Agency Basics, the Style Guide

While an agency style guide has morphed over the years to include guidelines on how the agency builds files, and sets up programming, if the agency does have a style guide it can seem like a left over from another age.

However, in the absence of an in-house proofreader, it can be helpful to create your own. So here are some old proofreading guidelines to help you to create your own agency style guide.

The “Style Guide” is the agency’s design and copywriting guide on how copy is treated. All agency’s have their own unique set of rules to follow on how type is created from comp through production. It can be helpful to use the agency style guide from the initial client presentation of the comp, as you know, anything you present to the client, can and will be interpreted. So getting it right from day one can help reduce rounds of revisions. 

It does help to have one in the agency. This way everyone agrees on some of the basics, thus avoiding simple style errors that your proofreaders may pickup down the line. It will also help, since your production studio can be held accountable to follow the guide.

It should be noted that the guide follows some older typeographic rules. 

Here are some general "style" issues that your agency can pick and choose from:

• Correct use of a hyphen (-), en dash (–, represents the word “to”, “through” or “from” as in 9–5; never “and”) or em dash (—, for parenthetical observations). The style is for no spaces before or after any hyphens or dashes.
 • No double spaces after punctuation. No double dashes, use an em dash instead.
 • Always use nonjustifying spaces or “command backslash” to align characters.
 • Use an en space (when Standard Em Space is off) to align single- and double-digit numbers.
 • Do not use the Zapf Dingbats.
 • Center type by centering optically. If necessary, hang punctuation as with justified or flush right text.
 • Type set in initial caps, as used in headlines or subheads should be set without a period at the end.
 • Ellipsis is three periods...with no spaces on either side. It does not need to get an extra period at the end of a sentence. If using a proper ellipsis with additional punctuation, be sure to add a slight space (periods..., with) after the ellipsis and a full space after the secondary punctuation.
 • Dashes and hyphens—have no spaces on either side. Adjust manual kerning, if necessary to equalize the space on either side of dashes and hyphens, especially when used with numerals, i.e., 1-800-70 / 1-800-70
 • When using dashes with numerals or all cap letters, adjusted to center vertically.
 • The appearance and readability of consecutive capital letters or numerals of three or more in text can often be improved by adding additional tracking and reducing their size 97–90%. e.g., from between one-quarter to one point at a 10 point size. When possible replace stylized small caps with the proper font and adjust for additional tracking.
 • The copyright symbol (©) should not be followed by a spaceband; in a properly mastered font it will have a built-in “shoulder” and should be followed immediately by the date. e.g., ©2001 Adsubculture.
 • All punctuation, dashes and spaces should have the same style, color and format as the word preceding it; e.g., Panasonic®, our voice acti...
 • All punctuation should be placed inside quotation marks. This rule can be broken to ensure clarity.
 • These style standards have been incorporated within can be placed into custom XPress Preferences, these include Small Caps, superscript, subscript and superior.
 • There should be no spacing separating an asterisk and word in the text; in the footnote below, however, an asterisk should be followed by a space.

  • Footnote style: Footnotes are separated from the text block either by a space, never smaller than the general line spacing of the text of the text area, or by a thin rule.

• Avoid using a typeface in which you use excessive tracking or horizontal/vertical scaling is used. (+/- 3 should be considered maximum for tracking). It’s always better to find and use a typeface that is designed with the attributes you want rather than distorting one.
 • Create an single agency font library and use it.