Ask any editor about their buzzwords, and I guarantee that consistency will be on the list. We luuuurve it! And you should too.
My interpretation and definition of consistency is the parts of something working in harmony/agreement together. It’s staying the same, following the same processes, creating the same look. The opposite of consistency can be found in words like contradiction, conflicting.
From a writing perspective, we don’t want contradictions or conflicts (unless they’re happening with our characters!). We want everything to be harmonious, and all our elements, general and specific to be the same throughout our work.
How to ensure consistency
When you set out to write, possibly in your first draft, but definitely in your first revisions, create a list. On that list write down everything that has a multiple choice. Both writing and formatting. Write down your specific choice. Then, when you can’t remember which way you wanted to spell Katherine, or if you used italics in a certain place, you’ve got a document to remind you. Much easier than scrolling aimlessly back and forth. If you write something like a blog or a newsletter this works for you too, just apply your choices to all of your posts, etc.
Why do we want consistency?
It makes the process easier for all.
Trust me when I say that future you and your future editors/proofreaders/agents/audience will thank you if you’ve already got a running consistency document. As I said in the previous paragraph, you don’t need to scroll about to find which way you spelled a name, or which formatting decisions you made.
When you work with other people, you cut out the choices guessing game. Already having a document that lists every choice a writer has made is like crack for editors and proofreaders!! We want to work as efficiently as possible, and having consistency measures in place does that and then some.
If you’re planning on self-editing, again you take that guesswork out of it. It can be so tricky to remember things you may have done weeks ago.
Being inconsistent is distracting and confusing.
Your future audience wants to be immersed in your writing. They want high-quality. There is so much reading material out there for us that it’s impossible to go through it all. You need to make sure you’re consistent if you want a good audience. If I was to read a fantasy novel set in an imagined world, but the character or place names are spelled differently throughout, I’ll get distracted. If I’m reading a blog post on a particular topic, but it veers in another direction, I’ll get confused. Being actively consistent throughout your writing will keep engagement.
Consistency increases understanding.
Within my work, there are messages that I want to convey to my audience and clients. I always try to write these in the same way, to increase understanding. Whatever topic you’re writing about, whatever ideas or messages you’re wanting to convey, make sure you do this consistently. Don’t change your wording up too much.
Consistency increases engagement.
Engagement is SO important! Whatever form your writing takes, you want people to engage with it. Engagement means that they know what you’re saying, they can empathise with it and respond to it. It’s a positive thing to increase levels of loyalty in an audience. Consistency helps your levels of engagement because you’re not switching things up in a confusing way. Everything that can remain the same, does. Your audience knows your writing is high quality.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m pretty passionate about bringing consistency to writing! It’s such an important part of my job, and I think it adds so much value and quality to writing when executed properly. Aside from that, it makes your life easier and more efficient.
If you want more guidance on consistency, I’ve created a checklist that’ll help you hit all the areas. Click the button below!
As always, I’d love your feedback. How do you ensure consistency? What do you find it brings to your writing?