Many businesses have discovered the power of adding a blog to their website. Doing so is not only a great way to add that all important new content to your site on a daily basis but also to help build your brand and position your company as an expert in its field, something else that will help grow your businesses reputation.
In the case of a business blog it’s a great practice to encourage more than one person to contribute. In fact, for most business blogs it’s the norm. Outside writers are hired to learn about the business, either via their own research or with the input of staff.
The problem for bloggers can be determining a brand style, and then making sure that every post conforms with it. Having multiple authors can create issues though in terms of style and this is often the norm.
Even though the writers may change, a good blog should be consistent, both in terms of tone and visual style. One way that a blog owner can help secure this is by creating an official style guide. And a style guide is still a good idea even for a single writer blog, as it helps ensure the blog remains uniform and properly branded.
What is a Style Guide?
Style guides actually have their roots back in the 17th century, long before computers were invented, let alone blogs. Back then text was typeset by hand and as pages were created by different people, the resulting articles could look wildly different from one another within the same publication. The style guide was invented to prevent this and it is a concept that survives, and works very well, to this day.
What Should be in Our Style Guide?
Every blog is different (as it should be) so every style guide is different too. There are some basics though that should be covered in every one of them:
Basic Language, Spelling and Punctuation
Correct spelling is obviously a must but, for example, should that spelling be right according to British or American English? Is the Oxford comma to be used or not? How about em-dashes? Keeping these basics consistent will allow the blog to flow coherently from post to post.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
In many industries and niches there are many of these that are very commonly used. People within the industry will understand what they mean easily enough, but if your posts are also likely to be read by ‘lay people’ it may be better to make a rule that such things be written out in full, at least for the first time they are used within an article.
What should the basic tone of articles posted to the blog be? Formal or informal? Slightly humorous or very serious? Is it OK to use local colloquialisms and/or slang? By deciding these things right from the start you will be ensuring that your blog matches the company’s ‘brand voice’ in the way it should.
The actual formatting of a post will be largely pre-defined by your blog’s template but there are some variables that should be addressed in the style guide. For example, should headlines be H2 or H3? In bold or in italics? Should they be displayed in a different color than the body text? How about images, how should they be aligned and sized? Should they have captions? Alt tags?
Beyond the Words
Your new style guide should also address some additional considerations that come along with writing for the web in general.
What should and should not be included in an author bio, SEO best practices (keyword density etc) the proper way to respond to comments and how links within a post are to be placed – and from where – are details that should all be included in a truly complete and effective style guide.
Creating a Style Guide
So, where should all of these instruction be kept? How can a style guide be created so that it can be easily shared, edited and updated? And where can it be stored so it won’t get lost in a sea of back and forth email messages?
Our answer, and the one we think is the right one for most businesses, is Google Docs. It’s an excellent word processor in general, and as it lives completely in the cloud it won’t be lost for as long as the Google account it is placed in exists.
Users can be invited to edit, review and copy simply by sharing a simple link. And should you ever decide that you’d like to keep the style guide on a private page on your blog, for even easier access, you can make use of Docsify to transfer the whole thing over – however long and image filled it might be – with a single click.