Have you ever stumbled across a blog that seemed “off” and chaotic? Even worse, was it your own blog? Good news! It is quite likely that the blog simply needs a consistent style. There is a solution to the chaos. A blog style guide, also known as a branding guide, can cure many design and structure issues for startup blogs and small business websites. The editable Blog Style Guide (below) is an easy reference document and has become invaluable in simplifying my blog work.
Why do you need a Blog Style Guide?
Consistency is essential to an enjoyable internet experience. This consistency should be apparent in colors, fonts, images, grammar, punctuation and even the intangible tone of voice. In seamless harmony, these styling elements shift into the background and your volumes of eloquent content take the leading role to dazzle your reader. The value of a blog style guide become apparent every time you encounter a blog or website that does NOT consistently follow a clearly defined style guide. Have no fear…I’m not calling out any blogs here in public because we are all learning together! However, when you understand the basics of creating a blog style guide, you are well on your way to blogging success.
A blog without rules and structure will not keep the reader engaged. Our minds need consistency to open mental space for absorbing the blog’s content. More specifically, a blog style guide improves the reader’s experience in four ways –
- Reduced Cycle Time
The opposite of professionalism is erratic chaos, right? A cohesive blog presence brings elegance to the reading experience. Even if your blog is whimsical or has a fun and funky vibe, there should be some elements of a cohesive structure so that the reader understands who you are as a blogger and as a brand. The blog style guide brings that professionalism to the forefront of your blog in the same way that corporate branding is used to build product awareness through colors, fonts, and overall professional imaging.
Whether it is yin and yang, light and dark, or right brain / left brain, humans tend to seek balance. Blogging is no different. An unbalanced blog will distract the reader. Furthermore, balance in your writing augments the reading experience. Looking for the opposite view and cultivating opposing perspectives will bring life to your blog and give the readers something to think about. Keep them coming back for more!
Consistency and balance are indications of quality in your blog’s presence and in your blog content. While a style sheet won’t fix every blogging error, it will provide that structure that frees up time and space for you to invest in improving your skills. What? More time? How does that work? I thought you would never ask…
Reduced Cycle Time
Yes, I am a strong believer that a blog style guide or branding guide will add hours into your week. I reached this conclusion after a couple of years of NOT keeping a blog style guide, so I speak from my experience. In my older blogs, I knew the general colors that I wanted and some fonts that I liked. I was constantly moving back and forth to check what colors and fonts were used in a previous post. Even worse, I would sometimes just take a guess. My blog style guide is now my primary reference document. I use it every time I sit down to blog.
Every. Single. Time.
The blog style guide eliminates many difficult choices of blogging. Those choices have already been made. Those decisions have already been resolved. Eliminating indecision means that my job as a blogger is to blog – not admire font combinations and not to play with color patterns. Those decisions are behind me. The basic information is readily available and I can proceed with confidence that the color and font selections are giving a consistent look to my blog.
This focus keeps me on track to my blog editorial calendar, at least more often than in the past. Hey, I’m still learning just like you, and still challenged by everything happening around me in the real world. The blog style guide is so important to me, that I’m sharing it with you!
How to Create a Blog Style Guide
The blog style guide has six key elements.
- Tone – representing your purpose and overall style
Choosing the Tone – Start with your Why
The first step is to identify your blogging “why”. Why do you want to become a blogger? Why is your blog important? Trust me, if you do not have a genuine “why”, it will be evident in your writing. Why will readers want to visit your blog? What motivates you to continue on this long and solitary journey? Blogging is not a quick process. There is much to learn and technology changes rapidly. Your “why” will become your anchor from many distractions that will come into the blogging experience.
My “why” is that I want to teach and share my knowledge about earning money with side gigs. More specifically, I want to help people finance big dreams.
At the same time, I’ll be walking the walk while I talk the talk. My big dream is to fund several years of travel and to be ready financially to take that leap when we’re ready to hit the road. I’ll be walking the walk while I talk the talk. My big dream is to fund several years of travel and live the “slow travel” lifestyle of cultural immersion. I’ve been doing side gigs for most of my life. I’ll share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the super-ugly. Ideally, my insights will help you choose the best side gigs to accelerate your big dreams. What’s your “why” and motivation?
The next step is color selection. There are many studies about the interaction of colors and emotional responses. I searched for “color psychology” on Wikipedia and discovered 42 unique references about the topic. The impact of color is clearly a popular topic. So, how should you choose the color scheme for your blog? Start by thinking of a few colors that you like and that resonate with the mood of your blog. If you choose a color that you do not like, I can guarantee you will not enjoy working on your blog. If blogging is a side gig for late nights and weekends, you will want a color that brings you joy. The mood of your blog should influence your choice too.
