How You Can Benefit by Using a Style Guide for Your Website

How You Can Benefit by Using a Style Guide for Your Website

Regular readers of this blog already know that website proofreading is essential to the success of your site. Appropriate word usage, proper grammar and correct punctuation all contribute to the professionalism and credibility of a website, and have a positive impact on readers’ perceptions.

Another key element, though, is just as important, and that is consistency. Maintaining content that is consistent in tone, voice and style makes your website more searchable, readable and navigable. Consistent content, if it is well written and thoroughly proofread, can actually lead to increased sales and repeat traffic.

Readers who encounter inconsistent content may find it unsettling and confusing. By observing uniformity, you gain your readers’ trust and reinforce your professionalism. Maintaining consistency isn’t a difficult undertaking; it’s as easy as keeping a simple style guide.

At Web Done Write, we proofread, edit and write content for sites large and small. Our larger clients have their own style guides, each slightly different from the other (and some wildly idiosyncratic). For each of our smaller clients, we develop and maintain our own separate style guide to ensure that each time we work for that client, the words we use are completely consistent.

You can start your style guide as a basic one-page manual and add to it as you decide how to handle individual situations. To begin, you might want to include the following.

  • Spelling: Include words used frequently that can be spelled differently. Do you use dialog or dialogue? E-mail or email? Cell phone or cellphone? Healthcare, health care or health-care? Most dictionaries list different spellings for some words; your list should contain your preferred spellings.
  • Symbols: Do you write 5%, 5 percent or five percent? Do you use 10 euro, 10 euros, € 10 or €10? Once you have decided which use is most appropriate for your website, note it in your style guide.
  • Punctuation: Is it 6 a.m. or 6 AM? How do you handle a title, is it “A Tale of Two Cities” or A Tale of Two Cities? Do you use internet or Internet? Choose consistent style for each example and stick to it.
  • Abbreviations: Which words are always abbreviated on your website, and which are never abbreviated? Which are abbreviated only in certain situations? Record your preference in your style guide.
  • Format: What font do you use for body copy, headlines and blog posts? How do you handle bulleted and numbered lists? When do you use bolded text and when do you avoid it? Make these decisions and add your preferences to your style guide.

Using a style guide will provide your readers with a consistent experience that allows them to focus on your content. It will make your work easier by giving you a centralized source to refer to when writing your content. Guest writers will find it a valuable time saver, too, as will professional writers and editors if you decide to engage their services in the future.


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