Lessons from the Wired Style Guide

I was looking through my first edition copy of Wired Style – Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age edited by Constance Hale and it struck me that many of the sections in the book were also maxims for bloggers and those involved in social media.

 

Wired Style Guide sleeve

So I decided to convert these titles into the maxims I had imagined:

  • Voice is paramount – a blog is a deeply personal thing and the challenge at first is finding your ‘blog voice’. This takes time to establish. It needs to be true to yourself and have enough cojones to express your opinions
  • Be elite – In the words of Wired: “Shared knowledge connects the writer and the reader. It forms the bridge from the type on the page (or the screen) to the deeper meanings and nuances for words”. This comes down to seeking knowledge, knowing your readership and the norms of the subcultures that they belong to. Even if you don’t belong to a community act like you do
  • Transcend the technical – there is so much written about the technical aspects of the web, be prepared to get beyond that at the end of the day it is people like you that social in social media
  • Capture the colloquial – So much of what makes a community is the informal lexicon that is particular to them. Think about Twitter in the course of a couple of years we now have the Fail Whale, twitterati, twitterverse, RT (re-tweet). Capturing this colloquial language in your writing helps to put your work in the midst of your readership subculture
  • Anticipate the future – Whilst we are more likely to get predictions of the future wrong, it also makes great copy. If you are going to anticipate the future, think about the things that are unchanging in life: the need for self-expression or the need to belong being two unchanging requirements for people in general
  • Screw the rules – Rules are made to be broken and knowing when to break them. Going against rules or expectations is a great way to inspire creativity – gorillas don’t really play the drums
  • Grok the media – The style guide defines grok as “A verb meaning to scan all available information regarding a stiuation, digest it and form a distilled opinion.” Being a ferocious reader of blogs, books, papers and the mainstream media makes you a better blogger. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll at least be better informed
  • Go global – Global village used to be a cliche that would be bandied around before globalisation made middle-class people think that their future is under threat, since then an international outlook has taken on a more sinister tone. However looking at international trends: from mobile marketing in South Africa to social networking in Japan allows us to better understand how technology and culture interact and increases the likelihood of being able to anticipate the future