We created this style guide for our Freshdesk blog. However, we hope that this will come in handy for other wordsmiths as well. For those of you who write for the Freshdesk blog, we recommend that you use this style guide as a reference when writing. It helps you write clearly, maintain consistency, and be informative. We break down quite a few grammar rules for ease of understanding. If you are someone outside Freshdesk, this is your invitation to use this style guide and tweak it to match your brand requirements.
We’d love to hear from you on any feedback that’ll help improve this style guide.
We are often asked how to write great content. Here’s what we ask them back.
Once you have answers to these questions, it gets easy from there.
You don’t need to carry ‘writer’ in your title to write for us. We are inviting people who are experts and want to share their ideas on our blog. That’s why we have people from different functions like marketing, data science, or product management write on our blog. The writers from the marketing team are always around to help with editing or crafting an engaging story (if needed).
We are thought leaders in customer service and our blog is the best place to showcase that. We publish new posts on our blog a few times every week that cover.
Here are some more general pointers, too.
We promise you won’t regret it or be bored!
It’s good to be serious and love the things you do. But it’s most effective when you talk about it in a casual yet knowledgeable style. Umm… like talking to a friend.
Theory is fine but it’ll be great if you can show our readers how to implement an idea in real life.
When you have a lot of numbers to sift through and present to your readers, add context as much as you can.
A lot of people are talking about customer service but what’s your take on it? Tell us what you think about a particular subject without going over the top.
If your content is witty but is killing its clarity, then leave the wit out. However, if you can manage both like a pro, then nothing like it.
Like we mentioned earlier, we publish content for support professionals who engage in customers conversations every day. Make sure your content speaks directly to our audience.
Tell readers where you found a particular piece of information or data by linking it back to the website or from an existing article on the Freshdesk blog.
Add relevant keywords that people might use to search for your content. Skim through existing posts to get a hang of it or to look for common tags to add in WordPress.
Pro tip — Aim for at least a 1200 word length.
Use images where relevant and sometimes for visual relief. If you are talking about Freshdesk, add high-res screenshots. We have an in-house illustrator who chalks up beautiful images to pair with your content. And, don’t forget to key in alt text for each of the images.
Not everyone enjoys a long read. Make it easily scannable for your readers. Put the important stuff first. Be less dramatic!
This one’s for guest writers. We’ll be all kinds of thankful if you keep the sales pitch out of the story.
One of the key aspects of writing for us is to be well aware of our brand’s voice and tone.
No, they aren’t the same thing but it is possible to confuse one for the other often. In this section, we will try and explain the difference between the two and also show you how they apply to Freshdesk.
Imagine this — when you talk to someone, you talk with the same voice. However, depending on the person you are talking to, the subject that you are talking about, or the place that you are in, your tone changes. You wouldn’t talk to your friend at a cafe in the same tone that you use to talk to your client at a conference. Your tone also changes based on the emotional state that you or the person you’re addressing is in. The same is true when you write because writing is just another form of talking.
At Freshdesk, we want our voice to be as human as possible — one that is familiar to our readers. It’s open, confident, honest, and helpful.
We prefer an informal tone to a formal one. Here’s a little tip that you can keep in mind when you are struggling with the tone. Add a bit of humour if it comes naturally to you and if you think it is appropriate. Be cheerful. Take a hint from what the reader is expecting from your article. They are curious and want to learn something new from your blog post.
Grammar is not the monster we often claim it be. It’s what keeps our writing in check and it doesn’t hurt to follow a few rules if it can help you write a better copy.
At Freshdesk, we use American English. Here are some of the differences that you need to remember.
“People spell best who do not know how to spell” — Benjamin Franklin
One man named Noah Webster decided that the Americans should be independent from the British not just politically but also lexically. That’s why there is extra ‘u’ in words like ‘colour’ or ‘humour’. His ideology was based on the belief that the more phonetic or logical, the better the spelling.
British spelling follows Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755). Most Commonwealth countries are happy with the Brit way of doing things while Canadians sit on the fence borrowing spellings from both American and English.
This is going to be a short one because there are no two ways to answer this question. We have a preference for active voice because it reads like a more confident piece and is conversational.
We think that using jargons makes our writing cool. It’s easy to get into arguments about whether or not it’s okay to use jargons in your writing. It all boils down to how you define a jargon (is it a technical terminology or a buzzword), your audience, and the context in which you are using them.
If the jargon sums up your idea and will go down well with our audience, then by all means, use it. For example when talking about GDPR, there’s no reason why we can’t use terms like ‘stakeholders’ because it refers to people who are involved in product decision making. However, words like ‘going forward’ are buzzwords because they mean different things to different people. Does it mean ‘in future’, ‘henceforth’, or both?
Here are two tips to help you deal with jargons better.
We are big fans of the KISS principle. Ask yourself if there is a simpler alternative for a word. If there is one, there’s no excuse to not use it. When you can’t find a simpler word, explain or define the technical jargon.
