on July 7, 2010
There's a lot of information packed into The Yahoo! Style Guide a new book from Yahoo!. While other style guides and manuals have kept the topics of writing, user-interface, webpage coding, and SEO separate-The Yahoo! Style Guide brings it all together-making it a one-stop-guide for every member of your digital team.
One of the most useful chapters in the book is on copywriting for search engine optimization (SEO), and includes tips about keywords, links, page titles and metatags. People and search engines don't scan pages in the exact same way but there are some similarities to keep in mind, e.g. both need to know: what a page is about, what's important, options for acquiring more information.
There are excellent suggestions too, about how to "write for the world." We're reminded that the Web is a worldwide medium and "site visitors probably come from more than one country and more than one culture. Collectively, they probably speak several languages. It's a good practice to make the text on your site clear to as many people as possible." Five best practices we're urged to put into practice are: 1) Keep the sentence structure simple, 2) Include "signposts": words that help readers see how the parts of a sentence relate, 3) Eliminate ambiguity, 4) Avoid uncommon words and nonliteral usages, and 5) Rewrite text that doesn't translate literally.
You can read through the style guide from beginning to end and use it as a reference when stumped with a punctuation question, wondering how to write a perfect title for your email newsletter or streamlined text for mobile devices. The book is filled with loads of great tips. One of my favorites is on editing with screen-reading software so you can hear the page read aloud to you. (In Windows, Narrator or Ease of Use in Windows Vista and on the Mac, Text-to-Speech.)
The Yahoo! Style Guide is also available online with a companion website and includes additional resources and updates. You'll find a good companion in The Yahoo! Style Guide.
It has been a while since I actually read a style usage book. As a writer, I read and write constantly, so every book, article, website, brochure, email, and even utility bills I peruse are style manuals of sorts. I always notice what words and style conventions are used in texts I read.
But with the instantaneous pace of writing and publishing these days, there's much inconsistency when it comes to grammar and punctuation rules, word usage and style, readability standards, and just plane old clear concise writing. There's not a day go by that I don't read articles, including my own, that are in need of a copy editor to check for grammar errors and wordiness. Most bloggers and web content writers must write, edit, and proofread their work like lonely housewives in need of help with daily chores. It's nearly impossible to do it all effectively.
This is where The Yahoo! Style Guide can be useful. It's one of the only sourcebooks I know that is written--as it subtitle says--"for writing, editing, and creating content for the digital world." When I purchased the book, I thought I'd simply park it on a bookshelf near my work area, but as started scanning through it, I realized it would be useful for me as a writer to read it cover-to-cover. And quite surprisingly, it is actually a sourcebook that you can read in its entirety. Sure, there were some sections that I scanned because I was thoroughly familiar with the content, but for the most part, the book was not only a good refresher course, but it made me aware of some issues of usage and style that I need to keep an eye on when I write.
I particularly bookmarked a useful '"superfluous phrases" list, marking some of the extraneous and redundant words that sometimes crop up in my own writing. I also like authors' suggestion for keeping a style word list, for keeping track of how you will use certain words (e.g., p.m. or pm, African-American or African American, screenshot, not screen shot.) The book ends with 40 pages of [...]own word list, which you will find quite consistent with word style usage across the net and in paper publications.
Another section I bookmarked is about using "consistent terminology for your calls to action" (e.g. edit, change, uncheck, deselect, IM, type or enter.) And every writer who post his/her work on the World Wide Web should read the chapter, "Be Inclusive, Write for the World." The authors of this Guide make good points about how people from different parts of world read words in English differently. They advise, "do not assume that you know who's reading your website." They give tips on writing for an audience that is not homogenous. For example, they talk about using "signposts" that help readers see how the parts of a sentence relate. They talk about producing gender-neutral copy, and avoiding slang and idioms that might be unfamiliar to many readers.
Easy to read examples are included on nearly ever page of the Guide, and some chapters conclude with exercises that reinforce the previously covered material.
I know there are other style books (such as the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Stylebook) have been around for quite some time, but this sourcebook should be the definitive guide for writing in general and web content writing in particular.
on July 22, 2010
If you are thinking of working online--buy this book! It's current (unlike many other web-related books) and full of everything you need to know or learn! I am thrilled to have it and grateful to Yahoo for its existence. BTW--IMHO, this is NOT a book to read on your Kindle.
on May 31, 2015
I paid the full price of $23.99 for the Yahoo! Style Guide with some misgivings. Yahoo!’s homepage has become an overstuffed amalgam of the worst kind of clickbait (“Does this teen’s dress reveal too much?”), promotions of its own products with news-like headlines, a trending list of items no one’s thought about for months, and ads for things nobody needs. Five minutes on the site and I want to wipe my face with a hot towel.
Another concern was the guide’s publication date: 2010. You don’t need a cliché to express how long five years is in Internet time. I feared that the instant I click on Add to Cart, pallets of new editions would be loaded into trucks headed for bookstores and Amazon warehouses everywhere.
