General writing tips

Follow these writing tips, and your work will likely be stronger.

Never use two words when one will do

Be clear and concise. Never use more words than you need to. Find a shorter way to say the same thing. Don’t feel obligated to write long.

Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

What he meant is that self-editing sometimes takes time. But if you self-edit, you’ll find ways to write more fluidly so that more readers read every word you say instead of skimming some or simply checking out halfway through. The analogy is this: Reading should be like swimming through water, not swimming through tar.

How long should my post be?

Let this be your guide:

  • A newspaper “brief” is anything under 200 words. (These are usually quick announcements.)
  • A short newspaper story is 240 to 300 words.
  • The average newspaper story is 450 to 600 words.
  • The average op-ed column is 480 to 720 words.
  • A newspaper story is considered to be long once it exceeds 900 words.
  • A story typically gets the special feature treatment once it’s over 1,500 words.

The difference in writing online is that you’re not limited by the amount of space on a physical piece of paper. So you can write longer if you want to, and the above list is not a strict rule in how we have to approach. However, use it as a guideline.

You can see the word count for your post in the bottom left corner beneath your post box.

The tighter the post, the stronger the post.

When should I use subheadlines?

If your post is over 750 words, use subheadlines in the post. They may also be appropriate for shorter posts. Use your judgment.

Should I write my post inside the WordPress dashboard or in a separate file?

It’s up to you. Occasional server problems can result in you losing a post, but aside from that, WordPress is a great medium in which to write.

If you write your post in a .doc file and then cut and paste into the dashboard, make sure to use the plain text option when you paste it in the window. You can find that by clicking the T button on the row of buttons above the post box.

How do I insert video into my post?
  1. A video should have an embed code. Copy that.
  2. Click on the Text tab in the upper right hand corner above your post box. (You’ll see it next to a tab labeled “Visual”.)
  3. Paste in the embed code where you want the video.
  4. Click the Visual tab. There should now be a big box where you want your video to go.
What else can I do with formatting?

There are a bunch of buttons above your post box. Test them all out. Most are useful.

Minimize the use of “I” in commentary columns

Don’t write: “I think Yaro will be a starter.”

Write: “Yaro will be a starter.”

By virtue of the column being commentary, the reader already knows that you think this. So just cut the extra words out. The fewer times you say “I” in your columns, the better they will read. Your column will be tighter and stronger because of it.

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