VOICE


The Plant Shoppe Voice


The voice of The Plant Shoppe voice wears many hats, balancing many differing relationships. The products, and more so — the people — of The Plant Shoppe require an intentional approach to the building and fostering of relationships. It is important to clearly define every element of the brand in order to best understand the usage of voice in any context. We must think of the following brand point as tools in a tool chest. While we own and understand each tool, it is important to recognize the task at hand, selecting the applicable tool for the job.


Our personalities are multi-faceted and we experience many emotions. We may be clever, but we are not funny at funerals. We may be aware of our feelings, but we are not emotional at parties. Understanding and implementing proper content requires that we first understand our brand.


In our everyday lives, this process has been ingrained into our being at the very core. It is nature as social creatures to take in the atmosphere of a room, to understand the nuance of a moment — dwelling in an interaction, experiencing that interaction, and reacting accordingly. For a business, this process does not occur naturally. It is trained. Learned. When we began this process we defined The Plant Shoppe as Familial, Studied, and Explorative. Each of these brand pillars contains three sub-definitions. We defined them in voice and tone, expanding on their intended usage in written form.


1. Familial

A. Invested

Be it the community, customer, employee, process, or product, the Plant Shoppe voice speaks with familial conviction. Genuine interest in the well being of others is explored through an earnest investment in the fellowship. The voice traverses this aspect through a kind, colloquial tone, refusing to shy away from soft spots or sensitive matters while addressing only that on which they can improve. Never on the nose, hinted to through understanding tone.

B. Hospitable

Hospitality is at the root of all familial interactions, acting as the conversational foundation that sincere communication is built upon. The voice explores hospitality through effortlessly welcoming speech. This leans away from sarcasm, relying on situational and anecdotal reference when the time calls for humor. Ribbing is always to be expected at the family dinner table, but it is unwelcoming to outsiders and closes the gap to entry. Best used sparingly, if at all.

C. Personification

Beyond personal interactions with others, there is a relationship that exists outside of the market — the living product that is sold day to day. The familial relationship formed between plant and planter is similar to that of a dog or cat. There is time and effort invested into the well being of each. Both on the part of the Plant Shoppe, and on that of the customer. By leaning into this relationship, overplaying with the use of gender, nicknames (such as pup, little guy) displays both personal investment and lightheartedness. While the anthropomorphization can solicit a familial tone, the specific naming of the product, e.g. Susan, Jeremy, or Robert, is over the top, on the wrong side of quirky.

2. Studied

A. Philosophical

The Plant Shoppe voice is cognizant of the role both nature and nurture play in regards to the industry and focus. This is recognized in speech that does not shy away from “deeper” meaning in the trivial, in the process, or in the community at large. That awareness is addressed through the reflection of community interaction and softened through the familial approach, never prideful and constantly aware of the thin line between philosophical and over Analysis. The turn of phrase or the display of wit can add to the softening of the “over-analytical” voice while humanizing the identity to the reader.

B. Inventive

Exploration is key to process, creativity, and forward motion. While "creativity" is often viewed as undefined, drawn from an unknown source, inventiveness takes creativity and couples it with information and forethought. This is explored in the voice through clear and defined intention when paired with the display of new or exploratory work. The Plant Shoppe is daily confronted with the challenging combination of art and phytology. The defining nature of inventiveness is displayed in voice through the moderate use of high-level terminology when necessary, always followed with a layman rundown.

C. Knowledgeable

The Plant Shoppe voice is highly informed, aware of the intricacies involved in their trade. There is never any need to shy away from this aspect of the voice. While an excess of information can be overwhelming, the abundant availability of such information can embolden customer interaction as they feel reassured knowing there is a sound foundation of knowledge protecting their purchase and ensuring success in the process. If knowledge is power, the Plant Shoppe uses said power passively. Offering it when natural, never forcing or shoehorning “inside baseball” into unwarranted conversations.

3. Explorative

A. Journaled

A large part of the Plant Shoppe’s existing voice success comes from the content that features journal-esque content, making note on not only the product at large, but the personal interaction in the lives of those who spend their time and spirit pouring into the business and the people involved. That content humanizes a group that could be seen as “too-cool” to approach. Referencing emotion and openly exploring the interaction between growth and person is a natural step into the integration of the philosophical, while not forcing words, and staying true to the familial tone. The key to this step is maintaining consistent vernacular from post to post. Avoiding personal slang outside of the branded voice, and maintains brand standard language.

