In a previous post, I discussed how to manage a successful business blog, which includes creating a comprehensive style guide.
This week, I am focusing more specifically on what you should include within your blog style guide.
It’s well known that blogging is a great way to boost your website’s SEO, but making sure you and your writers are all on the same page is critical for success. Having a standard style guide will not only help build your brand through consistency, it will also help your writers create the best content possible.
But what should you include in your style guide? Below are six things to consider when drafting your guide.
The first and most obvious section to include within your guide should discuss grammar. Keep in mind that this isn’t the place to detail basic grammatical rules. Instead, this is a place to address more subtle mistakes and overall preferences based on the specific personas your blogs will be targeting.
Less versus fewer, effect versus affect, they’re versus their versus there—these are all common grammatical mistakes that keep editors awake at night. A brief overview of these words and their appropriate use will save your editor a headache or a nightmare.
Besides the more obvious mistakes, there are plenty of commonly confused minor words and figures of speech—for example, consider repetitive versus redundant. Repetitive means that something has been said more than once whereas redundant implies that something doesn’t need to be said because the sentiment has already been expressed. Explaining these commonly confusing words and phrases will give your writers a frame of reference when they need it.
Besides mistakes, there are certain preferences you’ll want to specify regarding certain words/phrases to maintain consistency. Do you want your writers to say email, e-mail, Email, or E-mail? OK, O.K., or okay? Determining your preference for these words will save you a lot of time in enforcing consistency throughout your company’s messaging.
Style and tone are two huge factors in determining your blog’s voice, and equally as important, its consistency. Is your blog educational? Satirical? Humorous? Business-focused? Consider who your audience is when determining the style and tone.
Once you understand who your audience is, you can determine the style and tone in the messaging you deliver to them. Some things to consider are:
Formality or informality of speech
Use of jargon and/or slang
Typical article length
Citation often reflects the style of your blog. Most blogs, even if they are professional, can get away with an informal citation method. The easiest way to do this is to hyperlink the text to its source. A more formal method could involve parenthetical citation or footnotes; however, this typically isn’t necessary for most business blogs.
No matter your citation preference, make sure to standardize it to maintain credibility. The last thing you want to do is plagiarize, even accidentally.
Besides issues with plagiarism, another thing to consider when citing sources is their creditability. Detailing which sources, or even specific websites, are appropriate for referencing will save you from inadvertently posting, and passing on bad information.
Formatting is a huge way to maintain consistency for your blog. From word count guidelines to font preferences, detailing how each post should be formatted will help unify your blog.
Here are some common formatting preferences to address:
Font (style and size)
Numbered lists, bullet points, etc.
Even if your writers don’t format their posts directly in whatever blogging platform you use, addressing this will ensure everyone is “on the same page. ”
Most blog posts have at least one image or graphic to coincide with the written content. It is important to address and outline acceptable imagery in your blog style guide, as well as the formatting, editing, etc.
When detailing photography guidelines, make sure to discuss the following:
Acceptable image sources (stock imagery, personal photography, etc.)
Imagery style (to coincide with style and tone of blog)
Number of photos per blog
The last piece of the blog style guide puzzle is to detail the process. From choosing a topic to publishing the article, it’s important that everyone understands the mechanics behind the process. If you have just a couple writers, your process will most likely be fairly straightforward. If you have a lot of writers, editors, etc., the process will probably involve more steps.
Consider the following when detailing this section:
How content should be written/submitted (Word doc, Google docs, etc.)
How many rounds of edits there will be
Who is formatting/publishing the articles
The publishing schedule
Creating a comprehensive style guide for your business blog will ensure that everyone is informed throughout the entire process. Remember that your style guide should be customized for your business’ needs—you might not need everything in this list or you might need to include an entirely different section. Also keep in mind that this is a living document, meaning that it should evolve with your blog and your company. If you’ve never written a style guide before, these are the basic elements you should include!