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1 the internet marketing written style guide

the internet marketing

written
style guide

Aa
An Introduction
to Written Style
Guidelines
for Internet
Marketing

A publication of

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IS THIS BOOK RIGHT FOR ME?


Not quite sure if this ebook is right for you? See the below description to determine if
your level matches the content you are about to read.

INTRODUCTORY This ebook!


Introductory content is for marketers who are new to the subject.
This content typically includes step-by-step instructions on how
to get started with this aspect of inbound marketing and learn its
fundamentals. After reading it, you will be able to execute basic
marketing tactics related to the topic.

INTERMEDIATE
Intermediate content is for marketers who are familiar with the
subject but have only basic experience in executing strategies and
tactics on the topic. This content typically covers the fundamentals
and moves on to reveal more complex functions and examples.
After reading it, you will feel comfortable leading projects with this
aspect of inbound marketing.

ADVANCED
Advanced content is for marketers who are, or want to be, experts
on the subject. In it, we walk you through advanced features of
this aspect of inbound marketing and help you develop complete
mastery of the subject. After reading it, you will feel ready not only

Share This Ebook! to execute strategies and tactics, but also to teach others how to
be successful.

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HubSpot’s All-in-One
Marketing Software
U q
Lead
Generation
blogging &
social media

... brings your whole marketing world to-

M s
gether in one, powerful, integrated system.

Get Found: Help prospects find you online Email & Search
Convert: Nurture your leads and drive conversions
Analyze: Measure and improve your marketing
Automation optimization
Plus more apps and integrations

Request A Demo Video Overview


g Y
Lead
management
Marketing
analytics

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the internet marketing


written style guide
By Beth Dunn

Beth Dunn is a UX Manager at HubSpot, where


she writes and edits copy for the HubSpot
product. A former copy editor at Random
House, Beth also writes about history and food
for The History Channel, is a regular contributor
to the history blog Wonders & Marvels, and
writes about everything else on her personal
blog, bethdunn.com.
Follow me on twitter
@bethdunn

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COntents

what is a house style guide? /10

how to create your style guide /17

how to implement your style guide /25

HubSpot Written Style Guide /28

conclusion & additional resources /67

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“ Your effectiveness as an
inbound marketer relies on


the quality of your content.

Your effectiveness as an inbound marketer relies on the quality of your content. Your
content is what helps you get found online, build trust with your readers, educate
and inform them as a pathway to conversions, and sustain ongoing and profitable
relationships with loyal customers for years to come.

And it all comes down to your content.

So why are so many businesses satisfied to let poorly edited, inconsistent, and
grammatically incorrect copy ruin their online credibility and stymie their efforts
before they’ve even begun?

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We’re All Publishers Now


One of the central tenets of inbound marketing is that every business is a media
business. Every marketer needs to be a publisher.

Businesses that blog regularly get 55% more traffic than businesses that don’t.
Frequency of blogging also matters in lead generation. We have found that
businesses that blogged just 16 to 20 times per month got three times more leads
than ones that didn’t blog.

The importance of consistent, quality content creation to maintaining an effective


online marketing strategy has by now been firmly established.

But few businesspeople


or marketers consider
themselves writers and
editors by trade. And yet now
we find ourselves having
to blog regularly, create
marketing offers like ebooks
and whitepapers, and post
updates on social media
sites nearly every day.

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We are constantly writing copy for our website pages, landing pages and
marketing emails. We build presentations and reports, and pitch PR ideas to
reporters and industry leaders. In other words, good writing is an indispensable
part of a strong inbound marketing presence.

Marketing Offers
Blog

Social Media

Landing Pages

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writing
Email
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So many of us have become accidental authors, accidental editors, and accidental


publishers. It’s time to equip yourself properly for these new roles. With a house style
guide, you can ensure that you’re publishing content that is well written, persuasive,
and trustworthy. A style guide can help you manage a stable of guest bloggers or
occasional content creators from inside and outside your organization, and can
ensure that your brand voice is consistent across all channels, no matter who’s been
writing your copy that day. What is more, improving your writing across different
marketing channels will solidify the credibility of your brand and help you build an
image of a thought leader in your field.

It’s easy to create your own house style guide. All it takes is a few basic resources, a
solid understanding of your brand voice, and a plan for execution.

But first it might be useful to explain exactly what a house style guide is.

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CHAPTER 1

what is a
house style
guide?

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“ Style manuals are reference books


that tell writers how to handle
grammar and punctuation and special


cases of usage.

When was the last time you had to write a paper for school? If your teacher or
professor insisted that you follow “Chicago” rules or the “AP” stylebook or even “APA”
guidelines, then you’ve used a type of style guide. All of these are examples of style
manuals, and they are the building blocks of your house style guide.

