Style Guide

Plum Deluxe Style Guide

This document provides guidance to writers and contributors to Plum Deluxe contributors.  Please submit your article as a Word (.doc) or Text (.txt) file, with images clearly named and resized as separate attachments to your assigned editorial contact.

Title (Headline) Guidelines

Out of everything, your article’s headline is pretty much the most important thing.  General considerations:

  1. Aim for clarity over cleverness. Be specific.  Ask yourself, do I know what I am getting when I click here – and, am I at least highly intrigued? When in doubt, be boring.
  2. Use title case for the capitalization: Capitalize the first and last words of the title and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, and so on).  No capitals on prepositions unless they’re the first or last word (and avoid that if you can).  Example:  “Rules for Capitalizing the Words in a Title.”
  3. Always use the digit if numbers are in the title.  “7 Great Ways to Write Headlines” (not “Seven Great Ways…”)
  4. Good Headlines Illustrate a Benefit to the Reader.  For example, any article that starts with “How To” tells me I will be getting instruction.  “How to Host a Chocolate Tasting” is very clear and I know the benefit.  Using “Why” is also another good indicator of illustrating benefits.
  5. Keep Headlines Short when possible.  While sometimes a longer headline does work, we prefer headlines to be no longer than 55 characters.

Bad Example: Slow Down for A True Date Night Treat (too vague)
Better: Slow Down with A Surprise Chocolate Torte on Your Next Date Night (ok, it’s a torte recipe for romance)

Body

This section is probably the most difficult to write because every post is different, and we don’t want to stifle the voices of writers.  But there are a few things to be considered.

Intro:  Keep intros short and sweet, and dive right into the content.  If you can’t see the first piece of content above the fold, the intro is FAR too long.  This is the section I most often edit down in submissions.  They’re sometimes needed to set the background, but they usually go on far too long.

Tone: Tone should be casual, first person. (“I think this, but you might want to try A and B to decide what you think.”)  Never talk down to people, and explain any unfamiliar jargon.  Keep it light, friendly cafe-style conversation.

Swearing:  No swearing please.  When in doubt, edit it out.

Length: Aim for telling a great story and let the story guide you to the length.  Most posts aim around 500-1000 words, historically.

(Note:  For food articles, recipes do not count towards this word count.)

Headings:  Please make liberal use of Paragraph 2 headings throughout the article.  These should be used as section breaks.  (Note: We also prefer to have an image that will appear immediately after each section break.)

When referring to locations in your headers/subheaders, please be complete and consistent. American locations should include the city and state. (Ex: The Aerie – New Bern, North Carolina) International locations should include the city and country. (Ex: San Carlos Inn – Concordia, Argentina)

Paragraphs: No paragraph should ever be longer than 3-4 lines; break it up if so.  Bulleted lists are always useful in trying to break up items. (Please do not format the bullets. Instead, include a side note to your editor to indicate that this is a bulleted list. Your editor will then use the proper html formatting.)

Use of foreign terms: It is acceptable (and encouraged!) to use foreign terms in your article, where appropriate. Remember, though, that any uncommon foreign words–including foods–should be italicized.

Formatting: Your formatting (bold, italics, font size, hyperlinks, etc.) will not translate into WordPress. If you want something to have a specific formatting, either include the html coding or simply make a note for your editor. Please write out all links in full after the word(s) you’d like linked.

Grammar and Punctuation

  1. All posts should be in US American English.
  2. Any very unusual colloquialisms included to help set up the location/theme should be included “in quotes” (with a quick explanation in parentheses immediately after).
  3. The first instance of any acronyms should be explained and then the acronym can be used again without explanation. For example:  “At the American Medical Association (AMA), doctors told me..”  General advice is to steer away from acronyms entirely, though it is understood they are appropriate in many circumstances.
  4. You should use the Oxford comma.  “All men, women, and children agree — the Oxford comma looks better.” 
  5. Do not use capitalization for emphasis.  Bold or italics are best, which helps for readability as well.

Links

Links are useful for readers, but they also send readers away from our site!  General advice on using links:

Internal links are ALWAYS useful.  Please include a link to previous content in our archive if you can do a quick search and find a topical piece. Please also include a thoughtful link to our online teashop (www.plumdeluxe.com/teashop) or better, an item IN the shop, whenever possible.

When there is a quote or reference to a site like Dictionary.com or Wikipedia, do not link.  It’s not necessary.  If you’re quoting some specific niche media or report, then a link is ok.