B. Unorthodox

The Plant Shoppe design and build process could be described as moderately unorthodox. The mixture of plant (species), curated selection, and tailored lifestyle, does allow for a lean toward the quirky. As a whole, this decoration operates less as standalone trait and more as an add-on to other personality points. Unorthodox Philosophy. Unorthodox hospitality. Unorthodox design. This trait may play into the personal nature through which social media is approached, stepping away from the standard ad grab.

C. Imaginative

For lack of a better word, the Plant Shoppe may possess a certain whimsey. A propensity toward the slightly off, beyond the beaten path. The imaginative side of the voice is defined through the lack of hard benchmarking (outside of product), relaxing for the possibility to be open-ended. The imaginative voice may be shown through the description of materials and product, allowing for a surreal light to shine on featured work. Without careening toward the overly-holistic, an imaginative examination of the benefits plants may have for the soul and mind will add a spirited tone to soften the hyper-informed.









The Plant Shoppe Voice and Tone


Our written voice is a direct representation of The Plant Shoppe, a form of communication that is often overlooked or underdeveloped in many small businesses. It is important when creating content of all forms that we be aware of our voice and tone. This section defines the difference between the two, laying out elements of each as they apply to The Plant Shoppe.


How does voice relate to tone? Our voice will remain the same. Consistency in voice is how we learn about each other and how we anticipate interactions. Our tone will change. It is the context within the medium. A tone will differ between discussions surrounding people, plants, and  events, but our voice always remains the same.


Our tone will change in the context of emotion within an interaction. We would not use the same tone of voice with someone who is scared or upset as we would with someone who is laughing.


To sum it all up, the Plant Shoppe voice does not change from day to day, but our tone changes regularly.

Voice & Tone

The Plant Shoppe tone is familial, studied, and explorative —


Familial speech meets the reader where they are. It is focused on a relationship that is pre-existing and long term. It comes from a place of understanding, empathy, and familiarity that is at its core honest and open. Familial speech is invested in the reader and focused on inclusion, and displayed through consistent hospitality.


Our studied speech is clearly confident, well versed in our craft while always seeking to further our understanding. This approach means we do not shy away from expressing intricate knowledge of a subject, while also recognizing gaps of understanding and never being afraid to say, "I'm not sure, but I would love to find out." With confidence in our understanding and wealth of knowledge, comes a creative side that is regularly looking to find new and exciting ways to interact with plants, people, and communication.


The plant shop voice is explorative, always looking to experiment with design, culture, and craft. We are focused on the details, always documenting interactions, results, failure and success. Exploration is only valuable if we look to learn from our experiences. This means a keen curiosity. A desire to ask questions.


We offer a playful take on all communication — a hyper-social brand that values people over product, and process over presentation. Our voice is kind-hearted and primarily feminine in nature. We explore a healthy balance between matronly care and youthful energy.


Comparing and creating ideals helps boil down the voice as we move through content creation —


  • We teach but do not lecture.

  • We are clever but not crass.

  • Intentional but not intense.

  • We are soft but not weak.

  • We are fun but not funny.


The plant shop voice is familial at heart, and we approach each interaction as one with an old friend. Because of our relationship with the audience, we maintain comfortable confidence in the display and use of emotion. Our audience is not only familiar with this approach, but it is welcomed and preferred. When applying tone into content, you may think of the voice elements as a lence, through which our tone is applied. We may be expressing happiness, excitement, tension, etc., but we must keep ensuring that the way we display those emotions fall in line with our 3 brand pillars, and 9 sub-pillars.


For example, if we are writing content that is excited in tone, and we were to apply that excitement through our voice, we might use personified content to reference the object of our excitement or a journaled approach to detail and explain our reason for jubilee.


Our tone may change from interaction to interaction, but our voice is always the same.
















The Plant Shoppe — People

When we are boiling down The Plant Shoppe into base components, people play an essential role. Every interaction must be viewed through the lens of relationship. Relationship is the scale all content is graded upon. This is a collection of the way we refer to people and the attributes that define them.


