Blog Style Guide? Blog Editorial Guidelines? Blog Huh?By: John M.
If you are planning to be any kind of a professional blogger, you should take a few moments and write down your editorial policies and a style guide.
What are Editorial Guidelines?
Editorial guidelines are a set of general rules you intend to follow with your blog. They include not only your general subject matter, but also the main sub themes you want to concentrate on. They include your general point of view and approach to particular issues. They include your intended use of guest bloggers, and the degree to which you want them to conform with or challenge your general editorial guidelines.
Why Would You Even Want Editorial Guidelines?
The main reason you need editorial guidelines is that they will help keep your writing on track, your blog on topic, and most importantly, they will serve as the foundation of your brand identity. That’s right, your blog’s brand identity will be formed around your editorial policies…. Whether you intend it to or not!
So you had better figure out what your editorial point of view is, and you had better stick to it. It’s the best way to determine and direct your brand identity. And it’s best planned in advance, rather than waking up after your brand has accidentally become associated with something you don’t want.
How Do You Develop Your Editorial Guidelines?
To develop your editorial policy, first enumerate your general theme or subject matter. For example, this blog is about Blogging Tips.
Next, identify the primary sub themes that you will be focusing on. For example this blog focuses on blog writing tips, inspiration and motivation, ideas for blog posts, and blog marketing, with some coverage of monetization, community building, and blogging tools and platforms.
What is implied by the list of what is covered is the list of what is not included, which is everything else not listed explicitly. For example, this blog does not focus on social networking, blogging platform modifications, hard core seo, template development, themes and graphics, domain names, hosting, and a raft of other things.
Next, identify any religious, political, ethical, or personal points of view that your blog should conform with or avoid. Examples might include Christianity, conservative or liberal politics, and other personal points of view such as drug use in professional athletics, free agency in athletics, legalized gambling and so on.
One useful guideline that successful print media editors traditionally implemented was a requirement that articles expressing some opinion must always be balanced either by including a reference to an opposing opinion, or with a separate article expressing the opposite opinion. With the proliferation today of blogs that exist almost wholly as ego bodies for their authors, this standard has sadly been cast aside. However, by implementing this guideline (assuming it is appropriate for your blog) you can not only raise the authoritative value and quality of your blog, but you can also make it interesting and engaging even for readers who actively disagree with your point of view.
For example, this blog has the following policies: It avoids black hat and manipulative marketing methods. It generally expects that the recommendations being made are also being followed by the blog itself, within what’s possible. It focuses on a high quality, craftsman like approach to blogging, as opposed to a high volume marketing approach to blogging.
Notice how these simple statements of general rules can give an overall cohesive wholeness to your blog.
Finally, rewrite your guidelines as a series of bullet points, each beginning with either “must”… or “should”… Things you write as must are not negotiable. Every post and every page must comply with all of these rules. These are principles on which you as the editor will not waver. Things you write as should are general rules on which you will compromise occasionally.
So restating the editorial policy of this blog as a series of “musts” and “shoulds,” we get the following:
- MUST be about blogging tips
- SHOULD generally be about one of the enumerated blog categories
- MUST not recommend black hat or shady marketing methods
- SHOULD generally recommend practices that this blog follows
- SHOULD generally focus on a high quality, craftsman like approach to blogging
- SHOULD not devalue other approaches even if it doesn’t recommend them
See how this short and simple editorial policy helps to guide the production of content for the blog? It gives clarity not only for the editor, but also for every contributing writer.
What is a Style Guide?
A style guide is a set of general rules as to the writing style you would like to maintain across your blog as whole. It includes things like grammar, the use of slang, speaking voice, the use of active vs. passive language, the use of first, second, or third person, and more.
There are a few handy style guides available for general writing and publication. Pick one that is appropriate for your blog, and do your best to learn it and implement it. The best popular current example for newspapers is the Chicago Manual of Style.
Should you adopt a newspaper style guide? Well. Only if you intend to look, act, and be perceived as a professional journalist or authoritative source of information.
If your blog is about fiction, or a genre or subculture with its own dialect, like video gaming, or a special interest group, then adjust your style accordingly.
You can also adopt a “conversational” style if you prefer. If that’s your preferred style, that’s fine, but once again, be as consistent as possible so your readers will have an identifiable brand image to bond with.
Whatever editorial and style guidelines you choose, you should attempt to follow them as much as possible. Of course, you can break your own rules, but the key is to only ever break them consciously, and with a clear understanding of what rule you are breaking, what the cost is, and what the benefit is.
Armed with these simple rules, your blog will take on a professional image that will differentiate it from the competition. And that’s how you build a following of regular readers.
What do you think? Feel free to comment with your own personal experience. What kind of blog do you have, and do you think a strong style guide is good or bad for your blog?