Internal blog guidelines

It is important to remember, first and foremost, that the blog has become one of the most important parts of the MintTwist website, and not only from a marketing point of view.

Whilst marketing and SEO are important factors, the blog also plays a key role in MintTwist’s voice in the field of web design and marketing. It is a key part of our brand, and getting the tone of voice and message right is essential.

This example blog article contains advice, guidance and high-level rules and best practice to allow you to publish high-quality articles from both a visual and content point of view.

Tone of voice

MintTwist has traditionally been somewhat reserved in its tone of voice, mostly because our voice has primarily come from the point of view of Elliott and Alexis.

Unfortunately this has led to a pick ‘n’ mix way of speaking to potential clients and peers.

With the blog comes the opportunity to remember who we are, as a company.

MintTwist is young and vibrant, and our industry is young and vibrant. This makes it difficult to define ourselves as different or superior to our competitors. One of the ways to do this in our blog is to speak with authority.

If we make it clear that we know exactly what we are talking about, provide sources, research and context, as well as opinions, we can show ourselves to be a knowledge leader, rather than just an aggregator of content.

Always remember our brand: we are fresh, young and clear. We should never use jargon, ‘business -speak’ or technical terms and expect people to understand it. Be concise and clear; say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Be fun and somewhat quirky, but never cheesy. Remember we are trying to earn respect through our authority and an article with cheesy puns (unless contextually justified) will diminish any credibility. Here are some more pointers:

  • Be positive and avoid writing for the sake of writing; make assertions wherever possible, and try to avoid negatives. It is more direct to say “The plan failed” than “The plan was not successful”
  • Speak in an active voice, not a passive voice. It is more active to say “The company’s directors will meet next week” than “A meeting will be held by the company directors next week”
  • Avoid clichés – they are cliché because they are over-used, so don’t use them
  • Avoid journalese. Some examples are:
    • Aim – rarely heard in real life except at shooting or archery clubs
    • Amid – does anyone ever use this, or its close relative amidst, in normal conversation?
    • Axe – the jobs axe remorselessly falls in much of our output
    • Bid – when was the last time you said to a colleague or friend: “Leaves on the line foiled my bid to get to work”?
    • Centred around – makes no sense, but is much heard
    • Full scale – often added for no good reason
  • Avoid business speak, such as the following
    • Going forward (from now on)
    • Moving forward (in the future)
    • Action/address (do)
    • Bring to the table (contribute)

Structure

The new website has made a few leaps into a more editorial layout and style. It is extremely important that we take advantage of this. Remember that articles should be designed, as well as written.

A pull quote is a small snippet of the article pulled out and highlighted in a way that can be scanned and easily noticed.

Here are a few pointers to structure your blog in the most efficient and easy-to-read ways possible:

  • Use short paragraphs. Remember what your English lessons taught you: keep paragraphs concise and for every new thought, start a new paragraph. Not much is worse than an article with one or two massive blocks of copy. Break it up and keep it clean and tidy
  • Use headings. Breaking paragraphs and sections up with headings makes it really easy to scan a blog article. Remember that a person’s attention span on websites is much narrower than in day-to-day life. Take full advantage of secondary and tertiary headings provided by the CMS
  • Remember the lead copy. The lead copy is the paragraph of text just below the primary heading. This is also used as the short description for the article and is syndicated to Facebook and other sharing websites. It is the secondary way (after the title) for a person to get context for the article, so be sure to provide the context for them!

Pull quotes and block quotes

These structural and designed parts of an article are also designed to aid scanability and indeed readability by breaking up the copy and providing additional context for the article.

A pull quote is a small snippet of the article pulled out and highlighted in a way that can be scanned and easily noticed. You can see an example of this above. This is technically more difficult and is best left to somebody who knows how to create HTML.

Remember, a pull quote is used to highlight a particular sentence (and no more), not to replace it. There should be no pull quote in an article where the sentence cannot be found in the main body of the copy.

A block quote is different. This is designed to be a better way to highlight a block of text as a quotation from an external or internal source. It should still be presented with quotation marks, but no additional style should be added as it is already taken care of. An example is shown below.

“You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

Using images inside an article

An image and caption providing context

Image alt text

Using images is a great way to provide further context to a particular part of an article.

We must remember, however, not to include images simply because we think we must. Whilst you are encouraged to use in-context images, it is important to justify your decision to include one. Images aid the design and layout as well as the content of an article, so choose wisely:

  • Don’t be cheesy; the days of cheesy blog images are behind us
  • Try to use photography rather than illustrations
  • Ask yourself if you really need to use that image

Again, including images inside the article is slightly technical and should only be done by somebody who knows HTML (until the CMS allows for this to be done by default). All code snippets are at the end of this example article.

Picking a hero image

The hero image is the main image at the top of the page, and it is a requirement for all articles. The rules are similar to in-article images in that they should be photographic where possible, and we should avoid being cheesy. If you have trouble finding an appropriate image, please leave it to one of the blog editors to source one for the article.

Spelling, grammar and prose

One of the key points to remember here is that we are trying to convey authority, and an article with spelling and grammar mistakes automatically reduces that to virtually zero.

I won’t go into any detail about proof-reading and peer-proof-reading, because you know all about that, and you know how important it is. Here are a few pointers:

  • We speak British English, so unless it is contextually justified, please write in British English
  • Remember that words such as media, criteria, data and bacteria are plural, and the rest of the sentence should reflect this fact
  • Remember the difference between ‘fewer’ and ‘less;’ fewer means not as many, less means not as much
  • Avoid foreign and Latin phrases, such as ‘ipso facto’, ‘ad hoc’ and ‘vox pop’ unless editorially and contextually justified
  • Use superlatives with caution – ask yourself if you are confident that you are right
  • Avoid superfluous words, such as the following
    • magnitude (size)
    • approximately (about)
    • attempt (try)
    • terminate (end)
    • utilise (use)
  • Use exclamation marks extremely sparingly, and don’t forget to add question marks to the end of a question, rhetorical or otherwise
  • It is correct to say ‘none has’, it is incorrect to say ‘none have’

Using YouTube videos

YouTube videos are useful to add context sometimes, but should be used sparingly unless the point of the article relates directly to the video. It is important to not use a video unless it adds something useful to the article.

Using YouTube videos superfluously will increase the likelihood that people will avoid the article.

If you choose to use a YouTube video, be sure to explain concisely in your article what the video is, and allow the article to be understood without watching the video.

Placing a YouTube video on the page requires some basic knowledge of HTML, so be sure to ask your manager for help if you don’t know anything about HTML.

Simply paste the YouTube embed code where you want it to appear in the editor. You will have to hit the “HTML” button and use that window in order to get it to work properly.

You will also need to add class=”youtube” to the iframe code in order that the video is styled correctly on the article page.

Your final YouTube video should look like the below on the article page. If it doesn’t, then please seek help from your manager to tidy your code.

Last updated: 30 September 2013

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