“A tool of continuing education”: How Stylebot encourages deeper engagement with NowThis’ style guide
Stylebot, a modern style guide that writers and editors can access on Slack and Microsoft Teams, helped NowThis increase adoption of its in-house style guide.
Tl;dr Company: NowThis Industry: Digital news Stylebot platform: Slack Reason for use: Increase adoption of in-house style guide Biggest benefit: “Creating consistency with ease.”
When Shayna Posses was hired as the copy editor for NowThis, she knew her role was a crucial element of the digital news organization’s success.
“From the moment that I interviewed at NowThis, I was told that the language that we use represents our mission,” Posses said. “We are uniquely focused on the language we’re using.”
Posses isn’t the only one at NowThis who understands how important language is. The company aims to not only inform its audience, said Executive Editor of Social Video Sam Mackereth, but to engage them in the news of the day in a way that feels approachable and welcoming.
“Words matter. The way that we frame things matters. The way that we represent things matters,” Mackereth said. “You can exclude without intention, and our intention is to speak to everybody.”
To ensure reporters, editors and video producers are using accurate and inclusive language across the newsroom’s website, social media accounts and newsletter, NowThis has its own style guide accessible through Google Drive. But Posses noticed people weren’t always consulting it when necessary.
This was a drain on her already-precious time, and a risk to NowThis’ relationship with the audience. Posses, for a time the organization’s sole copy editor, couldn’t possibly check every word being published in dozens of stories daily across eight platforms. The style guide is meant to be a resource to everyone, not just the editors.
NowThis works hard on its in-house style guide, so in order to increase adoption among its staff, the organization turned to Stylebot, which answers language and style questions instantly on Slack and Microsoft Teams. Once Stylebot is in an organization’s Slack workspace, anyone can access it through direct message or add it to channels, and NowThis added Stylebot to its style guide channel. Then, instead of asking Posses questions about the style guide, the staff could just ask Stylebot.
“[Stylebot] is a lot faster than me…so it is so nice to have a quick resource that people can go to,” Posses said, noting that the NowThis staff started using Stylebot quickly and enthusiastically once it was introduced.
Mackereth has also noticed how it saves everyone time.
“There seems to be such an ease, and especially in a newsroom, timeliness and immediacy is invaluable,” she said.
Deeper engagement with style rules
Stylebot’s speed in answering people’s questions was apparent from the start, but Posses has also noticed something else. One feature that distinguishes Stylebot is that it can be customized, combining an organization’s in-house style guide with its core guide. NowThis has a custom version of Stylebot, which has been key for Posses because she considers education part of her job, saying she aims to be “a resource for the newsroom…to explain why our style is the way that it is.”
That’s where two Stylebot features have brought her peace of mind.
Most of Stylebot’s answers contain an example sentence, no matter how simple the rule.
For Posses, the example sentences in Stylebot are key in ensuring consistency and accuracy in the writing that NowThis publishes.
“When you get the full picture of something that makes it so much easier to remember than me saying, ‘Hey you need to put a comma here,’” she said. “When you understand why you need to put a comma there, that makes it so much more likely for it to sink in.”
The other Stylebot feature that’s benefited the NowThis staff: buttons. These are related style guide entries that Stylebot links to answers. If someone asks about COVID, for example, they will also see that they can learn about the difference between “physical” and “social” distancing.
Posses loves how this Stylebot feature encourages more engagement with NowThis’ style guide among the staff and can “deepen [reporters’] knowledge of whatever they’re working on.”
For Mackereth, Stylebot’s ability to combine speed and depth to improve NowThis’ copy across platforms is invaluable.
“It’s something that really can be an in-the-moment resource to ensure you’re being accurate and a tool of continuing education,” Mackereth said.
“It’s a great way to make sure that people are using the style guide,” Posses added, “that everybody across the newsroom has somewhere to go to make sure everyone is using the language that is most appropriate for your brand.”
“Stylebot has been really invaluable. Truly this has been such a great tool.”
"I always have Slack open when I’m working, so if I’m editing something and have a style or grammar question, I love the ease with which I can just DM Stylebot."
“Stylebot helps make the process of learning about style...much easier for both the students and me.”
Assistant professor of journalism
"It’s so much more user friendly and intuitive for our generation. "