Using ‘stakeholders’ in a GDPR related blog article may be okay. If you say marketing ops instead of marketing operations, then it’s not cool!
Spell out a number if it begins a sentence or if it is a single digit numeral. The same rule applies for first, second, third, up to ninth. But if you’re using numbers to denote duration (for example, 9-10), then it would be all numerals.
Here are a few examples to help you get a hang of it—
If you are beginning a sentence with a number over 20, then use a hyphen.
Use a comma in numbers over 1,000. And it’s after every 3 zeros that you add a comma.
If numbers are part of an adjective (descriptive word), then add a hyphen.
Spell out million and billion.
If you’re writing a duration or a span, use ‘to’ when you’re writing in words and an en dash when you’re writing in figures.
Here come the exceptions—
If you are talking about prices, then use numerals. It’s easier for the reader to calculate or to add it all up.
You need to apply the same exception when you referring to a unit of measurement or page numbers.
Use contractions but use them sensibly. Contractions allow you to be informal and sound conversational. In fact the U.S government advocates the use of contractions encouraging people to ‘write as you talk’.
Do not use them when you are quoting something. Keep it as is.
Avoid contractions in formal writing or in legal documents. But of course, this is a style guide for blogs.
It’s not OK. Not O.K. Not ok. Or just k.
Here are words you might not realize you’re spelling wrong.
sign up when it’s a verb. sign-up when it’s a noun or an adjective.
Ditto for the words log in and login.
acknowledgement not acknowledgment.
anytime when it’s a noun. any time when it’s adjective.
any more is always two words. Period.
dependent — whether it’s a noun or an adjective.
effect or affect? They sound and are spelled similar so it is easy to confuse the two. An easy way to remember the difference is (Edgar Allan Poe’s) RAVEN — Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun. But there are exceptions to the rule where affect becomes a noun and effect becomes verb. Yikes!
You can use effect as a verb when you mean ‘to bring about’.
You can also use affect as a noun when you are referring to a mood someone’s in.
But they sound ‘eew’. Don’t they? So let’s go back and stick to the RAVEN rule.
email is one word. But e-commerce is hyphenated.
every day is two words except when it’s an adjective.
focusing not focussing. focused not focussed.
in to or into? ‘In to’ with a space in between is short for ‘in order to’ while ‘into’ refers to some sort of movement of something.
See how a tiny space between two words can change their meaning?
learned not learnt because we write in American English for our blog.
license not licence. Remember the soft c rule?
online is one word with no hyphen.
practice not practise. This is the exception to soft c rule.
stationary means to stand still and stationery is pens, pencils, etc.
straight away is two words without hyphens.
web page is two words while website is one.
a lot is two words. It’s never one word.
nowhere, somewhere, anywhere are all one words.
Get the complete list of tricky words. Download here.
When mentioning a company name, go with the naming convention they follow on their website.
These two words cannot, we repeat, cannot be interchangeably used. That is used to define something and which is used to add information.
Pro tip — if you remove the words that follow (the conjunction) and the meaning of the sentence changes, then use ‘that’. If it doesn’t, use ‘which’.
When in doubt, take help from a dictionary. Preferably Merriam Webster. There are only two situations where you’ll be using a hyphen.
When you have a compound adjective (adjective thats made of two or more words) you need to hyphenate it.
However, if the first word of the adjective ends with ‘ly’, or if the adjective comes after a noun, then you shouldn’t hyphenate it.
If you are adding a prefix, use a hyphen.
If you are adding a prefix, use a hyphen.
Did you know that in 2007, the sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary removed the hyphens from 16,000 entries? Some of the entries include
Format dates this way —
Group years like this —
When you are talking about period of time, write it as half a day and not 0.5 days.
If you want to refer to a particular decade, don’t use an apostrophe before the ‘s’.
Write time like this —
‘An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.’ — F Scott Fitzgerald
Exclamation marks are littering our writing thanks to the internet and text messaging. Stay away from using the exclamation mark as much as you can. If you must absolutely use it, then use just one. And never ever pair it with a period or a question mark.
There are two known places in the world whose names end with exclamation marks —
And if a sentence ends with one of these exclamatory towns, would it finish with another punctuation mark? Yes, it would.
E.g. Last year, I visited Westward Ho!. The place had nothing to exclaim about. 😉
If the sentence introducing the bullets ends with a colon or an em dash —
If the sentence introducing the bullets does not end with a colon or an em dash then bullet them like this.
If your list of items needs to follow a particular order, then number your list. This is usually the case when you are listing instructions.
1. Read our guidelines.
2. Choose a topic relevant to our audience.
3. Draft your content.
4. Review and then submit it.
We’ve already discussed the hyphen so, on we go to discuss the dashes.
En dash is used to break up text or mark our phrases in a sentence. Think of it as a replacement for commas or brackets.
It is also used in place of a semi colon.
Use an en dash to denote range of figures and not things.
Em dash is more of an American thing and it is used sometimes instead of an en dash.
Did you know that the en dash is called the en dash because it’s the width of the letter ‘n’? Ditto for the em dash.