Digital Branch Style Guide

Please follow these guidelines when writing blog posts on our public website. Also see the Library Written Style Guide for more specific punctuation and wording guidelines.

Post frequency/length:

  • Frequency:
    • Based on each blog’s service plan
  • 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
  • Use subheads

Post titles:

  • keep them short, snappy and descriptive
  • capitalize the first word and proper nouns

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 (lowercase “i”)
  • Our library – first reference is “Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.” Second reference is “the library.”

Summary of post

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

Tags

  • Use at least 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, Movies & Music section, and have tags like new books, fiction, new fiction, book recommendations, steampunk, robots, science fiction and Mars.

Links:

  • For book titles
    • italicize book title
    • 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 from the Topeka Capital Journal on the Topeka Ave. bridge project.” “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!

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 or 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. If you think it needs to be edited, let David know (and he’ll make that decision).
  • Delete if spam. For example, if you receive a comment like this: “I have checked that really there was great information regarding that. There was another also – http://healthbeautyproduct.blogspot.com/” it’s most likely a spam comment. Usually, spam comments include this type of stuff:
    • poor grammar (sounds like they don’t really know the language)
    • links to unrelated websites
  • What to do if you don’t know what to do – ask David or Michael 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
  • 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 posts
  • 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)