“A style guide is not a rule book. The guidelines can and should be broken as necessary. The rules should never be viewed as set in stone or beyond reproach. They are there to help, not restrain.”
Those words of wisdom are what you will read at the very top of the Savvy B2B Marketing blog’s style guide.
In this next post in our series about collaborative blogging, we share our experience with the not-very-exciting—yet necessary—style guide for our blog.
There are six Savvy Sisters, all of whom have different writing styles. Diversity is what we want and strive for in our blog. It makes us who we are. However, diversity without just a bit of order can often look more like chaos than something valuable.
While most of the sisters are copywriters and marketers with a good dose of technical experience in the mix, I was the only newspaper journalist. Not only did we all bring different writing styles to the table but we quickly learned that we also brought our different style guides (my trusty ol’ A.P Style Guide sits right here on my desk).
What’s a writer, or more specifically, what’s a member of a group blog to do?
During our many phone conversations discussing how we wanted the blog to look and feel, it became apparent that we needed to develop a quick style guide. We were not going to re-invent something that was already out there, instead our goal was to put boundaries around our individual posts so they could all be pulled together looking like they belonged under one blog.
These are some of the style points we discussed early on for each blog post:
· Initial caps
· No more than 1 line (about 56 characters)
Font Size (Blog Text)
Use the blog default
·Use the default
· No italics
·It’s up to writer to determine whether or not to use. Can be used to highlight a thought.
·Use default font, but bold.
· Align right within the text of the first paragraph and wrap.
·Sources: each writer is responsible for assuring the right to use the image. As a safe measure include a “Source:” note underneath each image, with a pointer to the URL or other source.
· Size: No more than 250 X 250 pixels with a resolution of no more than 120 pixels per inch.
Use of Color
Stick with black for main blog copy. Red can also be used for major points but generally avoid color as much as possible in the posts.
· Initial caps
·No periods at the end of bullet items
· 300-600 words, but this is flexible.
We will post each day, Monday through Friday, with each member aiming for 2-3 posts/month.
While it may seem trite to create standards at this level of detail, by agreeing to these points, it was one less thing we had to think about, freeing us up to participate in more thought provoking discussions like “should we use free lance or freelance?” (By the way, our style guide suggests that we use freelance.) We also understood that each of us had different styles that don’t really fit into a typical style guide. For example, I tend to use lots of sentence fragments in my blog writing.
It’s a style born of my individual personality and thankfully, it’s tolerated (as long as I follow the other standards in order to rein in my posts under the bigger blog umbrella.)
Bottom line here? A group blog style guide is as important as a fence around an outdoor kindergarten play yard. The purpose of the fence being not so much to keep the kids in but rather to let them know how far they can go.
Wendy E.N. Thomas is a freelance writer and Instructional Design Consultant for High-Tech Businesses. She is located in New Hampshire, U.S and has over 25 years experience in the High-tech field as a Technical Writer/Instructional Designer.
A features writer, interviewer, and columnist, Wendy has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs.