A stylebook is a set of guidelines that will define how a publication, website or blog makes decisions regarding typography, formatting, grammar, spelling and more. Creating a set of guidelines like this is crucial if you wish to be taken seriously. So read on to learn more…
A stylebook is a ‘book’ (today this will often be a digital document) that contains information and rules regarding the use of:
And more in a publication, blog, website or other form of media.
The aim here is to define a specific form of writing that will be consistent across that publication/brand. This is necessary seeing as there are many grammatical options and choices that have no ‘correct’ answer. For instance, the Oxford comma is just one ‘way’ to use a comma and is neither correct nor incorrect. It doesn’t matter how the publication uses the comma then, as long as it is seen to be consistent.
Many journals, magazines and websites will refer to the book Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. This is an industry standard set of rules and guidelines for writing and using good punctuation and grammar. However, if you run a blog, it is entirely up to you what you ultimately decide will be your set of rules and ‘style guidelines’.
Defining what makes a great blog, or even what makes something a blog at all in the first place, can be a tricky job and something that isn't easy to put your finger on. Of course a blog is a form of website where regular posts and short articles are the focus, but there are lots of websites like this too and 'e-zines' that don't classify themselves as blogs in the same way.
My theory then, is that in order to be a blog, the content and posts should also be a little more personal and a little more colloquial. Rather than just being articles aimed to convey information in a dry way, blogs will often include an element of personal opinion or narrative. A business blog for instance will often talk about what it's like to work for the company or what the future plans are, while a blog on making money might have quick tips as well as describing the blogger's personal experiences with money making methods.
If you worked for a magazine, then you would have to write while sticking to a set of editorial guidelines – those mentioned in the stylebook. These would exist to outline strict rules for certain decisions - whether you use indents or not, whether you allow commas before brackets, etc. It doesn't matter what decisions you make here, but just so long as you keep those decisions consistent so that your whole site reads in a similar way.
Remember: what works for the web isn’t necessarily the same as what works in print. It’s fine – in some cases – to throw out the rulebook! If you’re unsure though, follow the tips in the Elements of Style.
The best way to put your voice across in your articles is to write as it comes to mind and to edit later. In other words, don't stress too much about the structure or about the vocabulary - instead try to let the words flow straight from your brain to your hands. Imagine you were talking and write your article just the way you would if you were trying to get your point across by telling someone.
As you do this, you should find that you use certain phrases, techniques and styles a lot due to the way you think. I haven't done it here, but often I'll use a lot of brackets to expand on my point for example and that has become almost a 'signature' on some of my websites. People could potentially spot content written by me by noticing how many times I use brackets. I've seen other writers make very humorous use of caps-lock for emphasis, while some bloggers almost have catchphrases that they'll weave in occasionally. If you find yourself developing such signature techniques or phrases then don't fight it - embrace it!