Style manuals are reference books that tell writers how to handle grammar and
punctuation and special cases of usage. Each style manual is written for a particular
community of writers and readers. AP style is geared toward journalistic writing.
Chicago is favored by academic writers and editors. And APA is most often used by
the scientific community. Each style guide goes beyond the usual “how to use an
apostrophe” and “what’s a dangling modifier” to cover cases that would only arise
in that particular field of study. So there might be rules governing how to handle
scientific notation, the capitalization of Latin terminology, or how to cite references
from the internet.

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The point is that while there are basic rules of the English language that almost
everybody can and will agree on, each field tends to have its own quirky way of
handling jargon and industry terms that frequently arise.

For a long time, book and magazine publishing houses have used internal (“house”)
style guides to cover the special cases that tended to come up in the types of books
and articles they publish. Usually, these take the form of simply documenting which
of the major style manuals (AP, Chicago, etc.) they rely on for most questions, and
then listing the exceptions for which they either disagree with the major style manual

H
or which the major style manual doesn’t address.

This is exactly the sort of style guide


you’ll be creating for your business.
Every business is a publishing
house of its own, remember? Well,
house
every publishing house needs a
style guide
house style guide.

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What’s in a House Style Guide?


In a house style guide you will find these items:

A Style Manual

Most house style guides begin by referring to the style manual that they are built
around. It’s usually enough to simply write, “Acme Corporation uses AP style with a
few exceptions.” Then your writers (guest bloggers, content contributors, freelance
writers, interns) know that for most things they should refer to the AP guide (readily
available online and in bookstores), but for a few specific items, they should refer to
your house style guide.

The rest of your house style guide should cover


commonly used words and phrases that are specific
to your field -- and are therefore not covered by your
apa
Style Guide
www.apastyle.org
chosen style manual -- or those cases in which you
want to disagree with the established style manual
and carve your own path.

ap
Style Guide

mla
www.apstylebook.com

chicago
Style Guide
Style
Share ThisGuide
Ebook! www.chicagomanualofstyle.org
www.mla.org/style

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For instance, for many years the AP style guide (which is the most commonly used
by online writers and journalists) has ruled that “e-mail” must be written with a
hyphen, and “Web site” must be written as two words and with a capital “w.” But
the widespread practice online has been to write “email” (without a hyphen) and
“website” (one word, lowercase), and this is the practice that most online writers have
preferred, no matter what the AP guide told them to do.

e-mail email
Web site website
It was only very recently that the AP style guide has relented and changed their
recommendation to the more common “email” and “website.” So now companies
that follow “AP style with a few exceptions” simply find themselves with two fewer
exceptions that they need to document. and the companies that stuck with whatever
the ap guide recommended can change their ways.

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A dictionary

The next component of a house style guide is the designated dictionary of choice.

Believe it or not, there


are significant variations
between dictionaries. !
So to eliminate arguments over which spelling or definition is the accepted one in
your company’s writing, you’ll want to choose your house dictionary and mention it at
the start of your house style guide.

So for instance, HubSpot’s house style guide begins as follows:

HubSpot uses AP Style with some exceptions: See the 2011 AP Stylebook
for reference. For questions of spelling, use the online Merriam-Webster
Dictionary. Use the first spelling listed.

Dictionaries are particularly useful when you’re trying to decide if a compound word
(a word composed of two individual words) should be hyphenated, combined into one
word, or left as two separate words.

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Many compound words change how they’re treated over time as they become more
familiar and mainstream (usually the trend is from two words used in succession,
to two words hyphenated, to finally being combined into one, new word), so it’s
important to look it up to find out what the current usage is.

exceptions

d
Once you’ve determined what your main style manual
will be (e.g., AP, Chicago, APA) and what your main
dictionary will be (e.g., Merriam-Webster, Oxford),
the rest of your house style guide will consist of
exceptions and additions to these two references.

So basically, it’s up to you how you want to handle exceptions. You might want to look
at what other writers in your field do, and follow the most commonly used rule you
can find. But it’s your style guide, so if you want to insist on capitalizing “Web site”
and hyphenating “e-mail,” you can.

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CHAPTER 2

how to
create your
style guide

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Create Your House Style Guide in


Three Easy Steps
Now you are probably eager to create your own house style guide and start using it
across your different marketing assets. Here are three easy steps to get started:

1 choose your style manual

Most online writers choose AP style as their primary reference for questions of
punctuation, grammar, and usage. If you haven’t looked at a style guide since you
were in school (and even then, you might have wiggled out of it), take a look at the
AP Style Guide sometime. It’s full of excellent, down-to-earth advice on how to write
clear, clean prose that your readers will understand and enjoy.

That’s the real goal of any good style guide, after all -- not to serve as some dictatorial
overlord, correcting everyone’s mistakes. We’re creating content because we want
to help people -- specifically because we want to help people who would benefit from
becoming our customers.

“ And writing good, clean copy that’s


easy to understand is a big part of


being helpful.

