5 Style Guide Choices to Make for Your Food Blog
Details. That's the difference between a hobby blog and one that turns into a career. Professional bloggers don't necessarily spend their time writing more content or shooting more photos. Instead, they use their time perfecting their light box set up or testing their recipe a third time to make sure they've gotten it just right.
When it comes to writing, the best bloggers edit themselves in ways that not only make their storytelling tighter, and their instructions grammatically correct, but also make their style consistent. These choices can be deliberate--like look at a blog we love, The Sugar Hit. Their design, inspired by comic books, lends itself to Sarah's quippy and animated writing style.
Every publication needs to take a moment to think about their writing style when considering how to make their content feel like part of a collection. Your style comes down to those small details, and for many major publications, these choices are recorded in a style guide.
Style guides allow you to quickly onboard new writers which, if you're a magazine, makes things a lot easier. But even if you aren't welcoming contributors (right now) to your site, it's worth making a few style choices; it will make your content more consistent and might even help you position your blog's brand to potential sponsors.
Take a moment to think about your blog's voice. Defining your voice probably sounds formal, but chances are you already have a pretty clear voice in use. Are your posts fun and conversational? Or maybe they're witty and irreverent? Possibly your voice is collegiate and well-researched.
Point of View
Also make a deliberate choice about your grammatical point-of-view. Will you refer to yourself in the first person as "me" and "I" or as your blog in the third person, using "us" and "we?" Once you decide, stick to it! Don't do things like ask people to join "our newsletter" right after you describe "my lunch on Wednesday."
The best websites and online publications give visual queues to their readers as to what to expect from an article. Choose a couple fonts, header styles, and image display options (slideshows, galleries...) that you'll stick to. Mixing too many fonts feels disorganized, having more than one <h1> tag on a page can hurt your SEO, and reinventing how you display images every time you write a new roundup post can disorient readers. Having a format matters.
Spelling and Grammar Choices
As nitpicky as some grammar-lovers can get, there's actually a lot of freedom, at times, in terms of how you choose to spell something or address it grammatically. Here at Chicory we had to have a long discussion about how we'd spell a single word: co-founder. Is it cofounder, co-founder, Co-founder, Co-Founder...? Once we settled on a choice, we made sure that choice was consistent across not only our written materials, but also in places like email signatures or LinkedIn profiles.
Some common spelling choices to be aware of:
- travelling/traveling & travelled/traveled
Some common grammar choices to be aware of:
- Oxford comma (salt, pepper, and butter) versus none (salt, pepper and butter)
- Will you write out numbers, use numerals, or some combination? (Perhaps you write out numbers one through ten, but use numerals for 11 and on.)
- How will you write dates? 1/1/01, January 1, 2001, etc.
To the above point, there are a unique set of choices that food bloggers have to make in regards to how to write recipes. Your instructions likely have a personality of their own, but there are a number of rules you should set and follow for how you list out ingredients and measures.
Consider the following:
- Writing and abbreviating measures. Will you write out "tablespoon" or use "Tbsp," and will you use a period if abbreviating? (Tbsp/Tbsp.)
- Fractions! Will 1/2 do, or will you use symbols like ½? Or perhaps you'll opt for decimals (0.5).
- How will you specify ingredient qualifiers in your ingredients list? (1 onion, chopped/1 chopped onion)
Writing down just a few of these style choices will not only help your blog become tidier, but you'll also have a place to refer when you can't remember if you should use an Oxford comma or not. Plus, should you invite guest contributors, they have a place to reference for style choices. When in doubt, look to style guides like AP's, but don't stress--this is all about making your blog your own! Choices can change, but organizing will help you be more concise rather than morphing as time goes by.