If you’re a Web publisher, blogger, or small business owner responsible for a website, consider using a website style guide. A style guide helps you to create a user-friendly site that viewers will appreciate for its continuity. For example, will you capitalize the word Internet or place a hyphen in the word e-mail? A website style guide can provide you with answers to those questions while also providing everyone on your team with guidance. That way, you won’t have a mish-mash of spellings and stylistic approaches that clash with one another. Several options are available including: using a published style guide such as The Yahoo! Style Guide, creating your own “word list,” and creating your own style guidelines.
Using a Published Website Style Guide
The easiest solution is to use a published style guide such as The Yahoo! Style Guide or The Associated Press Stylebook. The advantage to using an existing Web style guide is consistency with the rest of the Web. For example, as more websites adopt Yahoo!’s guidelines, the more consistent the Web as a whole will become. This makes it easier on readers who are accustomed to seeing words presented a certain way.
Tweak the Website Style Guide to Best Meet Your Needs
As you use a style guide, you’ll likely want to create your own list of words, or “word list” as Yahoo! calls it. For example, you may disagree with dropping the hyphen in words like e-mail, e-commerce, and e-book. You may also have certain words that you prefer over others. If so, having a list of words with your specific preferences clearly explained ensures that your current and future writers are equipped with the Web writing guidelines needed to create content that conforms to your preferences. You can even download Yahoo!’s word list and add your own words to it.
Create Your Own Website Style Guide
As your word list grows, you may want to expand it, creating your own style guidelines. For example, your website is more than just a collection of words. It has a voice, character, and a specific audience. It has a look and feel to it. It has its own Internet style. Create your own website style guide that covers graphic elements like headers and titles (should you use all caps for titles or upper and lower case?), voice (Chatty? Flirty? Traditional? Geeky?), and other elements that your content creators need to be aware of.
No matter what size site you operate, consider investing in a website style guide. You can use a published style guide, create your own “word list,” or create your own style guidelines (or do all three). Once you have a website style guide and begin your journey toward a more consistent website, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.