What does the word ‘style’ mean to you?

What’s betting that when you think of the word style you think of the world of fashion, glossy magazines, cat walks, people’s appearance and clothes?

well arent we just fancy

Is your organisation fancy enough to have a style guide?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but to many people that’s what style is. Style means something different to many people who work with words. From marketing departments to book publishing to the world of journalism, style is about the style of writing that’s adhered to.

Tone, voice, fonts, you may ask. Not really, no. Professionals involved in the world of writing often work with ‘in-house’ style guides. These vary from a few pages to heavy tomes – but the one thing they all have in common is that they tell people what versions of words and phrases to stick to in written communications.

Anyone who has completed a thesis or even a large written report for a college or university will be familiar with certain rules they have to abide by in referencing sources.

It’s all about making a document easier for the reader to get through.

Want to see some adherence to style in action? Pick two newspapers that aren’t published by the same newspaper group and find a story that appears in each. Scan through the text, you’re likely to see differences in how they refer to currencies and numbers, or the titles they give people referred to in the articles, for example. This is a fine example of how different organisations choose one way of writing something and stick with it.

If you have a number of people in your business working on written communications – which can be as varied as emails to clients, to Facebook or Twitter updates, marketing materials or updating your website content or blog – it might be a good idea to start developing your own style guide.

You can start it simply, by adding your preferences to a Word document that everybody can add to. Do you say you’re in Dublin, Co Dublin, Co. Dublin, county Dublin, County Dublin, Greater Dublin, the greater Dublin area or Dublin city? Or, as they say in Home  Away, the Australian soap, are you in ‘the city’? The City (capital c) usually refers to a financial district of London.

If you want some guidance, there’s loads of resources out there to get you started.

For some tongue-in-cheek style guide samples take a look at Fake AP Stylebook on Twitter or on Facebook.

Some real style guides you can check out are:

What are the versions of words you find hard to decide between for your communications?

Quote unquote: case studies

What do you think of testimonials? What do you think of recommendations on LinkedIn?

Sometimes you don't get the full message

Sometimes you don't get the full message

When buying a book or a DVD is the few words of praise from a well know writer, journalist or publication enough to make your mind up and hand your money over to the cashier? Or will you have made up your mind based on in-depth reviews or interviews with cast/crew/authors?

When it comes to choosing a service will you rely on testimonials on a company’s website or brochure to make up your mind? If they were available would you make up your mind based on in-depth features, articles or case studies on the company/service?

When it comes to your own business, do you think potential customers or clients might make a positive buying decision if they knew the full story of how you can help, how great your customer service is, etc?

If you think that’s a possibility, have you ever thought about useful and informative articles on your website, written in a journalistic style? Why not just ditch the boring About page and replace it with text written in article style, quotes and all telling readers about the company/organisation/product? How about a profile with quotes and background info from each staff member that would normally have appeared on the ‘Our Team’ page?

And when it comes to testimonials, do you think they give enough of a picture to a potential client about how you provide a solution to their problem? Why not tell a story?Tell a story with details of your client’s business, their problem, your solution and how you used this to solve their problem. Written in a journalistic style, with background information and direct quotes, it’s bound to help them more than a sentence or two on how great and wonderful you are.

Get attention, get content, inform, get more than a pat on the back, get people interested.

Who do you write for?

Ask a journalist who do they write for and they’ll probably ream off a list of magazines or newspaper.

Ask a web copywriter who they write for and they may list of a load of clients. But really when you’re asking that of a web copywriter that’s not necessarily the answer you’re seeking. The first on their list should be the reader. Of course you do some writing for the client and of course if you’re including keywords and key phrases in the text to help with SEO, well you’re writing for the search engines and their algorithms and systems.

Dealing with inadequate content

Some people to seem to think that a Google patent in relation to ‘inadequate content’ means that keyword stuffed, uninteresting and useless content will be filtered out of results. That’s great for search engine users so – they’ll probably get the useful information they came to the internet for in the first place. It’s a great theory – but there are other things at play…

According to the Financial Times “Google obtained a patent this year for a system that would help it identify “inadequate content” on the web, based on comparisons of what people search for and what they find.” This information could be sold to online publishers or given away.

The SEO by the Sea blog raises the question as to whether people would start writing content on areas because Google suggests there’s a lack of content on that topic? He also says that sometimes people blame the search engine as opposed to content creators when they get search engine results they aren’t happy with.  He adds: “It’s possible that there may be information on that query or topic that isn’t in a very search engine friendly format, which couldn’t be indexed by the search engine. It’s also possible that there just aren’t very many quality pages that might provide results on those topics.”

Referencing the Financial Times article on TechCentral.ie they’re saying “If true this could lead to a paradigm shift in how companies handle copywriting to become more reader- over system-oriented.”

So how ready are you for whatever Google is going to next throw at us? Do you have quality content? Do you think it matters? Are you writing for the reader?

Does what it says on the tin

Recently we underwent a name change and you’re now reading a blog post on webcontent.ie, the website of Web Content Partners. For a year this business operated under the business name Elaine Larkin Media.

But we weren’t happy with it. We felt it didn’t really reflect or portray in any way what business we’re in. Lots of business names don’t, but to have a more relevant business name had been important since the idea of setting up a web content business came to us back in the summer of 2008.

Elaine, the founder of this web content copywriting business spent a year on an Enterprise Platform Programme in Waterford and would regularly tear her hair out looking for the perfect business name. Early favourites were Pure Content and Fresh Content. Content, though an absolutely vague term, (it covers off audio and video as well as the written word) was high up there in the words the business name should include. Writer, writer or writing didn’t appeal – no disrespect meant to others with these words in their business names!

Some people don’t have a problem with picking a business name, but for us everything from esperanto online dictionaries to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable were perused. Online polls were created, results collated only to find the most popular names were registered trademarks in other countries or the URLs were unavailable in .com or .co.uk which can be nice to have.

One day, we came across Dropped.ie, typed in ‘content’ and webcontent.ie. It was love at first sight and out came the Laser card. As it’s no longer possible to register a .ie business name with the Companies Registration Office and because there’s a grey area about operating a business with a URL (such as webcontent.ie) we decided to register the business name Web Content Partners. (Any clarification on this welcome!)

Then it was back to both the web designer and graphic designer to make changes to existing website and logo and that was it really.

Sure, the name is a bit long, but the fact of the matter is we do partner with and are available to partner with a variety of service providers in the digital world: web designers, web developers, marketing agencies, digital agencies, SEO professionals, internet marketing companies, publishing companies and so on. That is apart from working directly with clients.

And we’re not limited to working with those just on our doorstep  Wexford or neighbouring counties like Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow or Tipperary. We regularly travel to Dublin for client meetings and this is the kind of work that can be done online and with occasional telephone contact.

What do you think of this little rebrand? Anything we should have done different in your opinion?