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2 choose your dictionary

Merriam-Webster seems to be the dictionary of choice these days, not least because
they have an excellent and readily available website that you can use to look up
words whenever you’re wondering about a stray hyphen or need a reminder on that
pesky “i before e” rule.

But if you’re the type who’d never be parted from your OED (and if you have one of
these in your office, then we salute you) or you swear by the edition of the Collegiate
dictionary you bought your freshman year in college, then more power to you. The
choice is yours. Just remember that you’ll be asking everyone in your organization to
use the same reference tools, so make sure you have enough copies to go around.

3 list your exceptions

Your style guide is meant to be a living document. So the pressure isn’t on right now
to list out every single industry term or exception that you might ever want to express
an opinion on. But it shouldn’t be too hard to get started.

Read through some of your more recent blog posts. Look for any jargon that only
people in your field would use, or words that your profession uses in a slightly
different way than the rest of the world.

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Check for:

acronyms

abbreviations

hyphenated words

?
Which ones are you always having to look up? Which
ones have your customers asked you to explain or
define? This should give you a good starter list of
industry terms that you’ll want to list in your style
guide. Remember: You might know how to use these
words and abbreviations, but what about a guest
blogger? An intern? A new hire? Save yourself time
now and document how you’d like these terms treated
in your company’s writing.

The next step might be to ask an outsider to your field to look at your writing and point
out any odd usages. It’s hard as an insider to notice when you’ve started adopting
industry-specific meanings of commonly used words in your writing, but somebody
from outside your organization or profession can usually spot them without breaking
a sweat. When they point out words and phrases to you, don’t argue -- just mark
them down, define them, and record how you’d like them to be used. Is it a noun? An
adjective? Does it always get hyphenated, or only sometimes? Why?

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Optional: A Section on Voice


Your style guide is also a great place to document the
kind of brand voice you want your content to convey.
Is your company a hip, young, smart-alecky sort of
brand? Or is it the staid voice of reason? Traditional
and restrained, or outspoken and brash? Playful?
Snarky? Tender? Sweet?

Write down how you want your brand to be perceived online. Ask yourself:

What kind of personality is it you’re trying to sell to?

What kind of personality are your best customers most likely to buy from?

Dive into the work you did when you developed your marketing personas. Every brand
needs a voice, and your style guide should help you define and protect that voice over
time.

For instance, say you invite an industry professional to be a guest author on your
blog. While an outsider doesn’t need to conform to your brand voice, it would be very
helpful to be able to give your guest bloggers guidelines so that they don’t stick out
like a sore thumb.

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Your readers have come to know and trust you by the voice you’ve used in the past.
Don’t run the risk of alienating them by a sudden shift or a turn toward inconsistency.

Consider writing down how you want to handle bad news and apologies. If your voice
section only says that your brand is “playful and fun,” you might find yourself (or your
well intentioned new hire or intern) writing and publishing some wildly inappropriate

?
messaging when a different tone is called for.

How will you handle apologies? Bad news? If not


playful and fun, then what will your brand sound
like then? Documenting all of this in your style
guide means that you don’t have to dither over
word choice and tone when you’re in the middle of
handling a crisis.

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Optional: A Section on Microcopy


Microcopy is all of those often overlooked “little
words” you’ve got sprinkled all over your website.

p
The words you use on your call-to-action (CTA)
buttons (do you say “Click here!” or “Download
now” or “Gimme”), the language you use in
error messages, the alert emails you send your
newsletter subscribers when they sign up for your
mailings -- these are all examples of microcopy,
and they can be as important if not more
important than the writing you do on your blog.

!
Include a section on microcopy in your style guide. Do
you use exclamation marks in your CTA buttons or not?
Do you use all caps in your text links? How do your email
subscriber notifications convey your brand voice? These
might all seem like inconsequential details, but in fact
they are the quintessential little things that add up to a

;
lot when it comes to building trust, growing rapport, and
persuading your readers to take that vital next step in your
business relationship. Write down in your style guide how
you want to let microcopy speak for you and your brand.

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Let’s Get Started


Use the HubSpot House Style Guide as a template for creating your own house style
guide. We’ve included terms and exceptions that crop up frequently among internet
marketers and other online denizens (when do you hyphenate “call to action” and
“log in?” how do you handle company names that aren’t capitalized? and so on), so
you might find our style guide a good place to start.

Scroll down to the HubSpot House Style Guide and read it through a few times.
Highlight what works, what doesn’t work, and what you disagree with. Some of our
rules were subject to fierce internal debate before we set it down in our guide, so
there’s plenty of room for disagreement. Add and delete until you’re satisfied that
your style guide truly reflects the needs and voice of your organization.