Much of the copy editing I do is web based these days, however, so I bought the book, figuring I’d get at least a few pointers.
I was wrong.
This book is an essential source for anyone who plans to write something longer than a tweet. The amount of useful advice in its 512 pages is enormous.
Don’t think of it as a style guide in the sense of the Associate Press’ Stylebook. Go by its subtitle: “The ultimate sourcebook for writing, editing, and creating content for the digital world.” The guide goes beyond an alphabetical listing of word usage (though there is that) and provides the guide’s users with the hows and whys of Web writing. Clarity, consistency, and conciseness are prime points, all practiced on Yahoo!’s own site even at its worst, and all usually ignored by other sites that pay large sums to page designers but consider good, tight copy an unnecessary expense.
The tone of the book is not what I would have expected from a company that uses an exclamation point in its name. It’s conversational but never cute like other guides targeted for general audiences. The closest to it I can think of would be Amy Einsohn’s excellent The Copyeditor’s Handbook. The guide is logically organized and visually clear. Each chapter ends with an exercise that many will find helpful for review, even when scanned later.
The last section, Resources, is more technical and involves coding for the Web, SEO, and legal issues. Readers will know what parts of this they can skip, but it would be wise to read them all as they’re written for laypeople and being conversant in Web issues always helps. Besides, some of the guide’s many bits of wisdom are in this section, including one on page 437 any copyeditor—maybe, especially, the one writing this review—can always use: “Choose your battles. Be prepared to defend your editorial choices: Know how a point of consistency or style affects the site’s credibility, readability, navigability, searchability, and so forth. But while you defend, don’t be defensive; be positive, helpful, and open to changing the decision. Consider which points are deal breakers—you wouldn’t compromise on the spelling of the company name, for example—and which points have a lower priority or are hard to fix, such as news-feed headlines that automatically appear in title case on a page that otherwise uses sentence case.”
The guide is a big book, and the three endorsement blurbs on the back cover may not scream must-buy. (I’d only heard of Arianna Huffington. Seth Godin? Jakob Nielsen?)
It is, though. Honest.
on August 26, 2012
I learned about this book through the Yahoo! Content Academy certification courses. Anyone who is currently writing or wants to write online content could benefit from the information gathered here. From SEO optimization to correct possessive nouns and state abbreviations - the book has it all!
Strunk and White wrote a little book that every writer refers to when stumped. It is a classic, even though it was written many years ago. I believe The Yahoo! Style Guide could be the same kind of book, however, with the constantly changing landscape of online content writing, my concern is that it will be outdated every few months.
That being said, the information is invaluable and necessary to each and every person who is writing in today's world. Whether you are a novelist, a freelancer, or a hobbyist you can and will benefit from the research gathered in these pages. This is a book that should be included on every writer's shelf of reference books today. Get yours now!
on September 7, 2010
The title is almost misleading - the book is about how you can and why you should create your own web style guide. Yes, it is by Yahoo and the examples are Yahoo, but the focus is not how to follow their guide, but how to develop your own voice with consistency.
The layout is sometimes cluttered, but the content is so fabulous that you can overlook it.
The book is full of current, topical information. The search engine optimization tips are comprehensive and easy to understand. There are chapters on writing user interface text, e-newsletters and streamlining text for mobile devices.
This book is an excellent reference for anyone writing or approving copy for websites.
on March 10, 2013
Big, all-encompassing sourcebook for web text producers - great for editors, bloggers, writers.
Layout is easy to navigate, chapters are concise and engaging, examples are numerous and directly relevant, and the writing is clear and direct. It practices what it preaches!
This is a reference book you'll turn to again and again. Keep it handy.
on February 19, 2014
I just got the book and I'm on chapter 3, I've skimmed through the rest of the book. Although I haven't finished the book yet, I can tell this is a resource that I'll be keeping and referring to for a long time. There are style guides for print, but not too many for the web and there is a difference. If you have a business site or personal website or just want to send more spiced up emails, get this book.
on November 2, 2010
If you've never read _anything_ about writing for the Web, this book may be okay for you.
But if you've read other books such as "Don't Make Me Think", you may find Yahoo's style guide extremely repetitious, tedious, and lacking in any innovative product.
Okay, I'm writing for a global audience. I should use simple language. I should not use gender-biased language, etc. etc.. I'm sorry, but this has all been said before. The main problem is that following this book recommendations will results in simple, understandable copy which is also extremely dry and devoid of "magic".
On the bright side, the book contains plenty of before and after examples, and may be used as an authoritative reference to show your boss on why you insist doing something in a certain way.
Also, I wouldn't get this for the Kindle: The book contains some tables which do not translate to the Kindl's screen very well, cannot be zoomed in, and are tiny and difficult to make out.
on March 28, 2011
This book is quickly becoming my work companion, as I've been reaching for it many, many times throughout the day. As a technical communications writer, it's refreshing to have nearly current terminology (because new words come about every day, it seems) in one book. My colleagues and I have given this guide a trial over the past few weeks and are recommending it as the base to our corporate technical style guide. Excellent work!