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How to Create Writing Guidelines for Your Blog or Biz

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Writing guidelines are a list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” prepared by a blogger, publisher, or organization, which writers follow when preparing material for that publisher.

They’re also called “Submission Guidelines,” “Contribution Guidelines,” “Contributor Guidelines,” or “Author Guidelines,” or “Writer’s Guidelines.”

If you've got a blog, lead a nonprofit or ministry, run a publication, or operate a business, then there's a good chance you'll have people reach out to you and ask to write a post or article. Decide ahead of time how you'll respond, whether it's "Sorry, we do not accept submissions" or "Yes, we'd like to see your content and here are our guidelines."

Even if you're a sole proprietor and only publish your own content, your writing guidelines will help you build traffic and readership. Here's why.

Benefits of Creating Writing Guidelines

How to create #writing guidelines for your blog or biz with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #blogging #nonprofits #freelancing

Consistency. A clear list of expectations allows your publication, organization, or business to be consistent in its written communications and avoid the danger of mixed messages.

Time savings. You can point staff members or outside contributors to your list of guidelines. Anyone who writes for your organization will know to follow the guidelines as they prepare their content. You won't have to repeat yourself! 

Focus. A clear outline of appropriate or favored language and style allows your publications to communicate a focused message. Well thought out guidelines can even help your organization target its mission, values, and programs.

Must You Have Writing Guidelines?

It's a really good idea. They don't take much time to write ... and you can always modify them. And as you create guidelines, you'll identify key language that's distinctive to your blog, organization, or business. Guidelines help focus those themes and terms. In the process, you'll likely find you even streamline the way you communicate your mission.

Even if you’re the only person writing for your organization, you’ll return again and again to a style guide in order to write with reliability and focused purpose.

If you have staff members contributing to your newsletter, website, or social media posts, then a clear list of standard writing procedures saves editing time.

If you accept submissions from contributors, writing guidelines are invaluable. Writers routinely follow guidelines as they put material together. By providing a good set of guidelines, you greatly increase the likelihood that a contributor will submit articles that fit your needs.

Once you create your guidelines, post them on your blog, your biz website, and even in your employee manual.

What’s In a Good Set of Writer's Guidelines?

What you publish

  • What kinds of pieces do you publish – personal experience stories, event reports, announcements, fillers?
  • Where do you publish … online? Print? Social media? 

Submission procedures

  • Do you want others to submit completed manuscripts or query first?
  • Who is the appropriate editor or other staff person for submissions?
  • What is her contact information?

Format and style

  • What approach do you publish: straightforward information pieces, anecdotal or first person experience stories, documented summaries with solid data and statistics?
  • What tone do you publish – conversational, informal, formal, academic?
  • Do you follow a specific style manual, such as the Chicago Manual of Style or APA writing format?
  • Are there specific keywords or phrases that define the work you do – phrases you want writers to include?
  • Do you prefer a specific Bible translation for scripture references?


  • What is your preferred word count for specific types of pieces?


  • Which do you offer: first rights, reprint rights, all rights, work for hire?


  • Will you accept submitted graphics to accompany the piece?


  • Do you offer compensation?
  • Can you offer a byline with a link to the contributor’s website or blog?

A Word to Writers ...

If you’re a contributor, follow guidelines carefully – that is, if you want to be published. In doing so, you show editors and leaders that you respect their wishes. They know their readers best. Your role as a contributor is to help them fill their publication with material that meets readers’ needs. By adhering to their guidelines, you greatly enhance your chances for publication … and you may even become one of their regular contributors.

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