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CHAPTER 3

how to
implement
your style
guide

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Using Your Style Guide


The best style guide is worthless if it’s not put into practice. Learn how to use your
style guide and incorporate it into your everyday workflow so that your online content
is as crisp and compelling as it possibly can be.

g
Involve others

Even if you’re the final authority in your company,


elicit the opinions of others when you’re drafting your
style guide. If you’re using the HubSpot style guide
+
as a template, ask them to review it and give you
their thoughts. Include people from all areas of your
company. Invite friends from outside your organization
and from outside your field to chime in.

Ask any writer friends you might have about their pet peeves (all writers have them,
in spades). Get it all down, even if you disagree. You can always take things out or
modify them later.

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Make it visible

E
Once you’re happy with your style guide, print it out
and post it in your office. Save it as an easily accessed
word file or Google doc in your company’s shared
space. Post it on your internal wiki, if you have one.
Whatever you do, make sure that everyone in your
company knows that you care about the quality of the
writing you’re putting out there. And don’t just restrict
it to blog posts and marketing, either.

Everyone who writes emails to customers, everyone who tweets on your behalf,
everyone who posts under your name on Facebook should know about your style
guide and how it can help them represent your brand and voice to the best of their
ability.

revise it as needed

Times change, and so will you. Revisit your style guide when necessary to make sure
it still represents how you want to be writing for your company. As your business
matures and grows, so might your voice. As you expand your content creation and
blogging, you might need to add more guidelines for guest bloggers and freelancers.
And as the English language changes and evolves, you’ll find that the exceptions
you’ve listed might evolve with time, too.

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CHAPTER 4

HubSpot
Written
Style Guide

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Get a head start on creating
your house style guide with


HubSpot’s template below.

Let a house style guide help you build your credibility, maintain your brand voice, and
give your customers content they’ll want to share with their friends. Good, compelling
content starts with a style guide. Get one today.

Want to get a head start on creating your house style guide? Use HubSpot’s as a
starting point and template.

General Style Guidelines

Capitalization

Punctuation

Numbers

Attribution
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G eneral
guidelines
AP Style

HubSpot uses AP Style with some exceptions: See the 2011 AP Stylebook for
reference.

Merriam-Webster

For questions of spelling, use the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Use the first
spelling presented, and note that word presentations in the dictionary supersede the
stylebook.

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Capitalization
Titles of People and Terms Within Text

People

Capitalize a person’s title only when it’s used directly before a name. This rule
includes titles pertaining to government positions (like president, senator, mayor,
ambassador, chief justice), religious positions (like pope, cardinal, rabbi), and other
organizational positions (like chair, treasurer, general manager).

2 Dharmesh Shah is the founder and chief technology officer of HubSpot.

2 HubSpot Founder and Chief Technology Officer Dharmesh Shah

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2
2

2
She was appointed ambassador to the
United Nations by President Obama.

The president returned to the Oval


Office to greet the pope.

Pope Benedict XVI succeeded Pope


John Paul II.
2
The school was treated to a visit by former President Jimmy Carter.

2 Shan Chu was named general manager of the Chicago region.

2 General Manager Shan Chu began her career in the mailroom.

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Terms

Within sentences, do not capitalize inbound marketing topics such as blogging, social
media, search engine optimization, marketing analytics, lead generation, online
video, etc. These are not proper nouns and, therefore, should not be capitalized. An
exception is when these nouns refer specifically to paid applications in the HubSpot
software, as in the HubSpot Blogging tool. In these cases, the word “tool” or “report”
is not capitalized, but the name of the app is capitalized.

Titles of Published works

Always use title case.

Capitalize the first and last words, regardless of the


2 length of the word or the part of speech.

Capitalize all nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and


2 pronouns, regardless of the length of the word.

Capitalize prepositions of four or more letters (like


2 over, from, and with).

Capitalize conjunctions of four or more letters (like


2 unless and than), as well as if and how and why.

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Do not capitalize:

- Articles (a, an, and the)

- Prepositions of three or fewer letters (such as of, in, and for)

- Most conjunctions of three or fewer letters (like as, and, or, and but)

- The “to” in the infinitive form (e.g. to Blog)

Examples:

2 “Don’t Fence Me In”

2 “Walk With Me in Moonlight”

2 “Turn Off the Lights, I’m Home” (“Off” is an adverb here, part of the

phrasal verb “turn off.”)

2 “She Took the Deal off the Table” (Here, “off” is a preposition.)

2 “What If I Do, What If She Won’t”

2 “The Least She Could Do Is Cry”

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Branded Lowercase Proper Nouns

If the first word in a title is a proper noun that begins with a lowercase letter (like
iPhone or danah boyd), try to reorder the title so that you can capitalize the name as
the company or person usually does. If such a noun falls elsewhere in the title, use
the company’s capitalization style (iPhone). For instance, “Sales of iPod Soar.”

Numbers in Titles

For specific instructions on how to handle numbers in titles, see section on Numbers.

