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The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World Paperback – 6 Jul 2010
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“Yahoo!'s editors have given the rules of the writing road a smart and timely reboot. It's Strunk and White for the online world.” ―Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor in chief, The Huffington Post
“Excellent and eminently useful book with many compelling examples of rewrites. While rewriting content for usability will hugely increase a Web site's business value, the word list alone can save you the cost of the book by eliminating wasted time arguing over proper usage.” ―Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., principal, Nielsen Norman Group, and author of Eyetracking Web Usability
“Yahoo! confounded the copy editors when it put unbridled excitement in its name. Back in 1996, for the first edition of Wired Style, we decided such idiosyncrasies were part of digital-age style. Today, with The Yahoo! Style Guide, the Web publisher has gone from renegade to rule maker. Its guide is a one-stop shop for those publishing on the Web.” ―Constance Hale, author of Wired Style and Sin and Syntax and editor of sinandsyntax.com
About the Author
The Yahoo! Style Guide is the work of many Yahoo! contributors, including past and present editors within Yahoo!'s editorial department, led by Chris Barr, senior editorial director.
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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.
From punctuation and grammar, user interface text on your site, focusing on your audience, search engine optimization, and even blog post layout and length; to editing, HTML, writing numbers, keeping a word list, and understanding U.S. law in regard to online content; this guide tells all. With detailed examples and simple language this guide will assist you in getting your site up and running, or completely overhauled, with confidence. Honestly, I've barely touched the surface of this DIY, instructional guide on web writing. All I can say is if you write content for websites, blogs, or email lists; you should have this guide on the corner of your desk. You'll refer to it time and again.
The only negative (and reason I gave 4 stars) is that this style guide was published in 2010 and could use a going over for some updates; however, those updates needed cover a small portion of the 500 pages, and writing for the web in general changes frequently enough you should be able to notice any sections that may seem outdated. There really isn't a guide out there to compete with this one for your needs, and the majority of this content is relevant and super useful. Also negative, the companion site referenced in the book has been taken down by Yahoo for whatever reason. Which is a definite disappointment. Normally these two reasons would be enough to cause me to bypass purchasing, but I found a great used copy here for a great price that made it "worth" the buy. Then when I received the book and started flipping through...I would pay 5x what I did to buy it. It's an excellent resource regardless of its flaws.
The only thing I wish I had done differently was this: I wish I had purchased a paperback/hard copy of the book, instead of the kindle version, simply because I could have made notes and it's a little easier to reference an in-hand book than an ebook. I realize I can make notes on a kindle, of course...but I'm still a little old-fashioned as far as note-taking goes. Sometimes you just need a hard copy.
I really enjoyed this book and feel a little more knowledgeable after having read it through! Very handy reference. I may end up purchasing the print edition in the future.
This is the full-throated official version and you will be happy to have it in your Kindle library!
Some of the content on SEO will of course be outdated. SEO best practices are always changing, so it's impractical to expect a book to cover these issues well past 6 months of its original printing.
The guidelines on how to write emails, and how to write for sties can be appreciated and applied in a general sense, so the book is still very valuable.