Yahoo! Style Guide

Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide

Check out this book review: The Yahoo! Style Guide.

For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac University, we were required to purchase the Yahoo! Style Guide and use it as a reference.

However, instead of just referencing the guide as needed, I read it from cover to cover. And it is a fantastic guide.

Writing Online with a Style Guide

So, for most people, the act of writing online seems to mainly consist of ejecting words and hoping that they will somehow collide in a manner that is coherent or at least semi-understandable. The Yahoo! Style Guide, instead, serves to provide some well-needed guidance.

Rather than displaying seemingly antiquated grammar rules, the guide provides logical explanations. Hence as the guide says on Page 50,

“Scan an article reading only the headlines. If you can understand the flow and substance of the story, your content passed the test. If something seems confusing, you may need to rewrite the headings or even reorder some paragraphs.”

How it Matters

So, to my mind, this makes infinite sense. Consider how quickly we all skim articles and newspapers these days, whether online or in dead tree format. Headlines and graphics grab our attention.

Perhaps they are more fraught with meaning than they should be, but those are the current rules of the game. Therefore, writers on the Internet need to understand that headings, image captions and the like are important to the human reader.

In addition, and unsurprisingly, these elements are also important to machine readers, e. g. search engine bots.

Worth the Price of Admission

And then on Page 4, the guide talks about eye tracking. Yahoo! has surveyed users, and they have come up with an understanding of a general pattern as  to how people browse websites. Here’s what they said:

  • “People scan the main sections of a page to determine what it’s about and whether they want to stay longer
  • They make decisions about the page in as little as three seconds
  • If they decide to stay, they pay the most attention to the content in the upper top part of the screen”

Good Style Guide Advice

This is a lot like the idea of heat maps, where you can get an idea of where readers spent their time on any given page. Sometimes, they hang around. And sometimes, well, you get the picture.

For any writer, and any social media or content person, we need to know one very important thing.

What’s working?

Just this tidbit of information gives a valuable clue in this area. And, if you really want to get technical, it’s a way to test out new content and ideas. Put ’em at the top and see what happens.

So you’d better get your pages and posts in gear, and pay particularly close attention to headings and the content that sits above the fold. Because this style guide shows you the way.

Review: 5/5 stars.

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