If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably encountered content style guides, especially when producing material for others. A style guide often includes specifics such as desired content length, language and spelling preferences, how to handle symbols in text and whether to use the Oxford comma. However, you might not have thought of style guides associated with entire blogs.
Does your blog need one? Yes. Keep reading to learn what is a style guide and why it’s important.
The Importance of Style Guides
You likely didn’t wake up one day and randomly decide to be a blogger. Instead, the decision probably involved possible topics to cover and angles to take, the ideal tone, how often to publish and more. Think of your style guide as an extension of all those aspects, presented in an easily accessible format.
Even if your readers don’t know you’re using a style guide, they’ll appreciate the uniformity of your writing. For example, if you’re trying to attract advertisers, they’ll undoubtedly check out your blog to see if it seems professional before signing any advertising agreements.
If your blog shows a lack of cohesiveness in its formatting, advertisers may conclude that means you’re too casual about blogging and therefore not worth their time. Making the effort to create a style guide and implement it demonstrates a consistency that indicates you care about the output.
Style Guides Could Build Your Blog’s Brand
While thinking about creating your style guide, it’s necessary to decide if it’ll only contain content about textual elements or also include components like colors, margin sizes and layout. In either case, don’t overlook how your style guide could support your efforts to increase the strength of your brand.
A well-branded blog writing style guide can help you define your purpose and build a community of subscribers. It could also positively impact your productivity by preventing you from spending time developing content that doesn’t fit with the brand.
Maybe you have a particular way of signing off at the end of every blog. Or, perhaps you’ve gotten into the habit of formatting certain sentences in bold, red text to let readers know that bit of information is a key takeaway. Keeping people interested in future content could also factor into your brand. In that case, a branding element to include in the style guide might be a submission box or a link that lets people get a free e-book in exchange for giving you their email address.
Having a Style Sets Standards for Guest Bloggers
When blog growth is a goal and your writing workload is already at maximum capacity, it’s time to start thinking about inviting people to contribute as guest bloggers. When doing that, it’s essential to let candidates know what characteristics you want — and do not want — from contributors.
A style guide is also handy because you can distribute it through email to interested people. When an individual reaches out to you about becoming a guest blogger, you can attach a copy of the style guide to your reply to clarify the kind of content your blog already contains. Taking that approach could thin out the candidate field by helping people realize when your blog isn’t a good fit for them.
Style Blogging Can Increase Your Readership
The bad news is, many things can cause readership decline. However, on the plus side, these factors are often things you can control. For example, maybe you haven’t worked hard enough to define your niche and create relevant content the audience wants to read. Or, perhaps you haven’t optimized your formatting for reading on the Internet and people decide they’d rather not try to deal with the difficult-to-read font or huge, meandering paragraphs.
Another problem you might have is failing to publish new material frequently enough, making people get bored or wonder if you gave up. Readers of online content appreciate knowing what to expect just as much as people who are long-term subscribers to magazines — when they open the publication, they see the same columnists, color schemes and kinds of features.
Often — especially as a new blogger — you may not notice the things that cause inconsistency, meaning you don’t know where there’s room for improvement. Writing a style guide and referring to it as you write equips you to set expectations for your audience. Therefore, a style guide can help you stay on track and avoid doing things that could make readership numbers go down, while breaking some of your bad habits in the process.
Style Guides Make Proofreading More Productive
Writing content is only half of your job as a blogger. You also have to proofread for grammar errors, spelling mistakes and other blunders that make the material not ready for publication. If you’re still in the stage of figuring out whether you need a style guide, consider that in almost all if not every case, it’ll help you get through the proofreading portion more efficiently.
That’s because instead of relying solely on your memory to recall your blog’s standards to ensure uniformity in a post’s format, style and voice, you can refer to the style guide, too. Not surprisingly, a style guide could save a significant amount of time when you don’t have a designated editor and depend on a team of bloggers. The style guide ensures everyone’s on the same page during the self-editing process.
Style Guides Could Promote Better Link Usage
Bloggers often start composing content online because they want to become thought leaders in their industries. If you can relate, a style guide could help you get closer to that goal. In part, that’s because besides giving your views on a subject, linking to supplementary content from trusted sources helps give credibility to your words.
If you have guest bloggers and want them to include links in their pieces, a blog style guide should go into detail about whether there are non-approved sources — otherwise known as those that wouldn’t help your reputation as a person in the know.
Maybe your writers love to link to Wikipedia because it’s so accessible and covers just about every topic. However, because Wikipedia is a crowdsourced project anyone can edit, it lacks the clout of a publication with information from professional reporters, such as the New York Times. Besides providing guidance about websites to steer clear of when linking, give contributors a list of excellent resources in the style guide.
By now, it should be obvious: You shouldn’t wait to create a blog style guide. Even if you’re the only writer and your blog is still a small operation, things may change in the future, and consistency is ideal in any case.
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