Any organisation that produces printed publications understands the importance of an editorial style guide. So it stands to reason that a separate style guide for your websites, intranet sites and e-newsletters is important too.
When creating an online style guide, the differences between online and offline communications and how content is generated should be taken into consideration.
In many instances, a network of administrators (not always professional communicators) add information onto a website via a content management system (CMS). They might not be very knowledgable about the best ways to write for a website, or sure of what information to include.
An online style guide can help to define some of the basic rules for writing for the web, such as the right language to use online, how to structure the content to make it easier to read, or even what fonts and colours to use.
It also serves many of the same purposes as a style guide for printed publications. For example, it helps to make sure that all websites have a consistent tone of voice, and that spellings and capitalisations particular to the business are used correctly. It’s also a valuable document to give to external agencies that might be producing online content for the company.
There are some excellent examples of online style guides available for free, which you can use as inspiration if you want to develop your own (or you can contact me to do it for you!).
Here’s a selection of the best I’ve found to date:
- The AA: Writing and editing for theAA.com
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC): Communications toolkit – interactive media
- Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE: Web WORDing
- Central Office of Information (COI): Web standards and guidelines
- London Metropolitan University: Publishing to the LondonMet website