Two people discussing business planning

Bplans voice

  • Use only the words that you would use speaking to someone. Read your work aloud. Would you speak to a colleague like this? If you answer, “no,” reword it. Don’t speak like a lawyer, or a bureaucrat.
  • Avoid unnecessary words—if you can do without it, delete it.
  • Always use active voice over passive voice (aka, don’t say: over passive voice always use active voice)
  • Don’t use foreign words if there are English equivalents (hey, George Orwell said it…)
  • Don’t lecture. Don’t be stuffy. Don’t be arrogant.

1. Title and heading guidelines

WordPress comes with pre-formatted titles or headings. Use these headings throughout the copy. Do not make your own headings by bolding, centering and manually changing the size, font or color of text.

Note: you may manually bold text within paragraphs, however, for emphasis and to help the reader skim. Do this sparingly for the full effect.

By default, the subject/title is the H1. From there, use the headings as you would if you were laying out an index. The H2 will be the first heading in your body copy. The H3 will be a sub-heading of the H2, the H4 a subheading of the H3, etc. You may have more than one H2, H3, H4 and so on. You may not have more than one H1. You should only need to use the H2, H3 and possibly an H4.

Title length: 61 max characters—this helps with social media (so words are not truncated) and when google pulls data from the site to index the post in the SERPs.

Title/H1 – Write Using Title Case

H2 – Write using sentence case

H3 – Write using sentence case

H4 – write using sentence case

If you are creating a list of bullet points and need to use bold to make important words stand out, that’s fine.

2. Body guidelines

If your post requires a disclaimer (for example, “This is an extract from a book”), you may italicize the disclaimer. If you are emphasizing content within the post, you may also italicize or bold for emphasis. Be consistent across your own posts and don’t overdo it.

Length of post

The length of your post should ideally be over 1,000 words. If it’s a naturally short post and there’s honestly nothing more you can say on the subject, that’s fine. Don’t talk for the sake of filling space. Rather, focus on adding value. ALL we want is something someone else will find useful. Not another piece of noise to add to the endless sea of articles out there.

Note from Briana as of 7/12/16: This isn’t a strictly followed guideline anymore, and we may be testing post length in the future. 

Blog post content versus “guide” content

Blog post content can be written in a more informal voice and can make use of first person point of view, as well as include personal anecdotes. Guide content (i.e. How to Write a Mission Statement) however should not use the first person but should be written objectively and without reference to the author.

Pasting text into the WordPress editor

If you have written your post in a document, when you copy and paste it, make sure to paste as plain text. If you are embedding a video or anything else in an iframe, make sure to switch to HTML and paste within the HTML instead of the normal editor. Do not copy an iframe into word then into the WordPress editor. MS word will change the formatting and the content will not display correctly.

Paste as Plain Text

Quotations

If you are quoting someone and the quote is longer than a couple of lines, use the “quote style” on the kitchen sink in WP (the bar above containing the styling icons like bold, bullets, and so on).

Blockquote

The quote icon next to the numbered list icon in the WordPress visual editor will create a block quote. If you want a pull  quote (better for shorter sentences and to make a bold magazine-like statement), use the following shortcode:

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You can also left align or right align the quote by adding this content to the first bracket:

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Do not use the styles dropdown to select “pull quote” and do not use “pull quote inline” and “pull quote heading.” These need to be removed.

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Crosslinking within posts

It’s a good idea to link your post to a few other posts on Bplans. This improves the value of our own pages and helps Google find and index other pages faster. It also helps people find additional content that might be relevant to them.

There are three ways to link to other posts from within your own post on Bplans:

  1. Use a traditional link within the body content like this.
  2. Use the see-also shortcode to call out an article.
  3. Use a Hubspot CTA
See Also: The Bplans Blog

To use this shortcode you will need to type the following (without the quotation marks):

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Lists

There are two types of lists: unordered lists and ordered lists. In an ordered list, each item is numbered. Use an ordered list only when the order of the items is important (procedural steps). At all other times, use an unordered list. If you list three features of a product, do not enumerate the features, use bullets instead. If sentences in a pre-formatted list are longer than two lines, it may be worth turning the list into a set of paragraphs each with it’s own H2, H3, H4 (depending where within the text they fit) or bolded few words. You can still number these headings manually (as we’ve done in this post).

