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
- 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
- 2 posts per week for each Subject Guide
- Posts in the Services section – as needed
- sufficient to cover topic
- shorter is always better – just enough to cover the content
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
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?
- 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?
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Webmaster/designer and Web Developer
- designs new pages
- keeps design fresh
- day to day operations
- maintenance and upgrades
- builds new stuff