23 Online Style Guides to Browse Through When You’re Not Busy Writing

Updated on September 6, 2019
Lovelli Fuad profile image

In addition to her short-lived academic career, Lovelli has been appointed for consulting roles within the areas of health and development.

The "Keep It Stupid Simple" (KISS) design principle of the 60s is a popular style still used today.
The "Keep It Stupid Simple" (KISS) design principle of the 60s is a popular style still used today. | Source

In case you’re not familiar with them, a style guide is a set of standards applied to the writing and the design of documents. Many of them are sold as digital products and in print; even more of them are freely available online. They are developed by publications, organizations, and certain fields of study, to provide uniformity within the styling and formatting of documents. These inspiring style guides are useful resources for writing for the web and for your personal branding project.


Links to these style guides can be found in the Further Reading section, at the very bottom.

1. The Data Journalism Handbook

Data journalism may sound like a fairly recent occupational trend, but it is actually nothing new. For as long as there has been data, there has been data journalism. The difference is we now have "open data." Anyone can explore a set of data for any purpose. Therefore, a data journalism handbook is a must-have for newsrooms.

Born out of a 48-hour workshop at Moz Fest 2011 in London, the Data Journalism Handbook 1.0 Beta includes chapters relevant to the newsroom of today, such as how to hire a hacker, how to use hackathons to draw in external expertise, and how to get data from the web.

2. The Envato Tuts+ Style Guide

A quick leafing through the Envato Tuts+ simple style guide for instructors will introduce you to the publication's use of voice and tone, its writing style, and the branding. This style guide accompanies Envato's other guides, the quick get started guide and the instructor guide, all of which are accessible from their website.

3. A List Apart

The design publication A List Apart has a concise little style guide it uses for house style. The guide includes sections on general information, image use, author bios and photos, and the more specific items, such as code blocks, punctuation, and capitalization.

4. The Global Experience Language

Although I do not often read articles published by the BBC, I find their Global Experience Language to be a useful resource to learn more about what can be learned from their user experience and their design experiments. Their guidelines are divided into Foundations, Design Patterns, and How-tos, which explains some of the reasoning behind some of the questionable choices the online publication often makes in its publishing.

5. The Guardian and Observer

An illustrated style guide covering how to write and edit for the Guardian, Observer, and theguardian.com indexed from A to Z and strangely ordered by date.

Writing may well be a way of talking without being interrupted.
Writing may well be a way of talking without being interrupted. | Source

6. The UK Government’s Guide for Digital Publishing and Services

A well laid out guidance with information on how to plan, write and manage online content for public consumption. This set of guidelines are prepared by the Government Digital Service and the Cabinet Office to help government editors and publishers create and edit documents and online pages. It is quite detailed and provides a standard for many aspects of publishing, including how to handle translations, graphs and charts, statistics, and topical pages.

7. Mailchimp's Content Style Guide

This style guide, created for Mailchimp employees, is one of the most comprehensive guides I've ever seen, and it has been made available on GitHub. Mailchimp covers all the basics of writing for the company and writing for different goals and purposes, such as writing legal content, email newsletters, writing for social media, and technical content.

8. The Writer

The Writer has a style guide they call “the famous house style guide” that also provides a standard for their brand. The Writer is a brand consultancy with offices in London and New York. It can even help your company create a style guide of your own, as stated in the short introduction to the style guide. The handbook is an inspiring, illustrated guide packed with useful information.

9. Google Developer Documentation Style Guide

If you are writing developer documentation or are planning to, the Google Developer style guide is a good place to refresh your knowledge. In the guide, you will find editorial information to help make decisions on how to structure and write your documentation. It is sort of a house style for Google-related docs. You will find an explanation of the common terminology used in codes, command-line syntax, UI elements and interaction.

10. USA Gov's Bilingual Style Guide

From the name, you can already get a sense of how important the guide will be. Bilingual content can be a challenge to create and difficult to consume. This inspiring guide covers the fundamentals of English and Spanish writing for the web, SEO, assets, and the delicate job of writing for marketing.

11. Federal Plain Language

The federal plain language guidelines are used for government websites and documents. The March 2011 guidelines are accessible from Plain Language government website, from which you can download the entire thing as PDF or Word doc. You will find useful tips on how to do things like repurposing print materials for web publication, address separate audience separately, how to conduct tests to explore ways your documents can be improved, and even some plain English humor.

Also from the Plain Language and Information Network, you will find a list of style guides for a number of federal governments, state governments, and international communities. Among them, the following are particularly interesting:

12. The Office of 18F Digital Services Agency's Content Guide

13. The Federal Aviation Administration's Plain Language Initiatives

14. The Securities and Exchange Commission's Handbook

Need inspiration for your social media style guide?
Need inspiration for your social media style guide? | Source

A Few Other Uses and Mentions of Style Guides

  • Submission guidelines - When preparing an article or a guest blog post for an online publication, you will sometimes find a number of handbooks and style guides mentioned. If you’re lucky, these handbooks and guides are free and can easily be found online, but many publications also use their own set of in-house style guides that may or may not be made accessible to you.
  • Open-source projects - Contributing to open-source projects will also require some familiarity with a set of standards. An example is WordPress, where you will find in-depth style guides, handbooks, and manuals. 15 The WordPress Codex is one of several online manuals for information and documentation from WordPress. It includes general information on how to get started, as well as details on using the platform and into the nitty-gritty of how to fight comment spam.
  • Peer review sites - Many online journals have a review system in place, where people evaluate the work of one or more people within their area of expertise. When conducting a review, before you even begin writing anything about anyone’s work, a reviewer is usually required to go through a series of “training” to familiarize themselves with the guidelines. In addition to the common writing styles of APA or MLA writing styles, each journal will have their own guidelines to follow.
  • Government websites - Some governments do their homework and would make their set of standards available to the public. These are very useful references for web developers and bloggers or anyone writing for the web. Some common examples are 16 Usability Gov, managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 17 the US Web Design System (USWDS) maintained by the Office of Products and Programs, 18 the digital style guide outline of the USDA, and 19 the Content Style Guide of the Government of Canada.
  • Coding sites - Coders rely on coding style guides to help them write codes. In addition to code implementation, the style guide could also include information related to design and branding. An example of this is 20 GitHub’s extensive CSS toolkit style guide and its 21 short guides for Ruby. 22 Google’s R Style Guide is an example of a community generated style guide.

  • Online encyclopedias - A free online encyclopedia like Wikipedia would have a comprehensive list of community guidelines on various general topics and topics specific to the community. 23 Wikipedia’s Manual of Style is a web of interconnected articles on every possible topic related to writing a Wiki article. If you like reading Wiki articles, you will love this style manual. Linked to the manual are various other articles on things like editing, basic copyediting, citing sources, tutorials, style tips, and many more.

Further Reading

  1. Chambers, L. (2011). Using Data Visualization to Find Insights in Data - The Data Journalism Handbook (J. Grey & L. Bounegru, Eds.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://datajournalismhandbook.org/1.0/en/index.html
  2. The Envato Tuts Style Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://styleguide.tutsplus.com/
  3. ALA Writers. (n.d.). A List Apart Style Guide. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://alistapart.com/about/style-guide
  4. BBC UX&D. (n.d.). BBC GEL Global Experience Language. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/gel
  5. The Guardian and Observer Style Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/info/series/guardian-and-observer-style-guide
  6. Guidance for Government Digital Publishing and Services. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.gov.uk/topic/government-digital-guidance
  7. Mailchimp. (n.d.). Welcome to the Mailchimp Content Style Guide. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://styleguide.mailchimp.com/
  8. The Writer. (n.d.). The Famous House Style Guide. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from http://www.thewriter.com/what-we-think/style-guide/
  9. Google Developer Documentation Style Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://developers.google.com/style/
  10. USAGov Bilingual Style Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.usa.gov/style-guide/table-of-contents
  11. Federal Plain Language Guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/
  12. 18F Content Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://content-guide.18f.gov/
  13. FAA Plain Language. (2013, September 03). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/plain_language/
  14. The Office of Investor Education and Assistance. (1998, August). A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents [PDF]. Washington, DC: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  15. The WordPress Codex. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://codex.wordpress.org/
  16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). HHS Web Standards and Usability Guidelines. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://guidelines.usability.gov/
  17. U.S. Web Design System: A Design System for the Federal Government. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://designsystem.digital.gov/
  18. Digital Style Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.usda.gov/media/digital/digital-style-guide
  19. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. (2018, November 19). Canada.ca Content Style Guide. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/government-communications/canada-content-style-guide.html
  20. Primer. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://primer.style/
  21. GitHub. (n.d.). Ruby Style Guide. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://github.com/github/rubocop-github/blob/master/STYLEGUIDE.md
  22. Google's R Style Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://google.github.io/styleguide/Rguide.xml
  23. Wikipedia. (2019, January 7). Wikipedia: Manual of Style. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Lovelli Fuad


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)