So, you've taken the leap and decided to jump into blogging, whether for business or personal reasons. You've got plenty of content and information to offer, but do you have a style guide yet? If you're scratching your head and aren't sure what that is, you're not alone. Unless you have been involved in the writing or publishing community for a while, you may wonder what a style guide is and why it's used.
Simply put, a style guide is a set of rules and regulations you follow when writing your blog posts. For instance, a style guide makes sure you maintain conformity when dealing with numbers, punctuation, citation, quotes, and much more. Style guides are used for many things, including by publishers to maintain consistency in content published in magazines, newspapers, books, and more.
By developing a style guide for your blog, you can ensure your posts are uniform in their execution and delivery. Readers will appreciate that your content is understandable and doesn't vary wildly from post to post or from blog to blog (if you host more than one).
Here are some pointers - as well as a list of pros and cons - that will help you decide if you need a style guide and what to include in it.
|Using a style guide can help your blog stand out from the rest.|
There are many benefits to having a style guide for your blog. Some of the main benefits are to maintain consistency and to add an air of credibility to your blog. If you want your blog to be taken seriously, and especially if you are trying to keep a professional blog rather than a personal one, you'll need to adhere to a standard style and voice in order to gain your readers' trust.
For now, you may not use guest posts. However, over the coming months and years, you might consider offering space for guest posts. In fact, having guest bloggers is a smart marketing idea, so if you're not yet doing that, it's something to consider. When you do have guest bloggers, a style guide is a must. Why? Well, since each person writes in a different way and may use various ways to express information, a style guide can keep all bloggers on the same style page.
An example would be if you write all numbers up to ten as words, but every number after that in numeral form. Some bloggers may use all numbers and not write them out; if they write a guest post for your blog, you'll want to be sure they follow the same style rules as you do in your posts. Another example would be serial commas. Some writers adhere to AP Style and eschew the serial comma (Example: apples, oranges and pears), while others follow Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and use the serial comma when writing out a list of items (Example: apple, oranges, and pears).
Finally, it's good to have a solid foundation of guidelines for your blog so you can keep on track and refer to them on occasion. Having a style guide you've developed will help you feel more organized, prepared, and professional. If your target is to grow your audience and, perhaps, eventually use your blog to build clients for various products and services, you'll need to appeal to the business side of their intellect. Abiding by your blog's style guide can help you do just that.
|All blogs are not the same. A style guide will ensure your yours is unique, consistent, and uniform.|
The biggest drawback of using a style guide for your blog is that you're limited to following certain rules. Many people chafe against too many rules and regulations, and referring to a guide for all your blog posts can seem to stunt creativity or expression. While this is a valid concern, you must also keep your readers in mind. For what audience are you writing? Are you delivering content to a business-minded audience who craves more conformity, or are you writing for a more laissez-faire audience of creative who will allow more stylistic variation? Before you decide whether to use a style guide, think about this element first.
Another drawback to using a style guide is that you'll need to keep up with maintaining your style guide. Rules change in word usage and for online writing, so you'll need to remember to keep up on any updates or trends. And while it may cause you to spend more time and energy, the benefits of having a style guide far outweigh this minor disruption.
What should you include in your blogging style guide? First and foremost, decide on the rules of punctuation, grammar, and syntax. Will you use serial commas? How will you treat quotations marks - in other words, will they be single or double marks? In addition, will you allow sentence fragments, or will you require full, formal sentences?
These things you may be familiar with and may know for yourself, but once again, consider that you may use guest bloggers in the future, and they'll need guidelines on these things as well.
In addition to words, if you use photographs or images, you'll need to address those in your style guide. Will you require only royalty-free or Creative Common images on your blog, or must the photos be taken or images be created or rendered by the blog poster themselves? Will you require a permission statement for images or photos to protect yourself? Be sure to address the use and crediting of images in your style guide so there's no confusion over your blog's policy on these issues.
Finally, if you are developing your own style guide, take some time beforehand to research and read other style guides, such as the Yahoo! Style Guide, AP Style Guide, or the Chicago Manual of Style. Here are ten free style guides you can check out to get started.
Consider what is included in each style guide, and determine which items will be included in your guide, and which ones may not apply. Your guide does not have to be large and cumbersome to be effective; in fact, you can compose your style guide and continue to add to it as time goes on. Don't be intimidated by the thought of putting together a document that will assist you in maintaining regularity in your blog posts. In the end, it will provide you with a steady, reliable framework that you will appreciate again and again.
By using a style guide, your blog can help maintain consistency across all entries you post. You will have guidelines to follow and readers will know what to expect as far as voice, style, and information delivery. If your goal is to make your blog more professional and less casual to attract business, developing a style guide could be the route for you.