to serve our clients.

Verbal standards voice guide pile of newspapers headlines Kettle Fire Creative

Headlines are an eye-catching chance to build your brand.

5. Conventions

Conventions is a fancy way to say grammar and punctuation. While English has formal rules, there’s a lot of flexibility and you may not want to follow the rules. Consistent conventions show you have your act together and bring authority to your brand voice. Should you use the Oxford comma or skip it? Will phone numbers be written with parentheses, dashes, or periods? Your industry may have specific rules that are different than standard English—include them in your verbal standards.

Compare the conventions:

Direct message, email, or call (719) 555-0123.

Direct message, email or call 719.555.0123.

Verbal standards voice guide Someecards commas Kettle Fire Creative

Take the time to get the basics right. (

Your brand voice is a powerful tool. To further define it, your verbal standards may include guidance on writing for social media or specific marketing campaigns. It should include examples to help your team implement the standards. The voice guide, style guide, and brand foundations are often combined into an overall brand standards guide or brand book. Ultimately, you want to provide yourself and your team with everything they need to deliver a consistent brand experience.

Do you have questions about brand voice or verbal standards? Ask us in the comments!

Leave a Reply

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.