3. Images

Almost all images should be saved as JPGs. If you can rename the image before uploading it to WordPress, that’s great. Google may pick up on keywords within the file name. This is particularly important if you have created your own image for a post.

Image size

  • Where possible images should be 750 pixels wide. If they are not, you need to wrap the text around the image or center the image.
  • Images downloaded from Bigstock need only be 750px wide. The closer you can get to this size the better. There is no need to download the largest image (as it will take up a lot of file space in WP). However, use the largest if the next one down is less than 750px wide.
  • Images should be manually resized in TEXT mode. Delete “height” and adjust width. It will resize automatically.

More about images

  • jpg (JPEG) is good for photographs. Saving a photo as jpg removes detail from the photo. Good photo editors let you control how much detail is removed (the “compression”). Different photos need different compression; doing this carefully and viewing the result can give you a usable photo with a small file size.
  • gif can be poor for photographs. It’s better for line art, like logos, with solid areas of the same color.
  • png is for both photographs and line art. It compresses photos without losing detail, but usually makes larger photo files than JPEGs. Some older browsers don’t completely support png, though. PNGs are not as good for photos, and only slightly better than JPGs for line art (which doesn’t often appear on Bplans anyways)

Attributing an image’s source

If images are from a stock library like Bigstock, there’s no need to attribute the source (unless the site specifically requests it—this does sometimes happen). If you are using an image from Flickr or Getty Images, make sure you are first allowed to do this under the creative commons license and then provide source attribution in the form of an image caption, or a link at the end of the post. Even if your image already has its own caption, you can still link to the image source by including “Image source: Flickr” or something along those lines.

Adding a link within a caption

To add a link to a caption, you’re going to need to use HTML. It’s straightforward even if you’ve never coded before. Here is how you do it: Simply add <a href=”http://yourlinkhere…”>The Words You Want To Link</a>. If this still doesn’t make sense you can learn more about manually adding a link into text on the W3C Schools Website.

Changing the site an image links to

To change the website an image links to, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the image into your post
  2. Hover your mouse over the image. You will notice a couple of boxes appear on it in the top left hand corner. Click the “pen icon.” This will open the Image Details box.
  3. Now use the ‘Link To’ dropdown box to change the URL. You will need to select CUSTOM URL and manually input the new URL that you want the image to link to. By default it is set to the original image URL within the WP media library.

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Images and SEO

Images should include alternative text and title tags. The alternative text is what will display when the image does not load (or on a screenreader for the blind/poor-sighted), and the title tag is what will display when you hover your mouse over the image. It’s better to add the title tag only after you’ve inserted the image into the post as WP strips it out if you do it right after uploading the image.

Do not remove the image’s native URL if you want it to show up in Google Images.

If possible, once the image has been inserted into the Visual Editor, click the image and click ‘edit image’. Go into Advanced options and make sure that the box “open link in a new window” is checked.

How to deal with an infographic

If you are going to embed an infographic in your post here’s what you need to do:

  1. Upload it as you would a normal image. Make sure you are uploading the best version – sent through by the designer. Given we now have a cap on image size (2mb max), you will either need to ask the dev team to lift it for the image, or you will need to compress the image. Make sure quality is still high enough. Here is a site you can use to compress images.
  2. Use the embed code plugin to generate an embed code that will display below the graphic once the post is live. This will allow others to embed our graphic on their own site. See the image below for instructions on how to complete this area.

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4. Blog post pre-live setup

Before a blog post can bet set live, it will need the following:

  • Featured image
  • Categories (do not use uncategorized but do not create new categories). Remember to choose one of the four categories at the top, and the category in the right-hand sidebar and any relevant sub-categories. For example in the Funding category, a subcategory may be “loans and grants.”

