Date: Thursday, November 18, 2010
Forum speakers: Yahoo! Style Guide Editors Heather Hutson, Maria Cianci and Karen Seriguchi
Forum organizers: Karen Seriguchi and Jim Norrena
Summary notes: Karen Asbelle
With a great turnout for this relevant and timely topic, we
welcomed three of the nine members of the core editorial
team to discuss Web editing and the new 512-page, comprehensive
"The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing,
Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World."
The speakers presented a lively session that covered a range
of concepts, with helpful explanations and plenty of examples.
The following are some highlights of the presentation given by
Heather Hutson, the guide's managing editor; Maria Cianci, a
managing editor at Yahoo!; and Karen Seriguchi, copy editor and
style guide aficionado, with discussion facilitated by BAEF
Program Coordinator Jim Norrena.
Yahoo! decided to publish a style guide based on their own
editorial standards and practices, to offer support to a
growing number of print editors these days who are branching
into Web projects. As one of the most visited Internet
destinations in the world, Yahoo! has the cyber-standing and
credibility to step forward and claim the space today, though
there may be others to follow. As stated in the Guide's preface,
"elevating content creation to the level of craft benefits
everyone on the Web, and clear communication and high editorial
standards are important no matter where or why you write." Now,
who can argue with that?
The panel members affirmed they had a great team that worked well
togetherknowledgeable, expert and hard-working. Yahoo! had
initially envisioned producing the book in six months, which
necessarily turned into one year. The book has a companion Website that carries over 40%
of the book's content and will be used to feature updates as
they are developed. The mechanics sections and word list are on
the Website and searchable, and additionally provide page numbers
in the book where you can find further related information.
Why is Web editing different from print editing? Because people
read on the Web differently than on the printed page. Here are
some things to consider as you proceed with Web work:
- 79% of people scan Web pages rather than read them. Eye tracking
studies show that most people's eyes follow an F-shaped pattern
when viewing text on the screen, which is why it's recommended
to position the most critical content toward the left and toward
the top, even if it extends a bit across the page.
- Additionally, there is a lot that confronts the reader onscreen.
For example, font variety, lower screen resolution, even flashing
banners, graphics, and other distractions all make it harder to
read and to focus, compared to reading a book. Plus, did you know
an estimated 50% of U.S. adults read at an eighth-grade level or
- It was mentioned that only 21% of site visitors are loyal to a
favorite site. And typos can reduce a site's credibility. In
fact, content with errorson a financial page, for examplecan
prompt some visitors to leave and go where they feel they can
better trust the content. Therefore, you want to do as much
"right" as you can to encourage people to stay on your site.
Testing has demonstrated that the usability of a Webpage can
be improved 159% just with better writing. Make it easy for
people to get the information most important to them by using
clear, concise text in a well-organized layout.
- Consider your audience: it's important to know who you are
reaching. A publication's online audience is likely not the
same as its print audience. Large sites may even have different
audience segments. As an editor, you may have access to a Website's
visitor tracking data that can report the sources of its incoming
traffic, who visits the site, how long they stay, and what sections
they are viewing. How tech-savvy are they? Are you conveying the
right info? Do you want your site to be sticky (i.e., encourage
return visits) or to be viral (i.e., visitors sharing with
friends)? Do you have a global audience?
- Consider the "voice" of an organization's website. Content is not
just words, but includes images, graphics, typeface, colors, and
content selection, which work together to convey what that
organization is all about. A strong and consistent voice is a
means to distinguish it from its competition. Also consider how
the site sections work together (e.g., business section, pop culture
section). People should know what "voice" to expect at your site.
What is SEO and why is it important?
- Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the various techniques
you can use to elevate the rank of your Webpage in search results.
Search engines analyze the words on a Webpage and rate their
importance as a way to interpret what a Webpage is about.
- Search engines give particular weight to: page titles, headlines,
boldfaced subheadings, links, bulleted and numbered lists, and
the introduction and conclusion on each page. These are the
places to seed your keywords so that search engines will accurately
convey what the Webpage is aboutand people will be more likely to
find your content when they search. Writers and editors can make
significant contributions to SEO by ensuring that Webpage text is
well organized and rich in information.
- What makes a good keyword? Think of words or short phrases people
may type into a search boxusually everyday language. Spelled-out
words are preferable because people don't typically search using
abbreviations. Check out the Yahoo! free keyword research tool, as well as others, for
lists of related terms that get the most results.
- Aim to repeat each keyword two to four times in a 300-word story,
including in subheads, as boldfaced terms, and in lists and link
titles, while avoiding sounding repetitive or artificial. The
Yahoo! team recommends drafting your article first, then fitting
the keywords and keyword variations where you can.
- A search engine considers a link on your site to be an endorsement.
So, add only good links. A link to a less relevant site could result
in a ding to your Webpage. And there is no SEO advantage to linking
to lots of sites.
- Headlines are important because they will appear in many places:
in the title of your story, as the Webpage title (top browser bar),
in the browser tab headings, as bookmark text, as search result
headers, and elsewhere. Choose clarity over cleverness (because
headlines may show up in search results without their accompanying
photo or graphic). Ensure that a headline can stand on its own,
without the support of a subhead, a photo or even the article
itself. Expect that some browsers will cut off the ends of
headlines. One of many headline rewrite examples: "State accuses
Mercury Insurance" is better as "Mercury Insurance may have
violated California laws."
Top 5 Tips for Web Text:
- Front-load your information: start your sentences with the most
relevant words; start your paragraphs with the most relevant sentence.
- Use brief, keyword-loaded headings throughout your article. Can
your readers scan the headings to get an accurate overview of the
content? If it's confusing or out of order, rewrite.
- Break up long paragraphs: white space makes it easy for the reader
to scan the page, and one long sentence can serve as a paragraph.
- Use bulleted or numbered lists when possible. They facilitate
scanning and can be easily understood.
- Use active voice, whenever possible; shorter sentences can be read
faster (though in some cases, passive voice may allow you to position
critical info earlier in the sentence to be picked up by search engines).