Yahoo! Publishes Style Guide for Web and Technical Writing
A Style Guide 'For the Digital World'
With the plethora of writing manuals and guides available, do writers really need another style guide? The folks at Yahoo! think we do. After using the Yahoo! Style Guide for several days, I'm inclined to agree.
The Yahoo! Style Guide is the first major style guide to cover, in depth, standards for writing web content, such as web sites, blogs, UI text, and newsletters. The guide also includes best practices for writing for a modern, global audience, and sections devoted to the mechanics of writing. A handy Resources section covers basics in HTML coding, search engine optimization (SEO), and U.S. copyright law.
Online Version of Style Guide
That the Yahoo! Style Guide is available online (see link in the sidebar) and in print is not as ironic as it seems. If you're like me, you're often more likely to pick up a reference book than search for the same information online. Digital information, however, has many advantages over traditional media--some of which are featured in the online version of the Yahoo! Style Guide.
The online version does not include all the chapters in the print version, but it more than makes up for the omission by including:
- A Q&A section where readers can post questions and receive answers from Yahoo! editorial staff
- A link to the Yahoo! Style Guide Twitter feed
- A downloadable word list, i.e., a list of words and recommended usage, comparable to entries in
the AP Style Guide and Guardian Style
The word list in the print version of the guide is a good reference, but you may want to add your own words or combine it with your own list. You can download the word list, which is available in formats such as XML and RTF, from the style guide web site and customise it as needed.
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Ideal for New Writers, But a Good Resource for All
Whether you're a blogger, a technical writer, or someone running your own web site, you may use more than one style guide already. In my experience, using multiple style guides allows me to synthesize ideas from different approaches, and helps me come up with my own conventions and standards, if need be.
I find the Yahoo! Style Guide's most useful topics include:
- Writing inclusively, such as making sure that your copy is accessible (e.g., for the visually impaired)
- Writing for a global audience. Using some figures of speech and jargon can be confusing when translated to another language
- Distilling and editing content for the web, where people tend to 'scan' for key words and phrases rather than read every word
- Writing UI text, which applies to labelling buttons, fields, etc., on web pages, but may also be applied to software UI (e.g., desktop applications)
More experienced writers may not find all sections equally useful: I skimmed the chapters on grammar, spelling, and punctuation (and in any case, I'd refer to The Elements of Style or The Chicago Manual of Style before checking the Yahoo! Style Guide in such matters). The guide also includes a number of editing exercises, and instructions for creating a voice chart to define your voice. Those actitivities are perhaps geared to new writers; however, the Yahoo! Style Guide is appropriate for writers of virtually all levels and fields.
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