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David Lee King

Digital Branch Style Guide



Thought someone might find this useful – it’s the styleguide we use for my library’s digital branch! It’s a long document, broken up into these sections:

  • General Guidelines for Blog Posts
  • Citing/Attribution
  • Featured Section
  • Comments – What to do with them
  • Creating a “Voice”
  • How Can I Get a Conversation Started?
  • I have a suggestion/problem. What do I do with it?
  • Staff Responsibilities

******************

Digital Branch Style Guide

Please follow these guidelines when writing blog posts on our public website. This document is a start – I hope to add to it as needed. Notice something glaringly obvious that I haven’t listed? Email it to me.

General Guidelines for Blog Posts

Post frequency/length:

  • Frequency:
    • 2 posts per week for each Subject Guide
    • Posts in the Services section – as needed
  • Length:
    • sufficient to cover topic
    • shorter is always better – just enough to cover the content

Formatting:

  • one space between sentences – not two!
  • avoid ALL CAPS
  • use a spell checker
  • break post into small paragraphs rather than one large chunk of text

Post titles:

  • keep them short, snappy, and descriptive
  • capitalize every word except prepositions (like a book title)

Internal Post Structure:

  • Bulleted lists are great
  • Subheads are great – helps people quickly scan content
  • Images that complement article tend to attract readers

specific words – Be consistent with these terms:

  • email (all one word, all lowercase)
  • website (all one word, all lowercase)
  • webpage (all one word, all lowercase)
  • web (lowercase)
  • Internet (uppercase “I”)
  • Our library – first reference is “Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library.” Second reference is “the library.”
  • Our website is “the Digital Branch.”
  • Refer to our Neighborhoods by their full title (i.e., the Travel neighborhood, the Health Information neighborhood)

Summary of post

  • Each post should have a summary – there are two ways to do this:
    • Create a summary paragraph in the summary box
    • Leave the summary blank – the beginning of the post will automatically be used as the summary

Tags:

  • Use 2-3 descriptive tags for each post
  • Tags are usually keywords that are descriptive of the content of a post
  • These should be different from a category. Ex – a post could be in the Books Subject Guide with a Category of Sci-Fi, and have tags like Steampunk, Robots, and Mars.

Links:

  • For book titles
    • make the book title the link text
    • don’t include the URL with the book title
      • Do this: The Hobbit (where “The Hobbit” is the text used for the link)
      • Don’t do this: The Hobbit – http://catalog.tscpl.org/asdfhasdf/etc.htm (where “The Hobbit” is NOT the link text, but the URL is also used as the link text)
  • Other links
    • When linking to webpages or blog posts, make the webpage title or the blog article title the link text
    • Refer to the link within a sentence, like this: “Topeka has a great library that everyone should visit.” (“great library” would be the link text used for our library’s URL)
    • Another example: don’t write “you can read the full report here” – using words like “here” or “click here” is generally bad practice. Instead, say “the charity released a report, which said…” (“a report” is the link text, and is incorporated within the sentence). This type of internal link reads better.

Citing / Attribution

It’s important to give proper attribution to sources, even online. Here’s how to do it:

  • Blog posts, newspaper articles, other websites
    • See the Links section above for linking
    • When you quote someone else’s text, make sure to link to the original source.
    • With the link to the original source, reference the site. For example, say “Here’s a lovely article on the Topeka Ave. bridge project (from the Topeka Capital Journal).” “Lovely article” links to the specific article, and “Topeka Capital Journal” links to the newspaper’s main site.
  • Images
    • If using an image from flickr, photobucket, or some other photo sharing service, include some type of attribution/pointer back to the original photo at the end of the article (i.e., “photo courtesy of JimBob” – “JimBob” would link back to the original photo).
    • Use photos with a Creative Commons license when possible
  • Videos
    • Include some type of link/attribution/pointer back to the original video (i.e., link back to the YouTube video if you use a video from YouTube)
  • How much of a quote can I do?
    • The U.S. Copyright Office FAQ on fair use (http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html) says this: “it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work.”
    • Don’t quote the whole thing!

