The Web Content Style Guide: An Essential Reference for Online Writers, Editors and Managers
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The Web Content Style Guide: An Essential Reference for Online Writers, Editors and Managers

by Gerry McGovern, Rob Norton, Catherine O'Dowd
     
 

"The first chapter alone of The Web Content Style Guide is worth the price of the book. Great ideas on writing for either traditional or web viewers. Easy to read and insightful."

Phil Matous, CEO, Taylor Community Credit Union, Michigan, USA

The definitive how-to guide for all writers, editors and publishers of web content.

Overview

"The first chapter alone of The Web Content Style Guide is worth the price of the book. Great ideas on writing for either traditional or web viewers. Easy to read and insightful."

Phil Matous, CEO, Taylor Community Credit Union, Michigan, USA

The definitive how-to guide for all writers, editors and publishers of web content. Good writing is the exception rather than the rule on the Web. One reason for this is simply that good writing is hard to do. Another is that many of the people who've been involved with the Web from the beginning have been slow to realize that writing is a very big part of what the online experience is about.

While the Web has important non-textual uses, most people who use it spend an overwhelming amount of their online time reading words on a page. It¿s not an accident that we call them webpages. It follows that quality content¿well written, well edited¿is essential for the success of any website.

In addition to quality content, the design of websites must facilitate finding and reading that content. Web design is about content design. It¿s about laying out content so that it can be easily read. It¿s about organizing content so that it can be easily navigated and searched.

The number-one design principle for the Web is simplicity. Quality web design should be all about making life easier for the reader to find content, and then making it easy for them to read that content.

The Web Content Style Guide aims to codify the rules and standards that make for effective web writing. It also aims to give nontechnical guidance to all those involved in designing and running a website, from the chief executive officer to the junior writer. It examines topics from accessibility to animations, from fonts to forms, from information architecture to intranets, from navigation to newsgroups, from search to style guides.

Every entry is written from the perspective that a website must get the right content to the reader as quickly as possible, in the most readable manner. The fonts entry, for example, discusses the font sizes and types that work best onscreen.

The Web Content Style Guide covers some of the same ground as the offline style and usage guides, but is tailored specifically for online managers, writers, and editors.

Grammar and style issues of particular relevance to the Web that it focuses on include: the key differences between American and British English; how the Web accentuates plagiarism; what sort of dash looks best onscreen; the difference between data, content, information, and knowledge; and when and how to date documents.

If you are involved in a website, whether as a manager, designer, writer, or editor, The Web Content Style Guide is essential for you. It is packed with examples, and is written in a clear, concise, and friendly manner.

Based on the authors¿ 40-plus collective years experience in traditional publishing, and 15 in designing content-rich websites, it is always practical. It champions best-practices in web content writing and design, and is not afraid to kill off a few Internet myths along the way.

Like a famous ad for a paint company, The Web Content Style Guide ¿does exactly what it says on the tin.¿

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Web Content Style Guide is a valuable resource for anyone involved in creating content for the Web."

Janette Young, Managing Information magazine "This comprehensive and authoritative overview of content management starts with useful guidelines to writing and designing web material. If only most webmasters could heed the sound advice given here, then web surfing would be a much happier experience for us all! Following this, the glossary of terms and definitions also deserves thorough reading. Even the more obvious terms are defined to encyclopaedic depth that clearly has benefited from the authors' wealth of experience in content management. I will certainly be recommending this book to people who attend our writing for the web courses." Malcolm Davison, Managing Director, writingfortheweb.co.uk "The first chapter alone of The Web Content Style Guide is worth the price of the book. Great ideas on writing for either traditional or web viewers. Easy to read and insightful." Phil Matous, CEO, Taylor Community Credit Union, Michigan, USA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780273656050
Publisher:
Pearson FT Press
Publication date:
12/28/2001
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Good writing is the exception rather than the rule on the Web. One reason is simply that it's hard to write well. Another is that many of the people who've been involved with the Web from the beginning have been slow to realize that writing is a very big part of what the online experience is about. While the Web has important non-textual uses, such as listening to audio files, watching video files, and downloading software and music, most people who use it spend an overwhelming amount of their online time reading words on a page. It's not an accident that we call them webpages. Nor is it an accident that the language used to create webpages is called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).

Following on from this logic, we call the person who comes to a website a reader. That doesn't mean they can't do other things on a website, such as purchase a product, download software, or listen to audio. It merely recognizes that the primary activity for the vast majority of people when they access the Web is reading. We also call a website a publication because, when you think about it, that's what a website is. A website publishes content targeted at a group of readers. "Reader" is a much warmer and more explanatory word than the generic "user." (Two things websites and illegal drugs have in common: they share the words "user" and "traffic.")