Hyphenated Compounds in Titles

If a hyphenated compound appears in title-style capitalization, capitalize the first


word, and capitalize all subsequent words in the compound except for articles (a,
an, and the), prepositions of three or fewer letters (like to and of), and coordinating
conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so). Ask yourself: If this word weren’t in a
hyphenated compound, would I capitalize it? If the answer is yes, capitalize it as part
of the hyphenated compound, too.

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Examples:

The Big Spender’s Budget How-To (Capitalize any word, even “to,” at the
2 beginning or end of a title.)

2 Author of How-to Book on Bee-Keeping Prone to Anaphylaxis

2 Governor Slams E-Book About Her Re-Election Campaign

2 Consumers Prefer Eco-Friendly and Cheap Products

2 Two-Thirds Vote Needed to Fund Research Into Blue-Green Algae Biofuel

2 Profits Double on Word-of-Mouth Sales

2 Audiences Love His Man-About-Town Sophistication

2 Open Your Own eBay-Based Boutique

additional
Verbs (even short ones like is, be, and do) should always be
capitalized. No matter how short, pronouns such as he, she, it, me,
tips
and you) should be capitalized. Capitalize both parts of phrasal verbs,
multi-word verbs that include adverbs such as up and out (for example,
tune in and hold on). Phrasal verbs don’t include the infinitive to form
of a verb (to be, to run)—so lowercase the word to in such a verb.

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Company and Product Names

Follow an organization’s conventions as to how it capitalizes and punctuates its


names. Many organizations (for example, FedEx) incorporate intercaps, or capital
letters in the middle of the name. Other organizations, such as Yahoo!, incorporate
punctuation characters in their names. Some examples include:

2 iPod 2 Visa

2 iPod shuffle 2 MasterCard

2 IHOP 2 Digg

2 PayPal 2 YouTube

additional

In some cases, you may not be able to replicate a graphic symbol used in a
tips
name. WALL·E, for instance, is difficult to reproduce and is generally spelled
with a hyphen. When in doubt, look at some of the organization’s press
releases or at its copyright page if it has one.

For company, product, and website names that use all-lowercase letters, use an initial
capital letter as you would for most other proper nouns. Otherwise, the names are hard
to distinguish in text. For company names that include a capital letter somewhere (like
eBay or iPod), follow the company’s capitalization in most situations—even an internal
capital letter will alert the reader that the word or phrase is a proper noun.

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Pronouns Referring to Companies

When referring to your own or to another company, use the third-person singular
pronouns it and its. In the United States, a company is treated as a collective noun
and requires a singular verb and a singular pronoun.

The company anticipates an increase in its third-quarter spending.


2 (Singular verb, singular possessive “its”)

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Punctuation
APostrophe

For plural nouns that don’t already end in s, add an apostrophe and an s (’s) to the
end of the word. For nouns (singular or plural) that already end in s, just add an
apostrophe. Here are some examples:

2 Jesus’ words

2 Arkansas’ legislature

2 The witness’ testimony

2 Many businesses’ services

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Colon

In a sentence, capitalize the first word after the colon if what follows the colon could
function alone as a complete sentence. Use a single space following the colon. Place
colons outside quotation marks when used together. Here are some examples:

2 This is it: the chance we’ve been waiting for!

2 This is it: We’ll never have to work again!

I feel sad when I hear the ending to “The Road Not Taken”: “And that has
2 made all the difference.”

Comma

In a series consisting of three or more elements, separate the elements with


commas. When a conjunction (like, and, or or) joins the last two elements in a series,
include a comma before the conjunction. Here are some examples:

2 He went to Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe for financial advice.

When using an ampersand in place of and in a series (acceptable only in company


names and when space is severely limited, as in a headline), do not insert a comma
before it. The combination of comma and ampersand creates visual clutter.

2 He went to Dewey, Cheatem & Howe for financial advice.

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hyphen

A hyphen is used to mean to, up to and including, or through in a range of numbers,


dates, game scores, pages, and so on. It is also used to construct a compound
adjective that includes a proper noun of more than one word. (New York, Queen
Elizabeth, Lake Baikal, and World War II are all multiword proper nouns.) If you are
unsure whether a word combination should be two words, two hyphenated words, or
one compound word, check the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was president during the American Civil


2 War (1861-1865).

Jim was interested in the pre-Civil War era. (En dash connecting two-word
2 proper noun “Civil War” with prefix “pre-”)

em dash

Use an em dash to set apart entire phrases from the main body of a sentence, and
separate the dashes from the words that precede and follow it with a space. When a
date range has no ending date, use an em dash instead.

The last place she expected to find him -- if she ever found him at all -- was
2 in the back seat of her car.

2 Mick Jagger (1943—), Brian Jones (1942-1969), and Keith Richards


(1943—) were among the band’s original members.

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Numbers
numbers in titles

Use numerals for cardinal and ordinal numbers in headlines, email subject lines, and
HTML page titles.