Featured Section

The Featured Section is structured this way:

The first Feature Box is called Featured.

  • It features big programs, events and special features of the library.
  • Populated by PR and Event Resources

Guidelines for the other Feature Boxes:

  • The other feature boxes include Books, Research, Movies & Music, Gallery, Kids, and Teens.
  • These sections usually focus on content (Gallery, Kids and Teens boxes can post about a program)
  • Handouts, booklists, links should be part of that post. No programs with registration and limits should be posted there.

Comments – what to do with them?

  • respond
    • thank them for their comment
    • add something if possible – point to another similar book, a link on our site, etc.
    • if it’s a question, answer it
    • if it’s a criticism, answer it – or refer it to someone who Can respond appropriately
    • If the comment is negative, don’t repeat it! Respond without repeating the negative question/comment.
  • In general, don’t edit the comment. Usually, it’s better to correct in another comment. Only edit if the comment:
    • Has “bad” words (that our automatic naughty word filter didn’t catch)
    • Is derogatory
    • Has an unrelated link
  • delete if spam. For example: “I have checked that really there was great information regarding that. There was another also – http://healthbeautyproduct.blogspot.com/” is a spam comment. Usually, spam comments include this type of stuff:
    • poor grammar (sounds like they don’t really know the language)
    • PLUS links to unrelated websites
  • What to do if you don’t know what to do – ask the web team to read the comment.

Creating a “Voice”

  • Write in a conversational tone:
    • goal is to start conversations
    • if you wouldn’t say it in conversation, don’t write it
    • write “friendly” – just like we are at the desk!
  • Use active voice. Example – don’t write “The tree was struck by lightning.” Instead, write “Lightning struck the tree.”
  • Use inverted pyramid writing style (explanation at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_pyramid)
  • The first couple of sentences of your post displays as the summary, and appears in various places on our site as teasers to the whole article – so make it snappy!
  • Write in present tense when possible. Ex:
    • Don’t write “the book signing will be held next Tuesday”
    • Instead, write “the book signing is next Tuesday”

How Can I Get a Conversation Started?

Here are a couple of ideas on getting conversations started on your blog.

  • Write great content (always top priority)
  • Take part in the conversation:
    • read blogs and Topeka-area newspapers that allow comments
    • read blogs in your area of expertise
    • leave comments on those blogs, linking to your post in the comment
    • also link to those blogs in your post
  • Focus your posts on goals:
    • Before you write, answer this – “what do you want the reader to do?”
    • Provide a call to action (ie., tell them what you want them to do)
    • Ask for a response
    • Point them to things (like books in our catalog)

I have a suggestion/problem. What do I do with it?

Problems:

  • email the web team
  • tell us what’s wrong
  • include links or descriptive text if possible

Ideas for the site:

  • Email the web team/Digital Branch Manager:
    • Include description of idea
    • Digital Branch Manager will set up meeting if needed, share idea with web team and/or Managers, etc
    • Remember – all ideas are great, but not all ideas will be implemented on the site
  • hold regular meetings
    • i.e.., fun in Topeka blog meeting
    • discuss ideas
    • make suggestions to the web team

Staff Responsibilities

Blog moderator

  • make sure there are 2 posts per week
  • encourage writers
  • check in with Digital Branch Manager periodically
  • schedule regular meetings of content area
  • all the blog author stuff

Blog authors

  • write posts
  • check links
  • respond to comments
  • delete spam
  • periodically touch base with blog moderator

Digital Branch Manager

  • big picture development of branch
    • strategic planning
    • trend watching
  • talking to internal groups
  • talking to external groups
  • mentoring digital branch staff
  • developing new content areas and unique services and tools

Web Team

  • Webmaster/designer and Web Developer
  • designs new pages
  • keeps design fresh
  • day to day operations
  • maintenance and upgrades
  • builds new stuff

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://plablog.org/ nate

    great post- !