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  • Logical tags (to help us file content). You can create new tags.
  • Check the correct author has been selected for the post
  • The URL should have no special symbols within it like & or * or $ or anything else. URL should be manually created with keywords in mind. Shorten REALLY long URLs. WordPress will tell you if you have duplicated a pre-existing URL. Don’t worry. Try to use keywords within your URL and make it user friendly.
  • Excerpts—create an excerpt that will encourage people to read the article. This should be a short, enticing description. If you like, you can use the same content you used for your meta description. The excerpt will be the text that is displayed alongside the featured image in the blog feed (for our site on bplans.com).
  • Complete the meta data
  • Complete CoSchedule data based on these social media sharing guidelines

5. Meta data

Meta title

62 characters in length.

Meta description

Create fresh for each post. Manual. 165 characters. Full sentence. What shows in search so make it enticing and user friendly. Don’t be spammy, be human.

6. Grammar and whatnot

Numbers should be written out in full unless used within the Subject/H1 or within a calculation. 1-9 in numeral format fine. Percentages as you see fit so long as you are consistent.

Periods and commas are placed inside the closing quotation mark: “to finish the meeting on time.”

Colons and semicolons are placed outside the closing quotation mark: we are the “editorial team”: writers, marketers, etc

Question marks and exclamation points can be placed inside or outside the closing quotation mark. Example: “How are you?” I asked. The question mark is placed inside the closing quotation in this instance because the entire quoted material – How are you – is a question. Another example: Have you read the report, “Successful Startup Businesses”? Here, the question mark is placed outside the closing quotation mark because the entire sentence is a question.

Words to capitalize: languages, religions, races and peoples; descriptive names or nicknames (the First Lady); words derived from proper names (Californian); academic degrees following a personal name whether abbreviated or written in full (Tina Allen, Master of Social Sciences); course titles (Anthropology 101); days of the week; months; holidays and holy days; periods and events in history (Reformation, War of 1812); special events (Rose Parade); official documents (Bill of Rights); planets, continents, streets, roads and highways; states and cities; sections of a country or continent (the Southwest); landforms (Mojave Desert, Rocky Mountains); bodies of water (Lake Michigan); public areas (Yellowstone National Park); family members and specific classes (Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Class of ’70)

Fun list of Briana’s pet peeves:

Hi, it’s Briana, copy editor for Bplans/LivePlan blog/other PAS stuff. Here are some grammar/formatting things that should be avoided.

  • Dashes: a hyphen (-) joins concepts and similar (three-year-old, etc.); an en dash (–) is used to mark time span (i.e., “chapters 1–19”); an em dash is used similar to a semi colon, a parenthesis, or a comma (for example “Make sure you turn the oven on—don’t forget—and preheat it to 400.”).
  • The em dash is not to be replaced by a hyphen, a double hyphen, an en dash, or anything that isn’t an em dash. It should also not have any spaces around it—like this.
  • Speaking of spaces, no double spacing after periods. Single spacing only.
  • Punctuation goes inside quotation marks. Correct: “I pet the fluffy dog.” Incorrect: “I pet the fluffy dog”.
  • Exceptions to the above rule include punctuation marks that are not a part of the quoted statement (So what does she mean when she says “I don’t like the ballet”?) and semicolons/colons (see above section).
  • Speaking of quotation marks, use double quotation marks (“this” versus ‘this’) for all quoted material, with the exception of a quote within a quote (“And I said, ‘What do you mean, you don’t like cake?'”).
  • Hyperlinks should contain all “small” punctuation (for example, this is correct, while this is not. However, if you were linking something like this—followed by an em dash or a parenthesis—you wouldn’t include that punctuation).
  • All hyperlinks should open in a new window (except for links to internal content)
  • Defer to American grammar and spelling rules (gray over grey, and so on).
  • Etc. should only be used when the omitted and implied rest of the list is intuitive. This article has a good explanation.
  • Defer to AP style standards for 99% of things.
  • Exceptions include e-anything. AP style uses e-book; we use ebook. Ebook for start of sentence, eBook in titlecase and when not the start of a sentence, and ebook everywhere else.
  • Internet is lowercase (i.e. “Do a search on the internet.”)
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