Internal or external, we must assume everything that we write will be seen later by an audience. Notes, order cards, internal emails — all branded content to the same degree of focus as a marketing push or social post. Consistency is the key to trust.


Our voice is uniform and is to be maintained through all work. In all content, it is important to write for and about other people in a way that’s consistently compassionate, inclusive, and respectful. Language carries weight on many levels, and what we do with that weight reflects how we treat one another. The awareness of the impact language carries will help establish The Plant Shoppe as a better place to work and a better steward of our values in the world. When creating content surrounding people, always ask yourself, “what value does this qualifier add?” More often than not, content can retain its value without qualifying statements. When qualifying people, we prefer vague over offensive. Soft over specific.


THE FOLLOWING CONTENT IS CENTERED AROUND GRAMMAR AND MECHANICS RATHER THAN TONE. THE SAME RULES HAVE BEEN APPLIED TO STITCH AND THE GOODS SHOP IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY IN FORMATTING THROUGHOUT A SHARED SPACE. THE PLANT SHOPPE IS UNIQUELY POSITIONED TO PROVIDE MORE ANALYTICAL INFORMATION AS IT PERTAINS TO PLANT CARE AND MAINTENANCE, AND THEREFORE MAY REQUIRE ADDITIONAL FOCUS ON THE SECTIONS PERTAINING TO NUMERICAL VALUES AND STYLIZED DATA PRESENTATION.

Age

Age isn’t referenced unless it is strictly relevant to the message. If it is relevant, we include the person’s specific age, offset by commas.


  • My sister, 21, just had her first shot espresso.


We do not refer to people using age-related descriptors like “young,” “old,” or “elderly.”

Disability

We do not refer to a person’s disability unless it’s absolutely relevant to what we are writing. Should it need mentioning, we use language that emphasizes the person first — ”she has a disability” rather than “she is disabled.”


When writing about a person with disabilities, we never use the words “suffer,” “victim,” or “handicapped,” avoiding any terminology that places burden on the subject of discussion.


As a rule we believe that people are not defined by their illness, and our content should reflect as such.

Gender and sexuality

We do not call groups of people “guys.” We do not call women “girls.” This is a hard habit to shake vocally and we start with the written word. Groups can be referred to as “y’all”  or “everyone”in a casual setting.


Avoid gendered terms in favor of neutral alternatives, like “server” instead of “waitress” and “customer” instead of “her/him.” Don’t be weird about it though — overly referencing gender can be just as uncomfortable as misgendering. Be conscious of our audience. While it may sound wonky at times, it is entirely okay to use “they” as a singular pronoun.


It is always better to have awkward speech as an alternative to exclusionary speech.


Use the following words as modifiers, but never as nouns —


  • lesbian

  • gay

  • bisexual

  • transgender (never "transgendered")

  • trans

  • queer

  • LGBTQ


We do not use these words in reference to LGBTQ people or communities —


  • homosexual

  • lifestyle

  • Preference


Do not use “same-sex” marriage (because we are not 50), unless the distinction is relevant to what we are writing. This should be obvious, but we do not use “gay marriage.” It’s just “marriage.”


When writing about someone, we use their communicated pronouns. When in doubt, just ask or use their name. We would rather awkward text than a misgender.

Hearing

We will use “hearing impaired” as an adjective to describe a person with significant hearing loss. Always ask the question, “why is it important that I make this qualifier?”

Medical conditions

We do not refer to a person’s medical condition unless it’s relevant to what we are writing — and here is the deal — it rarely is.


In the rare event that a reference to a person’s medical condition is absolutely warranted, we apply the same rules used when writing about people with physical disabilities and emphasize the person first. We do not call a person with a medical condition a “victim.”

Mental and cognitive conditions

We do not refer to a person’s mental or cognitive condition unless it’s hyper relevant to what we are writing. Never assume that someone has a medical, mental, or cognitive condition.


We do not describe a person as “mentally ill.” If a reference to a person’s mental or cognitive condition is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with physical disabilities or medical conditions and emphasize the person first.

Vision

Use the adjective “blind” to describe a person who is unable to see. Use “low vision” to describe a person with limited vision.