  • http://plablog.org nate

    great post- !

  • Pingback: “Digital Library Brance Style Guide” from David Lee King…02.11.09 « The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog

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  • Cindy Timmerman

    David: Thanks for this – lots of really great information, and we’re going to use these ideas!

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    You can type as many (nonbreaking) spaces or returns after a sentence you want; they’ll be collapsed to one sentence on any Web site where you do this due to rules on HTML whitespace collapse.

    Don’t try to force people to write when they have nothing to write. Quotas make for lousy blogs.

    If you’re using WordPress, for the love of God get people to write one- or two-word slugs for their posts and not slugs like digital-branch-style-guide-new-version-for-february-2009-with-many-important-improvements-for-topeka-library-patrons.

    E-mail, Web site, and Web page are, of course, written thus.

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    You can type as many (nonbreaking) spaces or returns after a sentence you want; they’ll be collapsed to one sentence on any Web site where you do this due to rules on HTML whitespace collapse.

    Don’t try to force people to write when they have nothing to write. Quotas make for lousy blogs.

    If you’re using WordPress, for the love of God get people to write one- or two-word slugs for their posts and not slugs like digital-branch-style-guide-new-version-for-february-2009-with-many-important-improvements-for-topeka-library-patrons.

    E-mail, Web site, and Web page are, of course, written thus.

  • davidleeking

    Joe – just responding to your comments:

    On the one space thing – I’ve actually seen many different CMSs that WILL pick up the extra spaces as extra spaces, so this is still good practice – especially if what you are typing will also be used in a print newsletter. Plus – this is MY styleguide, and the double space thing is something I have to deal with… so it’s stated up-front.

    “Quotas make for lousy blogs” My “how many posts to write per week” is more a guideline of the frequency I want to see on each blog, rather than a weekly quota. At my library, we want that amount of content, so we state it. Other libraries will vary.

    By “slugs” – do you mean the title of my post? That’s generally-accepted good blog SEO practice.

    And on the E-mail/email etc thing – I simply disagree. There IS no “of course” to it at all. Plus, it’s OUR website, and we can do whatever we want, as long as we’re consistent… which is the point of a styleguide.

  • davidleeking

    Joe – just responding to your comments:

    On the one space thing – I’ve actually seen many different CMSs that WILL pick up the extra spaces as extra spaces, so this is still good practice – especially if what you are typing will also be used in a print newsletter. Plus – this is MY styleguide, and the double space thing is something I have to deal with… so it’s stated up-front.

    “Quotas make for lousy blogs” My “how many posts to write per week” is more a guideline of the frequency I want to see on each blog, rather than a weekly quota. At my library, we want that amount of content, so we state it. Other libraries will vary.

    By “slugs” – do you mean the title of my post? That’s generally-accepted good blog SEO practice.

    And on the E-mail/email etc thing – I simply disagree. There IS no “of course” to it at all. Plus, it’s OUR website, and we can do whatever we want, as long as we’re consistent… which is the point of a styleguide.

  • http://maggiereads.blogspot.com/ maggie

    This is awesome and thanks huge amounts for sharing.

    In Blogger one needn’t worry about the double space after a period. Blogger deletes it for you! :)

  • http://maggiereads.blogspot.com maggie

    This is awesome and thanks huge amounts for sharing.

    In Blogger one needn’t worry about the double space after a period. Blogger deletes it for you! :)

  • http://www.timgosswatercolors.com/ Tim Goss

    Hi David:
    I’m working with a school district in Oregon to develop a Drupal site. We’re looking for a good style guide and ran across yours for libraries. How much liberty can we take with using what you have developed? Would you like attribution?

    Thanks,

    Tim

  • http://www.timgosswatercolors.com Tim Goss

    Hi David:
    I’m working with a school district in Oregon to develop a Drupal site. We’re looking for a good style guide and ran across yours for libraries. How much liberty can we take with using what you have developed? Would you like attribution?