Writing, in fact, is arguably the most important link in the chain of devices, technologies, software, and interfaces that propels ideas across the Web—more important than the kinds of computer, operating system, browser software, or Internet connection method used. Writing is also the least understood link in that chain, and the one least likely to improve with technology.

Because the Web is accessed through a computer, many organizations assume it is something technical. What they fail to realize is that the Web is in fact a publishing medium, just like print. These organizations have put in place the technical infrastructure to publish webpages, but have rarely bothered to create the kind of editorial infrastructure that a publisher must have. One reason for this is that the people in charge of websites—webmasters, chief technology officers, chief information officers—tend to have quantitative backgrounds; they're more familiar with HTML and programming than with grammar and composition.

In addition to quality content, the design of websites must facilitate finding and reading that content. Web design is about laying out content so that it can be easily read. It's about organizing content so that it can be easily navigated and searched. For the vast majority of websites, design should not be about elaborate graphics and visual effects. The number one design principle for the Web is simplicity. Quality web design should be all about making life easier for the reader to find content, and then making it easy for them to read that content.

As quality content becomes ever more critical in differentiating successful websites from others, the need for quality control will grow. Two things that the Web needs in general—and which every website needs in particular—are standards and rules.

While there will never be the kind of hard and fast rules about web publishing that there are about, say, web software, general standards are in fact emerging. The number of websites that are badly written, badly edited, and badly designed remains vast, but if you look at the successful, high-volume websites, you see professional editing and standard design.

About The Web Content Style GuideThis book aims to codify the rules and standards that make for effective web writing. It also aims to give non-technical guidance to all those involved in designing and running a website, from the chief executive officer to the junior writer. Its easy-to-access A to Z format makes it an ideal reference guide for all those involved in web publishing.Many excellent style guides exist in the offline world. Three of the best known are the University of Chicago Press's Manual of Style, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, and the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Grammar and style issues are only one aspect of The Web Content Style Guide, and it focuses on those points particularly relevant to the Web as well as some of the more common pitfalls in grammar and usage. In this way, The Web Content Style Guide is a companion guide rather than an alternative to the established offline guides.

Some of the web grammar and style issues you will find here include

  • the key differences between American and British English
  • how the Web accentuates plagiarism
  • the use of italics
  • what sort of dash looks best on the screen
  • and when and how to date documents

In the area of design and layout, The Web Content Style Guide examines topics from accessibility to animation, from fonts to forms, from information architecture to intranet, from navigation to newsgroup, and from search to style guides.

Every entry is written from the perspective that a website must get the right content to the reader as quickly as possible, in the most readable manner. The FONTS entry, for example, discusses the font sizes and types that work best on screen.

The book is organized into three sections:

  • the Introduction, including an overview on writing and designing for the Web
  • the A to Z index
  • supplementary material comprising a sample style guide, a list of further reading/online resources, and a quick-find index

If you're involved in managing, designing, editing, or writing for a website, The Web Content Style Guide is essential for you. It is packed with examples, and is written in a clear, concise, and friendly manner. Based on the authors' 40-plus collective years of experience in traditional publishing, and 15 in designing content-rich websites, it is always practical. It champions best practices in web content writing, layout, and design, and is not afraid to kill off a few Internet myths along the way.

Meet the Author

Gerry McGovern

is a web consultant and author. He has spoken and written extensively on Internet issues over the last seven years. He is an advisory editor for The Business Database (Bloomsbury) on the subject of ecommerce and writes a column for the popular marketing website, clickz.com, on the subject of content management. He also has his own highly regarded and widely read online newsletter, New Thinking.

Previously, Gerry was founder and chief executive officer of Nua, a content management software development company.

Rob Norton is a freelance journalist in New York City. He is a contributing editor at Business 2.0 magazine, for which he writes the Leading Questions column, as well as news stories and feature articles. He also writes and publishes Net Style, a weekly online newsletter. Rob also does consulting work in journalism, publishing, website design, and information architecture.

Previously Rob was Executive Editor at Fortune magazine, where he was a member of the management team that revamped Fortune in 1996. He was responsible for "First," Fortune's innovative front of the magazine section, and directed Fortune¿s economics coverage. Rob joined Fortune in 1984, and worked for several years in the magazine¿s Washington bureau. He has written several cover stories and dozens of feature stories, and also edited Fortune¿s 70th anniversary issue in February, 2000.

Catherine O¿Dowd works as a web consultant with Arconics Ltd, a Dublin-based developer of web publishing and information architecture software. She has previously worked as an online editor for a number of IT companies, as well as freelancing for various print publications.

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