2 In Pamplona, 8 Injured in “Running of the Bulls” (Headline)

2 Subject: Presentation file 1 of 2 attached (Email subject line)

2 5th Grader Wins 1st Place in Spelling Bee (Headline)

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cardinal numbers

Spell out cardinal numbers (one, two, and so on) and ordinal numbers (first, second,
and so on) below 10, but use numerals for numbers 10 and above.

Percentages

When expressing percentages, always use numerals and the percentage sign. Do not
spell out percentages.

Time

Always use a.m. and p.m. for indicating time. Use Eastern Standard Time (EST) when
observing standard time (winter), and Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) when observing
daylight saving time (summer).

2 Read reviews of more than 350 restaurants in your city.

2 Aunt Bea’s pickles won first place at the fair.

2 With a premium license, install the software on three computers.

Does your building have a 13th floor?


2
The study revealed that 8% of respondents were ambivalent.
2
The webinar will be held on Friday, August 27 at 4 p.m. EDT.
2
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numerals as coordinates

Use numerals when referring to numbers that a person must type, such as for
coordinates in tables and worksheets, and for parts of a document, such as page
numbers or line references.

Type 5 and press Enter.


2
Select row 3, column 5 of the worksheet.
2
Refer to line 9 of the transcript.
2
Numerals in Categories

If a passage contains two or more numbers that refer to the same category of
information and one is 10 or higher, use numerals for all numbers referring to
that category. When numbers are treated consistently, readers can recognize the
relationship between them more easily.

2 The delegation included 3 women and 11 men.

2 He was the 9th person chosen for the 10-person team.

2 The most popular vote-getters included three women and nine men.

2 Only 3 women and 11 men attended the four-day event.

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large numbers

Express large and very large numbers in numerals followed by million, billion, and so
forth. If expressing a number greater than 999 in numerals, use a comma.

2 5 billion people

2 1,200 years ago

Millions and billions

When stating million or billion with a numeral, don’t hyphenate, even before a noun.
But do use a hyphen between the numeral and million or billion if the expression is
part of a compound adjective that takes a hyphen elsewhere.

A $6 million lawsuit
2
The 400-million-served mark
2
If space is tight (for example, in headlines, tables, diagrams, or text messages), some
abbreviations are acceptable.

mil (million). See “mil.”


2
bil (billion). See “bil.”
2
K (thousand) - Among other things, K can stand for thousand, kilobytes,
2 kilobits, and kilograms. Use K only if its meaning is clear from the context.

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46 the internet marketing written style guide

at the beginning of a sentence

Avoid starting a sentence with a numeral. If you can’t avoid it, spell out the number.

- 450 gamers participated in last night’s chat.

2 Four hundred and fifty gamers participated in last night’s chat.

2 Last night, 450 gamers participated in the chat.

A year may be written in numerals at the beginning of a sentence. It’s okay to start a
headline with a numeral if space is tight or if the numeral makes the headline more
eye-catching or easier to scan or understand.

1967 was the Summer of Love in San Francisco.


2
8 Diet Tips
2
Two 5-Year-Old Boys Found; One Still Missing
2
ordinals and suffixes

Avoid expressing ordinals with superscript letters (such as 10th, 11th, and so on).
Ordinals with superscript formatted in a word processor may not display correctly
in some places, such as email, and the use in writing of these suffixes is becoming
increasingly archaic. Do not use “th” endings or their equivalent when stating dates
(i.e., do not write Join us on June 10th).

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attribution
It’s important to properly cite sources in all HubSpot publications, whether online,
printed, or projected. If you’ve got a case not covered here, find a way to attribute your
source that seems appropriate to the medium. Choosing not to cite your source is an
unacceptable alternative.

link attribution

When including links in external content such as blog posts and ebooks, use anchor
text when possible. Linking to other articles and websites is a best practice.

HubSpot sells inbound marketing software.


2
Check out HubSpot.com for more information. (When including links in
2 presentations, you can use the domain as anchor text.)

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48 the internet marketing written style guide

image attribution

When using photos or images from Flickr or another online source under the
Creative Commons license, they must be attributed. When attributing an image,
please use the following format and link back to the original source image using the
photographer’s name as anchor text.

2 Image Credit: Linked Source

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49 the internet marketing written style guide

c ommonly
Troublesome
words

a A/B test
alt text
Short for alternative text, which is text entered into the
HTML alt attribute associated with an image on a web page.

app
Short form of application. Plural: apps. Do not use if there’s
any room for confusion.

Also called split testing; at HubSpot, we use A/B testing and write it with the slash.

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b B2B
Abbreviation for business-to-business.

BA
Abbreviation for bachelor of arts. No periods.

best-seller (n.), best-selling (adj.)


Note hyphen.

beta
Capitalize beta if it is part of an official product name. Otherwise, lowercase it.

Sign up for the new Yahoo! Messenger beta. Try the beta version of Yahoo!
2 Messenger.

blog (n., adj., v.)