    Thanks,

    Tim

  • davidleeking

    Tim – use it to your heart’s content! For attribution, just say something about the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. Thanks!

  • davidleeking

    Tim – use it to your heart’s content! For attribution, just say something about the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. Thanks!

  • http://www.library.gg/ Ed Jewell

    Fantastic post! Feeds straight into the staff manual we’re quietly developing. Many thanks from your Library cousins across the pond.

    Ed

  • http://www.library.gg Ed Jewell

    Fantastic post! Feeds straight into the staff manual we’re quietly developing. Many thanks from your Library cousins across the pond.

    Ed

  • Janice B

    Fabulous and so very helpful and timely. Thanks David!

  • Janice B

    Fabulous and so very helpful and timely. Thanks David!

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    Fix your CMS if it is turning whitespace into nonbreaking spaces. What else is it doing to your content?

    My statement is correct: Writers can add as much whitespace as they want (save for non-breaking spaces, and, of course, anything inside pre) and it will all be collapsed to a single space character. Print practice is not Web practice.

    /2009/02/10/loading-your-slugs-up-with-every-word-in-the-title-of-your-post-even-if-the-title-is-over-a-dozen-words-long/ is not “good… SEO practice.” The use of semantic HTML is good SEO practice. WordPress, which you’re using, puts the true text of your title inside e.g. H1 tags, where it belongs and where it can be parsed for what it is: The most important heading on the page expressed in human language. Tell me, what is the most important part of /2009/02/10/loading-your-slugs-up-with-every-word-in-the-title-of-your-post-even-if-the-title-is-over-a-dozen-words-long/ and what language is it written in? (For non-English speakers using characters outside the US-ASCII repertoire, what will their slugs look like?)

    Again, my statement is correct: Slugs should be one or two memorable and distinctive words that relate to the posting. WordPress lets you easily modify slugs. The way I do it is the correct way. Now, Blogger and other substandard platforms interfere with doing things the correct way.

    Incidentally, why are you even concerned about gaming the system so search engines will find your postings faster? What makes you think search engines (there’s only one that counts) have any trouble doing that? Why are you altering your content to suit a machine?

    If you think E-mail is email, are E-consultancy and E-business econsultancy and ebusiness? How about ereader?

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    Fix your CMS if it is turning whitespace into nonbreaking spaces. What else is it doing to your content?

    My statement is correct: Writers can add as much whitespace as they want (save for non-breaking spaces, and, of course, anything inside pre) and it will all be collapsed to a single space character. Print practice is not Web practice.

    /2009/02/10/loading-your-slugs-up-with-every-word-in-the-title-of-your-post-even-if-the-title-is-over-a-dozen-words-long/ is not “good… SEO practice.” The use of semantic HTML is good SEO practice. WordPress, which you’re using, puts the true text of your title inside e.g. H1 tags, where it belongs and where it can be parsed for what it is: The most important heading on the page expressed in human language. Tell me, what is the most important part of /2009/02/10/loading-your-slugs-up-with-every-word-in-the-title-of-your-post-even-if-the-title-is-over-a-dozen-words-long/ and what language is it written in? (For non-English speakers using characters outside the US-ASCII repertoire, what will their slugs look like?)

    Again, my statement is correct: Slugs should be one or two memorable and distinctive words that relate to the posting. WordPress lets you easily modify slugs. The way I do it is the correct way. Now, Blogger and other substandard platforms interfere with doing things the correct way.

    Incidentally, why are you even concerned about gaming the system so search engines will find your postings faster? What makes you think search engines (there’s only one that counts) have any trouble doing that? Why are you altering your content to suit a machine?

    If you think E-mail is email, are E-consultancy and E-business econsultancy and ebusiness? How about ereader?

  • davidleeking

    Joe Clark – thanks for sharing!

