Use a style guide to keep the site consistent

At any given time, some aspects of every language are in transition. For example, many words come into English with a hyphen, like "e-mail," and over time lose the hyphen. But different people and different organizations are at different places in the transition. Some still use the hyphen; others don't. To have a consistent web site, you have to decide where your site is in that transition.

Remember that we discussed web sites' personalities in Chapter 3. Organizations, like their web sites, have personalities and corporate cultures. (And that's true for all types of organizations and communities, not only for businesses. Government agencies, universities, non-profits, listservs, other online communities all have their own cultures.) Language is an important aspect of any culture: how formal or colloquial the language should be ("cannot" or "can't"?); what is acceptable usage ("each person . . . they"?); how words are used ("website" or "web site"?).

A style guide can help authors and editors keep a web site consistent. In fact, even if you are the only author (doing a blog, perhaps), a short "cheat sheet" style guide may be useful. I've created one for this book, so I don't have to look back at other chapters to remind myself that, for this book, at least, it's "web site" and "web" and "Internet."

A style guide can also help by reminding authors and editors of points of grammar, spelling, and usage that are not in transition but that many people aren't sure about, such as, "affect" versus "effect," "that" versus "which," or "its" versus "it's." Figures Interlude 3-1 and Interlude 3-2 show you the beginning of the table of contents and one entry from the style guide for a web site.

Style Guide for the ATD Web Site

Style Guide for the ATD Web Site

Figure Interlude 3-1 Part of the table of contents of a style guide for web writers. (ATD is a made-up name, but the screen is based on a real example that I developed with a client's web team.)

Style Guide for the ATD Web Site

Affect and Effect

What is the difference?

Most of the time, "affect" is a verb and "effect" is a noun.

Examples of "affect" and "effect"

This policy affects only new customers. This policy takes effect on January 1.

The effect of this change will be to reduce the time it takes to prepare web pages. Note: You can often write a better, shorter sentence without "effect.'

Possible revisions of the examples, without "effect"

This policy slarts on January 1

This change will reduce the lime it lakes to prepare web pages.

Policy Template

Procedure Template

Suggest a change to the Style Guide

Contact Us

Figure Interlude 3-2 One entry from the style guide.

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