Preferred to weblog. (lowercase)

business-to-business
hyphenated (abbreviation: B2B)

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c
call-to-action, calls-to-action, CTA, CTAs
Always hyphenate when used as a noun (as in “call-to-
action” or “calls-to-action”) or an adjective (as in “call-
to-action button” or “call-to-action manager”). Whenever
possible, try to use CTA or CTAs instead of the hyphenated
version (it’s a mouthful!).

camera phone
Two words.

checkin (n.) check-in (adj.), check in (v.)


One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb.
(Usually refers to the social network Foursquare.)

cell phone (n., adj.)


Two words, no hyphen.

He left the message on my cell phone. Type in your cell phone number.
2

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52 the internet marketing written style guide

clickthrough (n., adj.), click through (v.)


One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb.

The company’s online ads consistently earn a high clickthrough rate. Click
2 through to the last page to see your score.

crowdsource, crowdsourcing

d
One word.

do’s and don’ts


Note the apostrophes. This is actually proper AP style.
However, it will always cause the editors in your readership
to have blinding migraines and send you hate mail, so try to
avoid using this construction if at all possible.

e
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e.g.
Abbreviation meaning for example. Note periods. Don’t
include a space after the first period. OK to use when space
is a consideration; otherwise, use for example, for instance,
or such as.

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53 the internet marketing written style guide

If used, always include a comma after the last period. See also “i.e.” and “ex.” as
each of these has different meanings and are not interchangeable.

2 Enter a search term (e.g., recipes, horoscopes, gifts) into the box.

ebook
All lowercase (in titles/headlines and at the beginning of sentences, capitalize the “e”
but not the “b”).

ecommerce

email (n., adj., v.)


One word, no hyphen. Plural: email messages and emails are both acceptable.

f
Facebook

Facebook Fan
One who “likes” something on Facebook; capitalize
(Exception: lowercase when saying “fans on Facebook”).

Facebook Page
Capitalize (Exception: lowercase when saying “pages on Facebook”).

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Facebook Profile
Capitalize (Exception: lowercase when saying “profiles on Facebook”).

Facebook Group
Capitalize (Exception: lowercase when saying “groups on Facebook”).

Foursquare

g
“F” is capitalized; “s” is lowercase.

geolocation
One word. The geographic location of an internet-
connected computer, or the process of determining that
location.

geotagging (n.), geotag (v.)


One word. The verb means to add geographic data (such as longitude and latitude
coordinates) to a photo or other media file.

Google
According to Google guidelines, it is not okay to use this trademark as a verb. Use
search, search for, or search on instead.

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55 the internet marketing written style guide

h
handheld (n.), hand-held (adj.)
The noun refers to a personal digital assistant, or PDA.

hashtag

homepage

how-to (n., adj.)


Note hyphen when used as a noun or an adjective. Plural noun: how-tos.

2 Your How-to Guide to Home Buying (headline set in title case)

2 Home-Buying How-To (another headline in title case)

i
i.e.
Abbreviation meaning that is. Note periods. Don’t include
a space after the first period. Okay to use when space is
a consideration; otherwise use that is, in other words, or
equivalent. If used, include a comma after the last period.
(Note that “i.e.” does not have the same meaning as “e.g.”)

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inbound marketing
Lowercase.

internet
Lowercase.

internet marketing

IT
Abbreviation for information technology. Abbreviation is always acceptable.

k
keyword, key word (n.)
One word when referring to terms that are used on a web
page to optimize it for search engines. Use two words in
other cases — for example, when key is a synonym for
primary or most important.

An SEO specialist can help you determine the best keywords to use on
2 your web page.

She heard little else that he said; the key word in the sentence was “love.”
2

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l
link bait

LinkedIn
“L” and “I” are capitalized.

login (n., adj.); log in, log in to (v.)


One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb,

m
which may be followed by the preposition to. Note that sign in is preferred because it
sounds less technical.

mashup (n., adj.), mash up (v.)


One word when used as a noun or an adjective.
Two words when used as a verb.

2 Anyone can create a mashup with the right technology.

2 Use our tool to mash up RSS feeds into a single view.

MBA
Abbreviation for master of business arts. No periods.

metadata (n.)
One word.

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n
news feed (n.)

news release
Use instead of “press release” whenever possible.

nonprofit

o
One word.

OK (n., v., adv.)


To be used interchangeably with okay. Do not use variations
such as Ok and o.k., which are incorrect.

opt-in (n., adj.), opt in (v.)


Hyphenated as a noun or an adjective. Two words as a verb.

p
2 The opt-in has been disabled.
To receive electronic statements, you must opt in.
2
page view
Two words. The viewing of a web page by one visitor.

Advertisers consider how many page views a site


2 receives when deciding where and how to advertise.
pay-per-click
Hyphenated (abbreviation: PPC).
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plugin (n., adj.), plug in (v.)

podcast

pop-up (n., adj.), pop up (v.)