This is such a case-by-case basis decision, but at the end of the day, ask yourself: does the reader need this resource right now? If not, no link is needed.

When including links, please write out the entire link after the word(s) you’d like linked. WordPress will not pull in links for hyperlinked text.

SEO Guidelines

Most of our articles use SEO keywords. If you are asked to use a keyword, please try to incorporate this keyword phrase:

  • in your headline
  • in the first paragraph of your article
  • one more time somewhere else in your article

Do not break up the keyword if it’s a phrase or change the spelling/tense/etc. Additionally, any article with an SEO keyword needs to be at least 500 words long.

We don’t plan on overdoing this, it’s more of a mindfulness on what readers are searching for.

Images

This section details out sizing and attribution policies.  Please see the body section above for placement and usage of images.

  1. How Many: Articles in general should have a minimum of 3-4 images – though exceptions to this are acknowledged.
  2. If your article has a number in the title (e.g. “7 Must Have Scarves for Fall”), you must have an equivalent number of images
  3. Filters: Instagram photos are ok as long as they look crisp and clear in large format, but please do not send in photos with grey or black borders (these do not look well in our design). When in doubt, send in an unfiltered photo instead.
  4. Watermarks: No watermarks on any photos, please.

The minimum size for all images is 640x480px. We prefer images that are 1200px wide and are horizontal.

For Social Media: One of your photos must be vertical or able to be cropped for a Pinterest-optimized photo (approx 735px x 1102px). You must also include a photo that can be cropped to a square (approx 1102px x 1102px) for Instagram. Our preference is for both of these photos to be shot overhead, on a natural wood background, whenever possible.

A few more photography guidelines:

  • Plum Deluxe does not sell bagged tea, so photos with a tea bag or the tea bag string hanging over the cup are not acceptable in any circumstance.
  • Whenever possible, tea in a cup and loose leaf tea should be visible in a photo.
  • White backgrounds or natural backgrounds (wood, bamboo, fabric, grass) are preferred to harsher backgrounds (concrete, asphalt, etc.).
  • Lighter images are preferred (e.g. avoiding large swaths of black)
  • Lighting is important! Please use natural light or daylight bulbs for the best lighting, color, and clarity.
  • Human elements are great (hands, faces) – a female should be used whenever possible.

Attribution

Contributors are expected to provide their own photos, when available.  A simple “All photos courtesy of author” line at the end of the post is sufficient, in this case.

When photos are not available, I prefer to source from free stock photo sites, because attribution is not required (though often included as a courtesy).  Good ones:

http://www.sxc.hu

http://commons.wikimedia.org

http://www.morguefile.com

http://www.pixabay.com

As a last resort, you may also use a Flickr Creative Commons photo, and provide us with an appropriate attribution   “Photo courtesy UserName (Flickr CC).”  (A link is not required.)

The photo attribution line should be the last line in the post.

Author Bio

Authors must submit a short, two-sentence bio. Author photo is not required, but is strongly suggested. Photos are driven by www.gravatar.com.

One link can be to your personal website or portfolio/blog.  The second link (not required) should be to a social media profile to connect with the writer.

Recipes

Please note the following specific guidelines for recipes (including both drink and food recipes):

  • Crisp, clean photographs are a must.
  • Please use American measurements for ingredients.  Keep use of abbreviations to a minimum (e.g. “tablespoon” not “tbsp”).
  • List ingredients in the order they are used in the instructions.
  • Do not put two numbers next to each other, which can cause confusion.  For example, say you need to use a stick of butter.  Don’t put “1 1/2 cup stick of butter” – say “1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)”
  • If your recipe was adapted from another recipe, please provide that info as a footnote in your article.
  • Do not use numbered or bulleted lists. This can mess up the WordPress formatting.

It’s also very important to double-check and then triple-check your work to make sure your recipe is correct.

Do Nots

  • Do not use flowery marketing language.  Read your article out loud to a friend.  Are they laughing?  Do they understand the words you are using? Are you speaking directly to the reader using words like “I” and” “you”? If not, rework.
  • Do not talk in generic terms.  Use specific language whenever possible. “The sommelier picked a wine that matched my personality” doesn’t tell us much.  “The sommelier picked a pinor noir that matched my personality – fun and refreshing but still on a budget.”  The second sentence speaks volumes more than the first.
  • Do not use affiliate links or sponsored/paid links in your article. If you have a relationship with any of the brands or products featured in your article, please disclose this information to your commissioning editor before turning in a final draft of any article.

If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, please contact your commissioning editor to get clarification.