Grammar and Mechanics

Sticking to certain rules of grammar and mechanics allows us keep our writing clear and consistent. This section will lay out our house style, which applies to all of our content unless otherwise noted in this guide.


THE FOLLOWING CONTENT IS CENTERED AROUND GRAMMAR AND MECHANICS RATHER THAN TONE. THE SAME RULES HAVE BEEN APPLIED TO STITCH AND THE GOODS SHOP IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY IN FORMATTING THROUGHOUT A SHARED SPACE. THE PLANT SHOPPE IS UNIQUELY POSITIONED TO PROVIDE MORE ANALYTICAL INFORMATION AS IT PERTAINS TO PLANT CARE AND MAINTENANCE, AND THEREFORE MAY REQUIRE ADDITIONAL FOCUS ON THE SECTIONS PERTAINING TO NUMERICAL VALUES AND STYLIZED DATA PRESENTATION.

Basics

Write for all readers. Some people will read every word we write, while others will skim. Help everyone read better by grouping related ideas together and using descriptive headers and subheaders.


Focus on our message. Create a hierarchy of information. Lead with the main point or the most important content, in sentences, paragraphs, sections, and pages.


Be concise

Use short words and sentences. Avoid unnecessary modifiers.


Be specific

Avoid vague language. Cut the fluff.


Be consistent

Stick to the copy patterns and style points outlined in this guide.

Guidelines

Abbreviations and acronyms

If there’s a chance our reader won’t recognize an abbreviation or acronym, spell it out the first time we mention it. Then use the short version for all other references. If the abbreviation isn’t clearly related to the full version, specify in parentheses.


  • First use — National Coffee Association

  • Second use — NCA

  • First use — Fair Trade  (FT)

  • Second use — FT


If the abbreviation or acronym is well known, like USA, use it instead (and do not worry about spelling it out).

Active voice

Use active voice. Avoid passive voice.


In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.


  • Yes — Karen planted these seeds.

  • No — Those seeds were planted by Karen.


Words like “was” and “by” may indicate that we are writing in passive voice. Scan for these words and rework sentences where they appear.


One exception is when we want to specifically emphasize the action over the subject. In some cases, this is fine.


  • Your coffee was on us.

Capitalization

We use a few different forms of capitalization. Title case capitalizes the first letter of every word except articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. Sentence case capitalizes the first letter of the first word.

When writing out an email address or website URL, use all lowercase.


  • Jen@plantshoppe.com

  • www.plantshoppe.com

Contractions

Contractions give our writing an informal, friendly tone. Utilizing contractions can help the reader feel at ease through familiar speech and softness of tone. In addition to the use of contractions, the occasional dropping of the ‘g’ in words ending in -ing can provide a softness in tone. Use this feature sparingly. If the end ‘g’ is dropped, an apostrophe should take its place to indicate intentionality of use.


  • plantin’ some new _________ this morning!


Never use more than once in a single sentence.

Emoji

Emojis are fine. They add visual interest to our writing, but use them infrequently and deliberately. Avoid the use of skintown emojis in favor of the standard yellow for full inclusivity. Do not post multiple tone emojis in a single post. Yes, you may feel as if you are being inclusive, but at the end of the day it will feel forced.

Numbers

Spell out a number when it begins a sentence. Otherwise, use the numeral. This includes ordinals, too.


  • Two new cashiers started on Monday, and 3 start next week.

  • I adopted 7 puppies today.


(Sometimes it feels weird to use "1" instead of "one." Just go with your gut. You can do it champ.)


Numbers over 3 digits get commas —


  • 999

  • 1,000

  • 150,000


Write out big numbers in full. Abbreviate them if there are space restraints, as in a tweet or a chart — 1k, 150k.

Dates

Spell out the day of the week and month. Abbreviate only if space is an issue in the app.


  • Saturday, January 24

  • Sat., Jan. 24

Decimals and fractions

Spell out fractions when appearing in a sentence.


  • Yes — two-thirds

  • No — ⅔


If appearing in an isolated use, numerical format is fine.

Percentages

Use the % symbol instead of spelling out "percent."