Note hyphen when used as a noun or adjective. Not popup.
Two words when used as a verb.

2 Get rid of pop-ups before they pop up.


Stop pop-up ads from ever annoying you again.
2
PPC

r
Abbreviation for pay-per-click.

real-time (adj.), real time (n.)


Hyphenated when used as an adjective; not hyphenated
when used as a noun.

retweet

RSS
Acronym for Really Simple Syndication. All capitals. Abbreviation is always acceptable,
but avoid using RSS on its own, since few people know what it means. Use news feed,
RSS news feed, or RSS reader as appropriate.

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sscreen name

screenshot
salesperson, salespeople
One word.

screen capture

screencast

SEO
Abbreviation for search engine optimization.

setup (n., adj.), set up (v.)


One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb.

2 Set up your Yahoo! store.


2 Check your Yahoo! store setup.
2 Your setup fee has been waived.

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sign-in (n., adj.); sign in, sign in to (v.)


As a noun or an adjective, it’s hyphenated. As a verb, it’s two words, which may be
followed by the preposition to.

2 All visitors must sign in on the sign-in page.


2 Visitors can sign in to Yahoo! Mail automatically.
2 Choose your preferences for sign-in and security.

sign-out (n., adj.); sign out, sign out of (v.)


As a noun or an adjective, it’s hyphenated. As a verb, it’s two words, which may be
followed by the preposition of.

sign-up (n., adj.), sign up (v.)


Hyphenate when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb.

2 Sign up for the service.


2 Fill in the sign-up form.
2 Sign-up is free.

since
Not a synonym for “because.” Can be confused with the sense of “over the time
that has passed” rather than “as a result of.” Use “because” instead of since when
possible. Also applies to “due to” and “owing to” and “due to the fact that” and other,
needlessly wordy ways of saying “because.”

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site map

slideshow (n., adj.)

smartphone

SMB
Abbreviation for small and medium-size business (plural: SMBs).

SMO
Abbreviation for social media optimization.

social CRM
The word “social” here is lowercase. Abbreviation for social customer relationship
management, usually in regard to software platforms.

social network (n.), social-network (adj.)


Two words when used as a noun. Note hyphen when used as an adjective.

2 Social-network analysis is a key technique in modern sociology.


2 Add contacts to expand your social network.

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social networking (n.), social-networking (adj.)


Note hyphen when used as an adjective. Two words when used as a noun.

The social-networking phenomenon has really taken off.


2 To attract users, the site added social networking.
2
software-as-a-service
Lowercase; hyphenated (abbreviation: SaaS).

spam (n., adj., v.)


Lowercase when referring to unsolicited email or the act of sending such email.

startup (n., adj.), start up (v.)


One word when used as a noun or an adjective (not hyphenated).
Two words when used as a verb.

swag
Free goods. Not schwag or shwag.

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t
text (n., v.)
Short form of text message. Plural: texts. Other forms:
texted, texting.

2 Did you get my text?


2 Don’t text while driving.
2 She was texting during the lecture.

text message (n.)


Two words when used as a noun. Note hyphen when used as an adjective or a verb.

She had a heated text-message argument with her boyfriend.


2 Did you get my text message?
2 I’ll text-message you with the details.
2
touchscreen (n., adj.)

toward (not towards)

tweet

Twitter

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u
URL
All capitals. Stands for Uniform Resource Locator.
Abbreviation is always acceptable. Plural: URLs.

U.S. (n., adj.)


Abbreviation for United States. Note periods, no space. Not
US or U. S. The single exception is specifying currency in
prices; in this case, do not include the periods.

2 US $299.

USA
Abbreviation for United States of America. Abbreviation is always acceptable.

username

v
Lowercase, one word.

video camera

videoconference

voicemail
One word, lowercase. Not voice mail.

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w
web (n., adj.)
Lowercase.

webcam

webcast

webhook

webinar

web page

website

whitepaper

wiki
Lowercase. Plural: wikis.

word-of-mouth (n., adj.)


Note hyphens when used as a noun or adjective.

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conclusion
& additional
resources

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68 the internet marketing written style guide

“ Remember: In the world of


inbound marketing, your
writing is your business
card, your resume, and your


referrals all in one.

Your style guide should be a living document that grows and changes over time,
but just having one will help your business convey an image of trustworthiness and
stability to your readers. When your website visitors, blog subscribers, and email
recipients see that you care about the details of good writing, they know you care
about the details of making them happy.

Remember: In the world of inbound marketing, your writing is your business card,
your resume, and your referrals all in one. Your writing, in short, is your credibility.

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69 the internet marketing written style guide

Create content That


gets you leads
Find out how you can optimize
your blog, landing pages and
emails for conversion. Get a free
demo of the HubSpot all-in-one
marketing software.

http://bit.ly/Get-A-Demo-of-HS

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