A food blog about recipes for making green drinks will logically have photos of green drinks. The color scheme of the blog should complement the green that will appear in the photos, not clash. You will want to have at least two main colors and can even choose as many as four colors plus black and white. What’s most important is to make your choices, save them into your blog style guide and use those colors…and only those specific colors. To learn more about choosing a color palette for your blog, see this recent article Discovering the Perfect Color Palette for your blog. It’s an article about how to use online tools to select stunning color schemes, along with how I chose the color scheme for this site.
Next up? Fonts. Yes, fonts are important and should be an aesthetic fit to the mood of the blog. I suggest choosing three fonts. I like to choose a font for headers and titles, the second font for body text, and a third for creating Pinterest-styled images with swirly, bold or graphic designs. In this blog, I use Verdana Italics for headers and Times New Roman for the body font. My third font is Playlist Script in Canva. On my blog style guide, I have identified similar fonts in other programs that I use. Canva has Lora Italics which is thicker than Verdana, but similar. Canva also has a Times Neue Roman for sub headings and body text. I create printables and downloads in Microsoft Powerpoint, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel. I’ve recorded those font styles in my brand identity template, too.
It’s time to research fonts and choose your favorite combinations. Here are a few resources to help you get started. Typewolf – Visual pairings and “best of” selections Fonts In Use – Show the fonts used for different images. Search by a particular typeface font or by industry to see common pairings. It’s time for school with Canva’s Ultimate Guide to Font Pairing. Learn all about fonts and what makes a particular combination of fonts pop on the page. The Canva design school provides a wealth of information about graphics and design- for free! (psst…I’m a big fan of Canva!)
While you are studying the Canva design school information, consider how you want to style your images in the site. Your image style is important to understand, even if you have not yet written that first blog post. Think of the images that come to your mind with each of the following words: Urban – Rural – Fashion – Lawyer – Yoga – Extreme Sports – Family Meals – Anime These are all viable themes for a blog, but the mental images are vastly different. Now, what is the image in your mind for YOUR blog? Go with it. I recommend that you start out with some styled stock images, which will save you hours of effort when starting out.
Proper grammar is essential for effective communication. Sentence construction is one element that defines the style and tone of your blog. A blog aimed at video gamers may have a different grammar construction than a blog targeting fashionistas. Grammar is what creates the essential context to deliver the same message to two very different communities of readers.
Children learn grammatical patterns from early life influences. Regional language idiosyncrasies may become part of the fabric of a person’s core vocabulary. It’s part of all that you are, and part of your voice as a blogger.
Think about your “voice” and how you want to present it to your audience. Will your writing be formal with proper US English grammar? Will your blog be conversational, like a letter to a close friend or a chat on the phone? Will you allow slang phrases to creep into your blog? What about profanity? Will you include improper grammar as part of your voice? I do. Sometimes. (For example, the time I used a single word like it was a sentence!)
The important take away regarding grammar is again, consistency. Choose your style and know, with confidence, that the tone, voice, and grammar of your blog are consistent. Need help to improve your grammar? I use and recommend Grammarly.
Just like grammar, punctuation is an important piece of every communication. Punctuation style is yet another element of defining the style and tone of your blog. Some blogs avoid exclamation points. Like the plague! Other bloggers, like me, use exclamation points for emphasis on incomplete sentences. When you consider your personal style for punctuation, think about headers (size and levels of outlining). Will you use bold fonts for certain headers or within the text? What about italics? Do they add to your writing or do you want a single look and feel throughout the entire post? In this post, I’ve used incomplete sentences, multiple levels of headers, and some creative design elements for emphasis. You have to choose what’s right for you. Think it over while you enjoy these funny jokes from Grammarly.
How will you credit your source information? Some sites link to original sources within the blog post. Others mention the site and include a link to the site at the bottom of the blog post or as a sidebar. Some bloggers use footnotes. Again, it’s your choice, just be consistent.
Photographer Rights and Credits
If you source photographs and the creator asks for credit, please comply, with consistency. Many photographers request credit for the use of free stock photos. If you encounter this, you will include the words “Photo Credit:” near the photo along with the photographer’s name. Some photographers will provide specific wording for the photo credit, but most will just ask to receive production credit with the photo. When purchasing photos, there are various rights included with your purchase, and sometimes those rights waive the requirement for identification of the photographer. Be aware of what rights you obtain (or purchase) and include appropriate credits with the photo or in your blog post.
Summary about the Blog Style Guide
Put it all together on the Blog Style Guide download, and you have two pages with these six essential elements clearly defined for daily reference. Your blog style guide will ensure a professional image for your blog and free up valuable time to work on marketing, content creation, and infrastructure of your blog or website. I keep my style guide posted close to my computer for easy reference at any time. Perhaps you have already created a style guide for your blog.
Tell us all about it in the comments below!
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