Ranges and spans

Use a hyphen (-) to indicate a range or span of numbers.


  • It takes 20-30 days.

Money

When writing about US currency, use the dollar sign before the amount. Include a decimal and number of cents if more than 0.


  • $20

  • $19.99


When writing about other currencies, follow the same symbol-amount format —


  • ¥1

  • €1

Telephone numbers

Use dashes without spaces between numbers. Use a country code. It looks dope.


  • 555.867.5309

  • +1.404.123.4567

Temperature

Use the degree symbol and the capital F abbreviation for Fahrenheit.


  • 98°F

Time

Use numerals and am or pm, with a space in between. We do not use minutes for on-the-hour time.



  • 7 am


  • 7:30 pm


Use an em dash between times to indicate a time period.



  • 7am - 10:30pm


Specify time zones when writing about an event or something else people would need to schedule. Since The Plant Shoppe is in Atlanta, we default to ET.


Abbreviate time zones within the continental United States as follows —


  • Eastern time — ET

  • Central time — CT

  • Mountain time — MT

  • Pacific time — PT


When referring to international time zones, spell them out — Nepal Standard Time, Australian Eastern Time. If a time zone does not have a set name, use its Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) offset.


Abbreviate decades when referring to those within the past 100 years.


  • the 00s

  • the 90s


When referring to decades more than 100 years ago, be more specific


  • the 1900s

  • the 1890s

Punctuation

Apostrophes

The apostrophe’s most common use is making a word possessive. If the word already ends in an s and it’s singular, we also add an ‘s. If the word ends in an s and is plural, just add an apostrophe.


  • The donut thief ate Sam’s donut.

  • The donut thief ate Chris’s donut.

  • The donut thief ate the studios’ donuts.


Apostrophes can also be used to denote that we’ve dropped some letters from a word, usually for humor or emphasis. This is fine, but do it sparingly.

Commas

Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma? We do. When writing a list, use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma).



  • Yes — Sarah admires her parents, Oprah, and Justin Timberlake.

  • No — Sarah admires her parents, Oprah and Justin Timberlake.


Otherwise, use common sense. If we are unsure, read the sentence out loud. Where we find ourself taking a breath, use a comma.

Dashes and hyphens

Em Dash — Ruler of all the dashes

An em dash should always have a space on either side. The Plant Shoppe uses an em dash to offset a list, and in place of the colon, to offset a list, as well as to mark important titles in stylized form.


  • Hattie ordered 3 kinds of donuts — glazed, chocolate, and pumpkin.


We may also use an em dash to join 2 related phrases. If a complete sentence follows the em dash, capitalize the 1st word.


  • I was faced with a dilemma — I wanted a donut, but I’d just eaten a bagel.


Use a true em dash, not hyphens (- or --).


  • Oat Milk Latte — The Plant Shoppe’s newest special — will give you magic powers.

  • Rachel thought Sam was the donut thief, but she was wrong — it was Hattie.


Use a hyphen (-) without spaces on either side to link words into single phrase, or to indicate a span or range.



  • first-timer

  • Monday-Friday


Title Form —


See what we did there? A title can be followed with one space and an em dash, to add emphasis and denote the beginning of a new section. An em dash should never be made bold in format.

Ellipses

Ellipses (...) can be used to indicate that we are trailing off before the end of a thought. Use them sparingly. We do not use them for emphasis or drama, and do not use them in titles or headers. In general, The Plant Shoppe will avoid the use of ellipses. It often feels too lax, and can be read as sarcasm when that is not the intended meaning.


Ellipses, in brackets, can be used to show that we are omitting words in a quote.


  • “You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions... it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.”

Periods

Periods go inside quotation marks. They go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.


  • Hattie said, “I ate a donut.”

  • I ate a donut (and I ate a bagel, too).

  • I ate a donut and a bagel. (The donut was Sam’s.)


Leave a single space between sentences.

Question marks

Question marks go inside quotation marks if they’re part of the quote. Like periods, they go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.

Exclamation points

Use exclamation points sparingly, and never more than one at a time. They’re like high-fives — A well-timed one is great, but too many can be annoying.


Exclamation points go inside quotation marks. Like periods and question marks, they go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.


