Writing

FAQ

There’s a lot of information documented on these pages, and chances are you may have a few questions.

Below we’ve identified some of the most common–and in some cases heavily-debated–questions about our writing guidelines across the organization and addressed them here with as much openness and transparency as possible.

Why do we need writing guidelines in the first place?

Every Sprout employee has their own experiences and preferences that inform their personal writing style. But with so many voices behind one brand, this can sometimes lead to a lack of cohesion and clarity.

In an effort to create deeper connections with our customers, we have to become a brand they can trust. And one of the easiest ways to establish trust is through consistency–specifically in how we communicate with our audience. These guidelines and standards help us do just that.

What might I use these guidelines for?

These guidelines will have multiple use cases. There may be an instance where you’re not sure the correct word or language to use in a piece of communication. Or maybe you have a formatting question where you’re not sure of whether something needs to be capitalized or the proper punctuation. Maybe you’re editing or reviewing a piece of copy and you’re unsure if it’s coming across as “Sprout.”

Let these guidelines serve as a gut check, a north star and a source of justification for every piece of Sprout communication you create to ensure it remains consistent and “on-brand.”

What if I don’t agree with something in the guidelines?

This is a living document; as use cases are unveiled, specifics are realized or change in thought occurs, we’ll update to adjust accordingly. So feel free to make suggestions, ask questions or challenge any areas you think might need changing.

If you’d like discuss anything on these pages, send an email to michelle.grano@sproutsocial.com any time.

Why can’t our voice be funny like [insert fast food chain of choice]?

While we all love the latest snark and sass coming from some of today’s brands, we have to keep in mind what’s best and most appropriate for the Sprout brand, and the goals we’re trying to achieve as a business.

Remember, our brand is the reputation and relationships we build with our audience so we have to be careful and strategic with humor.

There are definitely channels where we can have some more fun, but be sure to stick to the guidelines outlined in the brand voice and tone documentation. And when in doubt, let our brand persona inform your choices: We’re the passionate professor–we like to have fun, but we’re not a goofball.

What is Sprout’s official stance on the Oxford comma?

Everyone’s got their own opinion on this one–including official style guides. But we stick by AP, whose stance is to omit the “serial” comma except when it prevents misreading.

The less technical answer is that too many commas make things harder to read. We’re not as concerned with being grammatically correct as we are with providing a good experience for our reader.

So unless your sentence is making weird things happen, ditch the extra comma.

Why are all the headlines changing to sentence case?

First off, thanks for noticing. Most people won’t, we promise. But for those who aren’t a fan, we have a good reason.

In our efforts to create a deeper connection with our audiences, it’s important for our brand to appear as human as possible. We don’t want to talk with our prospects and customers like we’re a company–we want to talk with them like they’re our friends. And you wouldn’t write your friends an email or a text in title case.

We know it’s a tough habit to break. One argument is that it doesn’t look as professional. But we’ve chosen to prioritize “personal” over “professional” for this style choice. If it helps, a lot of companies in our space have started making this change too. Best to stay ahead of the curve.

Where have all the periods gone?

Wish we had a super eloquent answer for you but honestly–it just looks better.

Some time ago it became popular to put periods at the end of words and sentiments to add emphasis. After all, we all know the painful difference between getting a text that says “ok” and one that says, “ok.”

But design-wise, periods in headlines and titles can be distracting. Not to mention, they disrupt the flow of reading. We don’t want people to stop at the top of a piece of communication.

Rest assured, periods at the end of sub-copy and bullets that are complete sentences are still okay.

What about emojis?

This is a great exercise for putting our brand personality into practice. Would the passionate professor put emojis in their lesson plans? Or sign their work emails with smiley faces? Probably not.

But they might include them in a text or tweet to a friend. We’re all for using them on our social channels, but let’s be really purposeful about how–and how often–we use them. Used frequently or in the wrong context they can come off as inauthentic and immature.

Platform, tools, features, software, oh my! Which is correct?

We get this one a lot. Which is why we’ve created specific guidelines around the proper definition and usage of each–straight from our product marketing team.

Check ‘em out.

We’re happy to expand this list if you’re curious about any other writing-specific issues. Just shoot an email or Slack to a member of the brand copy team and we’ll reach out!

A special shout-out—and sincere thank you—is due to Mailchimp for creating a style guide that helped inspire some of the writing pages you’ll find on Seeds.