  • davidleeking

    Joe Clark – thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com/ joshua m. neff

    Joe, the CMS my library uses doesn’t collapse multiple spaces into one, so when staff send me text with double spacing after punctuation, I have to fix it. We can’t “fix” our CMS without paying a good amount of money to the company that sold us the CMS, and that’s not really a good option these budget-crunchy days.

    As for the spelling, David’s right, “email” is a legitimate spelling. “Website” is also legit. English is not a static, “there’s only one way to do it” language. Never has been, almost certainly never will be.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com joshua m. neff

    Joe, the CMS my library uses doesn’t collapse multiple spaces into one, so when staff send me text with double spacing after punctuation, I have to fix it. We can’t “fix” our CMS without paying a good amount of money to the company that sold us the CMS, and that’s not really a good option these budget-crunchy days.

    As for the spelling, David’s right, “email” is a legitimate spelling. “Website” is also legit. English is not a static, “there’s only one way to do it” language. Never has been, almost certainly never will be.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com/ david lee king

    The one space thing is actually good general practice. If you write something for the web, maybe your CMS will remove it. But if it’s for the web, your print newsletter, and is going to the printer … someone HAS to remove those extra spaces.

    Teach staff to do it right the first time, and you don’t have to go back and fix it later. Just sayin.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com david lee king

    The one space thing is actually good general practice. If you write something for the web, maybe your CMS will remove it. But if it’s for the web, your print newsletter, and is going to the printer … someone HAS to remove those extra spaces.

    Teach staff to do it right the first time, and you don’t have to go back and fix it later. Just sayin.

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    Joshua M. Neff, what is this CMS you are stuck using?

    David Lee King, can you explain how the intended audience for your posting – librarians new to blogging – will in fact be using a CMS and not an off-the-shelf blog platform like Movable Type, WordPress, or Blogger?

    Now, as someone who has little hesitation lecturing other people, let me say I don’t think it’s wise to lecture me about prescriptive vs. descriptive spelling, since I wrote an entire book about Canadian spelling. The right way to spell is the way everyone else spells. You may indeed have a case for website. But you don’t have a case for collapsing E- to e in every case, because the resulting compounds become incomprehensible. Really, email may work fine most of the time (capitalized at the beginning of a sentence? not so much), but ereader? ecommerce? econsultancy? ebook? Can you really defend those?

    Also, David, I see you have learned exactly nothing about slugs:

    http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/02/18/where-will-david-be-this-spring-and-summer/

    Tell me: How is that actually better, in any respect, than the following?

    http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/02/18/itinerary09/

    Please contain your thanks and work harder on improving your practice. Some of us have been around longer and know more. You should learn from us instead of acting all miffed and digging in your heels (/2009/02/18/acting-all-miffed-and-digging-in-your-heels/).

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    Joshua M. Neff, what is this CMS you are stuck using?

    David Lee King, can you explain how the intended audience for your posting – librarians new to blogging – will in fact be using a CMS and not an off-the-shelf blog platform like Movable Type, WordPress, or Blogger?

    Now, as someone who has little hesitation lecturing other people, let me say I don’t think it’s wise to lecture me about prescriptive vs. descriptive spelling, since I wrote an entire book about Canadian spelling. The right way to spell is the way everyone else spells. You may indeed have a case for website. But you don’t have a case for collapsing E- to e in every case, because the resulting compounds become incomprehensible. Really, email may work fine most of the time (capitalized at the beginning of a sentence? not so much), but ereader? ecommerce? econsultancy? ebook? Can you really defend those?

    Also, David, I see you have learned exactly nothing about slugs:

    http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/02/18/where-will-david-be-this-spring-and-summer/

    Tell me: How is that actually better, in any respect, than the following?

    http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/02/18/itinerary09/

    Please contain your thanks and work harder on improving your practice. Some of us have been around longer and know more. You should learn from us instead of acting all miffed and digging in your heels (/2009/02/18/acting-all-miffed-and-digging-in-your-heels/).

