Many bloggers offer educational and informational content on their blogs. Many know that including “tip” in the title is a way to attract attention, but what happens when the “tip” isn’t a tip but a guide, technique, how-to, advice, or the only way to do it?
Do you know the difference between these?
When writing Blogging Tips, I asked my agent what was the difference between a tip and a how-to. She told me quickly, “A tip is one step. A how-to offers many steps.” That changed the whole format of the book.
Understanding the difference between these references may help you improve your writing style as well as the way to you title and label your post content. The differences may slip and slide between the different words, and what defines a technique this year may become a how-to next year as the language changes and evolves. So these are loose definitions on the different descriptions used for your blog content.
What is a Tip?
A tip is one step. It’s short, to the point, and provides a hint, help, and information on how to do one thing in as few steps as possible.
Most tips can be told in one paragraph, or even one sentence. Some need a little more explanation, but a tip is a condensed how-to.
What is a Technique?
A technique is a process, style, and method of doing something. It might be the only way to do it, or it might be a version of the possible methods.
A technique can be a very specific method set in stone, or more likely, it’s a way of doing it that works for the author.
What is a How-To?
A how-to is a step-by-step instruction on how to do something. It can be short or long. The 1970s and 80’s made the publishing industry rich with the growth in how-to books, and blogs are bringing back the how-to into mainstream popularity.
Most blogs offer how-to information. They vary from this is the only way to do a task to a variety of how-to techniques on how to accomplish something.
The main characteristic of a how-to is the step-by-step process outlined by bullets, numbers, and headings and subheadings. For some explanations, a visual graphic accompanies the text explaining each step in the process.
A how-to can include tips and techniques, along with some advice, but the overwhelming characteristic is the step-by-step structure.
What is Advice?
Advice is commentary. It is the sharing of knowledge, experience, thoughts, and ideas on a subject that may help the reader resolve the issue or challenge before them. Advice might give the answer, or challenge the reader to consider the answer for themselves.
Advice is editorial content. It’s recommendations. It might be backed by tips, techniques, and how-tos, but it’s one person’s opinion on how things should work.
What is a Guide?
A guide differs from tips, techniques, how-tos, and advice in that it encompasses all of these.
A guide takes the reader on a journey through a process, providing tips, how-tos and techniques along the way, and a lot of advice. Some guides can be summarized into one post, others require a series of posts to help the reader get the in depth information on the subject they may need.
A guide instructs. It “guides”. It holds the hand of the reader, shining a flashlight along the path to things they need to know in order to make it happen.
What Do You Call “The Only Way to Do It”?
There are a lot of names for articles and blog posts which offer the only way to do something. Some call it the method, answer, or instructions.
When there is only one way to do a task or solve a problem, it is the single method possible, thus it could be a tip, though a tip is helpful information. It could be a technique, though that’s more likely just one of many ways to do it. It couldn’t be advice, as it’s the “only” way to do it, thus a standard and practice and not an opinion. It’s not a guide but it is definitely part of the instructions in a guide.
As you write your blog posts, consider how the information is offered. There is no right or wrong way. Your blog post may include techniques and tips. It might be a lot of advice with tips and techniques interspersed throughout the content.
However, by understanding the nature of each of these, you can explore them fully as you write, helping your readers to understand when they are reading a tip, technique, how-to, advice, guide, or the only way to do it.
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.