Never use exclamation points in failure messages or alerts. When in doubt, avoid!

Quotation marks

Use quotes to refer to words and letters, titles of short works (like articles and poems), and direct quotations.


Periods and commas go within quotation marks. Question marks within quotes follow logic—if the question mark is part of the quotation, it goes within. If we are asking a question that ends with a quote, it goes outside the quote.


Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.


  • Who was it that said, “A fool and his donut are easily parted”?

  • Brad said, “A wise man once told me, ‘A fool and his donut are easily parted.’”

Semicolons

Go easy on semicolons. They usually support long, complicated sentences that could easily be simplified. Try an em dash (—) instead, or simply start a new sentence.

Ampersands

We do not use ampersands unless one is part of a company or brand name. Write out the word “and” you lazy ass.


  • Ben and Dan

  • Ben & Jerry’s

People, Places, and Things

Pronouns

If our subject’s gender is unknown or irrelevant (it almost always is), use “they,” “them,” and “their” as a singular pronoun. Use “he/him/his” and “she/her/her” pronouns as appropriate. We do not use “one” as a pronoun because we are not writing gothic literature.

Quotes

When quoting someone in any format, use the present tense, or more often, no tense.


  • “The Plant Shoppe sells the best cacti in town,” says John Smith.

  • “The Plant Shoppe sells the best cacti in town,” — John Smith.

Names and titles

The first time we mention a person in writing, refer to them by their first and last names. On all other mentions, refer to them by their first name.


Capitalize the names of departments and teams (but not the word "team" or "department").


  • Cacti team

  • Plant crew


Capitalize individual job titles when referencing a specific role. We do not capitalize when referring to the role in general terms.


  • Our new Manager starts today.

  • All the managers own dogs.


We do not refer to someone as a “ninja,” “rockstar,” or “wizard” unless they literally are one, even then we don’t, because those titles are ridiculous. If you find yourself becoming a silicon valley caricature, reassess your life and the content you are creating.

Writing about The Plant Shoppe

Our company's full entity name is "The Plant Shoppe." Our trade name is "The Plant Shoppe."


Always capitalize the “T” in The Plant Shoppe.


Refer to The Plant Shoppe as “we,” not “it.”

Writing about other companies

We write companies’ own names in the style they choose for themselves and their products, even if that goes against our written style. Go by what’s used on their official website.


  • Leaf+Bean

  • La Marazocco

    • Merit Coffee Co.


Refer to a company or product as “it” (not “they”).

Text formatting

Use italics to indicate the title of a long work (like a book, movie, or album) or to emphasize a word.


  • Dunston Checks In

  • Jen really loves Dunston Checks In.


Use italics when citing an example of an in-app The Plant Shoppe element, or referencing button and navigation labels in step-by-step instructions —


  • When we are all done, click Send.


We do not use underline formatting, and do not use any combination of italic, bold, caps, and underline.


Left-align text, never center or right-aligned.


Leave one space between sentences, never 2.

Write positively

Use positive language rather than negative language. One way to detect negative language is to look for words like “can’t,” “do not,” etc.


  • Yes — To get a coffee, stand in line.

  • No — You can’t get a coffee if you do not stand in line.


Web Elements

Guidelines

Alt text

Alt text is a way to label images that is especially important for people who can’t view the images on our website. It is also a key element in SEO compliance. Alt text should describe the image in a brief sentence or two. Including the name of the entity and city if it flows. Under no circumstances do we use alt text to improve SEO through keyword stuffing or forced location usage.

Buttons

Buttons should always contain actions, unless action precedes the button and the button is filled with title options. The language should be clear and concise. Use UPPERCASE formatting in every word, including articles. It’s OK to use an ampersand in button copy.


Standard website buttons include —


  • DELIVERY

  • CUSTOM DESIGNS

Alternatively —


Menu buttons may be written in title or in descriptive branded phrasing


  • DELIVERY

  • CUSTOM DESIGNS

  • GET IN TOUCH

  • VISIT THE DIY BAR

Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings organize content for readers, but more importantly, they denote hierarchy to google. Be generous and descriptive. Headings (H1) give people a taste of what they’re about to read. Use them for page and blog titles.


Subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) break articles into smaller, more specific sections. They give readers an avenue into the content and make it more scannable for the lazy jerks who have decided to skim.


Headings and subheadings should be organized in a hierarchy, with heading first, followed by subheadings in order. (An H2 will nestle under H1, an H3 under H2, and on down.)


Keep all h1 short and descriptive. H2 should always be held under a single sentence. H3 and on can be playful or heavier in word count.


Use title case, unless the heading is a punctuated sentence. If the heading is a punctuated sentence, use sentence case. Use sentence case for subheadings regardless of end punctuation.

Links

Provide a link whenever we are referring to something on an external website. Use links to point users to relevant content and trusted external resources.


We do not include preceding articles (a, an, the, our) when we link text. For example —


  • Yes — Read the succulent guide for details.

  • No — Read the succulent guide for details.


If a link comes at the end of a sentence or before a comma, do not link the punctuation mark. We do not say things like “Click here!” or “Click for more information” or “Read this.” Write the sentence as we normally would, and link relevant keywords.

Links should look different than regular copy, strong text, or emphasis text. They should have a hover state that communicates they’re interactive, and should have a distinct active and visited state. When setting the hover state of links, be sure to include focus state as well, to help readers using assistive technologies and touch devices.

Lists

Use lists to present steps, groups, or sets of information. Give context for the list with a brief introduction. Number lists when the order is important, like when we are describing steps of a process. We do not use numbers when the list’s order doesn’t matter.


If one of the list items is a complete sentence, use proper punctuation and capitalization on all of the items. If list items are not complete sentences, do not use punctuation, but do capitalize the first word of each item.

Navigation

Use title case for main or global navigation. Use sentence case for sub navigation.

Navigation links should be clear and concise.

Radio Buttons

Use title case for headings and sentence case for button fields.

Related articles

Sometimes a long piece of copy lends itself to a list of related links at the end. We do not go overboard — 4 is usually plenty.

Related articles should appear in a logical order, following the step down/step up rule — The first article should be a step down in complexity from the current article. The second one should be a step up in complexity to a more advanced article.

If we can, avoid repeating links from the body text in related articles.

Titles

Titles organize pages and guide readers. A title appears at the beginning of a page or section and briefly describes the content that follows.


Titles are in UPPERCASE case.


We do not use punctuation in a title unless the title is a question.

SEO

We write for humans, not machines. We do not use shoehorned SEO techniques like keyword stuffing to bump search results. But we also want to make it easy for people and search engines to find and share our content. Here are some not-icky ways to do this —


  • Organize our page around one topic. Use clear, descriptive terms in titles and headings that relate to the topic at hand.

  • Use descriptive headings to structure our page and highlight important information.

  • Give every image descriptive alt text.

Writing Long Form

The Plant Shoppe articles are written by all, not just those with “writer” in their job titles. The person most familiar with the subject is in the best position to convey it, and the writers can edit as needed.

Basics

We generally publish —

  • Industry Focused Awareness

  • The Plant Shoppe Guides

  • Community Event Information

Guidelines

When writing an article, follow the style points outlined in the Voice and Tone and Grammar and mechanics sections. Here are some more general pointers, too.

Be casual, but informative

This isn’t a term paper, so there’s no need to be pretentious. Drop some knowledge while casually engaging our readers with conversational language.

Be specific

If we are writing about data, put the numbers in context. If we are writing about a The Plant Shoppe project, give the reader plenty of information about the projects stage, results, and goals.

Get to the point

Get to the important stuff right away, and do not bury the kicker. Blog posts should be scannable and easy to digest. Break up our paragraphs into short chunks of three or four sentences, and use subheads. Our users are busy, and we should always keep that in mind.

Link it up

Feel free to link away from The Plant Shoppe if it helps us explain something.

Humor

The Plant Shoppe voice is spoken by a person who is funny, though the content is not. A clever person speaking clearly. Humor is a skill best used in awareness.

Use tags and keywords

Add keywords that apply to our article. Look through existing posts for common tags. If we are not sure if a word should be a tag, it probably shouldn’t.

Use Images

Include images when it makes sense. If we are explaining how to use The Plant Shoppe, include screenshots to illustrate our point. Make sure to use alt text.