  • davidleeking

    Joe – you said “can you explain how the intended audience for your posting – librarians new to blogging – will in fact be using a CMS and not an off-the-shelf blog platform like Movable Type, WordPress, or Blogger?”

    I would imagine they’d use it in any number of ways??? Not really sure what you mean there. And that wasn’t really “the intended audience” either – one of them, yes – but certainly not limited to that.

    “you don’t have a case for collapsing E- to e in every case, because the resulting compounds become incomprehensible” – To you, maybe so. A 2-minute cursory search in a modern dictionary shows that “email” is, in fact, an alternative use for E-mail. Your argument isn’t with me – it’s with the dictionary writers. Have fun with that.

    But more to the point – removing those hyphens is an emerging use of the term, whether or not you like it. And I prefer the new way.

    “I see you have learned exactly nothing about slugs” – I could care less about slugs. I realize I DO have that option, but I choose to not do it. If you have a problem with my non-use of slugs, I suggest you get over it or move on, because I’m not changing it any time soon.

    “Tell me: How is that actually better, in any respect, than the following? http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/02/18/itinerary09/” Well – I would never use the word “itinerary,” for starters, so in my book what I did on my personal website is in every respect better than your suggestion. My blog, my way.

    “Some of us have been around longer and know more” Um… I’ve been successfully making and managing websites since 1995, and messing around with gopher before that. How long have you been doing it? Or did you mean your general age?

  • davidleeking

    Joe – you said “can you explain how the intended audience for your posting – librarians new to blogging – will in fact be using a CMS and not an off-the-shelf blog platform like Movable Type, WordPress, or Blogger?”

    I would imagine they’d use it in any number of ways??? Not really sure what you mean there. And that wasn’t really “the intended audience” either – one of them, yes – but certainly not limited to that.

    “you don’t have a case for collapsing E- to e in every case, because the resulting compounds become incomprehensible” – To you, maybe so. A 2-minute cursory search in a modern dictionary shows that “email” is, in fact, an alternative use for E-mail. Your argument isn’t with me – it’s with the dictionary writers. Have fun with that.

    But more to the point – removing those hyphens is an emerging use of the term, whether or not you like it. And I prefer the new way.

    “I see you have learned exactly nothing about slugs” – I could care less about slugs. I realize I DO have that option, but I choose to not do it. If you have a problem with my non-use of slugs, I suggest you get over it or move on, because I’m not changing it any time soon.

    “Tell me: How is that actually better, in any respect, than the following? http://www.davidleeking.com/2009/02/18/itinerary09/” Well – I would never use the word “itinerary,” for starters, so in my book what I did on my personal website is in every respect better than your suggestion. My blog, my way.

    “Some of us have been around longer and know more” Um… I’ve been successfully making and managing websites since 1995, and messing around with gopher before that. How long have you been doing it? Or did you mean your general age?

  • davidleeking

    One thing more – an introductory article on why I use “email” rather than “E-mail.”

    Joe, you should ignore the slug in that link/link title, though :-)

  • davidleeking

    One thing more – an introductory article on why I use “email” rather than “E-mail.”

    Joe, you should ignore the slug in that link/link title, though :-)

  • luvgardenias

    Big LOL for the “my way is the right way” exchange. Love the style guide and will suggest it as a model for our library. Greatly appreciate all that you share.

  • luvgardenias

    Big LOL for the “my way is the right way” exchange. Love the style guide and will suggest it as a model for our library. Greatly appreciate all that you share.

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  • Cindy Timmerman

    David: Thanks for this – lots of really great information, and we're going to use these ideas!

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Just a follow-up a year or more later – check this out: http://mashable.com/2010/06/02/ap-social-media-… – The AP now agrees – “website” is spelled “website.” Yay!

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Just a follow-up a year or more later – check this out: http://mashable.com/2010/06/02/ap-social-media-… – The AP now agrees – “website” is spelled “website.” Yay!

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