Writing for Social Media

We use social media to build relationships and share our passion and love for food and coffee with our community. But it also creates opportunities to say the wrong thing, put off customers, and damage our brand. So we’re careful and deliberate in what we post to our social channels. This section lays out how we strike that delicate balance.

Basics

The Plant Shoppe has a presence on most major social media platforms. Here are our most active accounts and what we usually post on each —

  • Twitter — Simple daily information,

  • Facebook — Daily specials, events, long form posts

  • Instagram — Products, Store Photography, People

These channels are all managed by the marketing team. We also have a few team-specific accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, Dribbble, and other platforms. The guidelines in this section apply to all of The Plant Shoppe's channels.

Guidelines

Our writing for social media should generally follow the style points outlined in the Voice and tone and Grammar and mechanics sections. Here are some additional pointers, too.

Write short, but sweet.

Some social media platforms have a character limit; others do not. But for the most part, we keep our social media copy short.

  • Twitter — 250 characters or less (this leaves room for a manual retweet and comments)

  • Facebook — No limit, but aim for 1-2 short sentences (unless the post is longform).

  • Instagram — No limit, but try to keep it to 2-3 sentences or a single short phrase. The Plant Shoppe instagram audience is uniquely invested, and willing to read heavier posts that adhere to the brand foundation, exploring the relationships and emotions evoked through PS interactions.

To write short, simplify our ideas or reduce the amount of information we are sharing—but not by altering the spelling or punctuation of the words themselves. It’s fine to use the shorter version of some words, like “info” for “information.” But do not use numbers and letters in place of words, like “4” instead of “for” or “u” instead of “you.”

Engagement

Do our best to adhere to The Plant Shoppe style guidelines when we are using our social media channels to correspond with users. Use correct grammar and punctuation—and avoid excessive exclamation points.

When appropriate, we can tag the subject of our post on Twitter or Facebook. But avoid directly tweeting at or otherwise publicly tagging a post subject with messages like, “Hey, we wrote about you!” Never ask for retweets, likes, or favorites.

Hashtags

We employ hashtags rarely and deliberately. We may use them to promote an event or connect with customers. We do not use current event or trending hashtags to promote The Plant Shoppe. The Plant Shoppe audience does interact with unique hashtags that are both location and industry specific. Feel free to make use of said hashtags, while recognizing brand voice alignment.

Trending topics

We do not use social media to comment on trending topics or current events that are unrelated to The Plant Shoppe.

Be aware of what’s going on in the news when we are publishing social content for The Plant Shoppe. During major breaking news events, we turn off all promoted and scheduled social posts.


Word List

Over time you will find that there are certain words you wish to avoid. It can be obnoxious when people refer to professional positions in an abstract or “creative” way. For example, no one’s job title should be “wizard” or “plant queen.” As these things show up. You are to add this terminology here, to be avoided in the future.

TL;DR

The Plant Shoppe Content Style Guide goes into depth on many subjects. It may be more information than you need. Here are the most important things to know.

Principles

Good content is —


  • Invested

  • Hospitable

  • personified

  • Philosophical

  • Inventive

  • Knowledgeable

  • Journaled

  • Unorthodox

  • Imaginative


Voice and tone

The Plant Shoppe’s voice is —


  • Familial

  • Studied

  • Explorative


Our tone changes depending on the situation, but it's generally informal. We have a sense of humor, but we value clarity over entertainment.

Writing about people

  • We do not reference age or disability unless it’s relevant to what we are writing.

  • Avoid gendered language and use the singular “they.”

  • When writing about a person, use their preferred pronouns; if you do not know those, just use their name.

Grammar and Mechanics

  • Some people will read every word we write. Others will just scan. Help everyone by grouping related ideas together and using descriptive headers and subheaders.

  • Focus our message, and create a hierarchy of information. Lead with the main point or the most important content.

  • Use active voice and positive language.

  • Use short words and sentences.

  • Avoid unnecessary modifiers.

  • Use specific examples.

  • Avoid vague language.

  • Be consistent. Adhere to the copy patterns and style points outlined in this guide.

  • Feel free to use contractions.

  • Use the oxford comma. Otherwise, use common sense.

  • When in doubt, read your writing out loud.