LGF Pages Style Tips
UPDATE: This is now two years old, I encourage people to re read, and suggest improvements in comments.
Most News companies adhere to a style book - a rule book used for common spelling errors, syntax issues, formatting guidelines, and examples of usage. Since LGF is a news junkie community rather than a news company just the thought of trying to enforce a set of rules on the Lizards makes me burst out laughing; at the end of the day it’s pretty presumptuous for any lizard to try to enforce rules on others.
That said, the blogosphere is about trust - so setting forth some general guidelines is a good idea to keep people coming here, and this is my humble attempt to collect the general community wisdom and sense about posting in LGF PAGES in one place - please consider yourself a contributor and add to these in comments below. I’ll revisit this and pull it forward as new tips get added.
1. Truth is everything
As noted, the blogosphere is about trust; your reputation relies on your honesty - before you hit “enter” with your post, re-read what you’ve written with empiric truth in mind: can you easily back up everything you’ve stated as fact; is your analysis or speculation reasonable conclusion, or is it far fetched?
2. Use Blockquotes
The blockquote button (the quotation mark button,) is there for a reason - don’t confuse readers by quoting swaths of text from an article without setting it off from your writing — you don’t want others passing off your writing as theirs, so don’t do that to them. Highlight the text that belongs to others and blockquote it before you post it.
3. Limit your fair Use quotes
Quoting too much text from an article could end up with you in court for copyright violation - if you take the heart and soul of someone’s article and post it whole hog here, then there’s no reason to “read more” or “read the rest”. Make sure you are being fair to the original author. If you are critiquing, commenting, or analyzing another article, use just the segments that cover the points you are talking about. General rule of thumb: For short articles, one para, for medium articles, 2-3 paras, for long articles 3-5.
4. Press Releases
Government Agencies, large corporations, political groups, celebrities, and politicians all tend to have Public Relations staff whose job it is to keep public perceptions positive. These PR staff in turn release public domain statements on websites, at press conferences, and direct to news outlets. The PR releases are always biased towards the person or group releasing the statement. Since they are intended for public consumption when quoting from press releases you do not need to limit your quotes to fair use and you can use the entire press release if you wish. If you do it’s important to label it as a press release, and who the issuing organization or party is because there is bias in every press release and you owe it to your readers to differentiate between journalistic writing and Public relations writing.
Sources of press releases: PR Newswire, PR Week, candidate websites, corporate sites, and Open government web sites. When there is bad news then those releases are usually sent out late at night or late on a Friday in the hopes that they will go unnoticed by most of the public and press. The late Friday flurry of releases has now become know among journalists as the “Friday Trash Dump.”
5. Don’t Link to a Link that Links to a Link About a Newstory
Go to the source - there are literally hundreds of millions of news aggregators and rebroadcasters on the internet and it’s real annoying to users and community to have to click five layers deeper into the net to get to the real information. Make sure you aren’t posting a tweet that leads to a facebook page, that links to a forum where they talk about an article that’s a link buried in one of the messages. Lizards are empiricists, link to the real source, the real skinny, the creator, or the author. If you must, then H/T the others, but… you owe it to your fellow lizards to cut down on the chase when linking - only a few of us have a hundred years to live.
6. Don’t state your opinion as fact
If you are analyzing a news event, opining about a news event, speculating upon a news event, or editorializing about something then please say so. Don’t blur the factual parts into the analysis /speculation /editorializing without a demarc like “If I were to speculate on this then blah blah ” or “IMHO yadda yadda” or “What I think is grrrrr arrrrghhh” This also has the added benefit of keeping you out of court for libel.
7. Don’t link directly to hate sites or those with credibility issues, and always warn about questionable and not safe for work sites
We owe it to the lizards and our readers not to send them into sewers to swim without warning them that they might need a wetsuit, we owe it to them not to link to less than credible sites without a warning, and we also owe it to our own credibility to disclaim the less than credible sites when we must link there for illustrative reasons. So please use warnings (NSFW, Warning: Hate site, Warning: kookspiracy site, etc.)We also shouldn’t link to those sites directly because the less traffic they get the less likely they are to last, and the less likely we are to be associated with them. If you must link to that ugly site, then link to the google cache.
8. Edit and Trim that headline if you use the Bookmarklet.
Charles did a great job on the bookmarklet that posts pages, however every site has different standards on headlines and headings so what it picks up can be confusing at times. Make sure the headline is trimmed down to just the actual headline, or the headline and byline, and please convert it into proper punctuation from a netscream if it’s in all caps. Remember if your post gets promoted to the sidebar you don’t want it running down half the page and long run on headlines often won’t fit in a 140 character tweet.
9. Put in a photo credit if it’s not your photograph.
Use an asterisk and note the photo credit at bottom of the post or in the photo caption if you are using someone else’s photograph. Use the photographer’s name and the source site if you have both, if not use the source site. When posting images they should be 560 pixels wide or less in the full body of the post, or no more than 480 pixels wide when used inside a block quote section.
10. Use Tags
Pick good key words from your post and use them as tags at the bottom. Key words are used by search engines, so you want to use key words that are unique as tags, but you don’t want to use tags or keywords either so unique or so general that people will never search for them. Use the words you would use if you were looking for another article like your post. If it’s mostly about one politician or pundit, make sure their name is a tag. Don’t use the generic header you filed the post under as a tag, but do use related headings as tags. E.G. A story on tax exemptions for churches could be under “Law” but you could also tag it “religion”.
Update: the ‘Suggest Tags’ button is nifty and helpful, but it won’t give you everything that’s important to tag, and it will give you lots of stuff that’s useless or really goofy. (I sometimes use a goofy suggestion for fun.) Be sure that the people important to the article are named, and not necessarily the way the ‘Suggest Tags’ button names them. For instance, you might need to remove a person’s title to make the name more searchable.
If you’re writing a long commentary, try to limit your paragraphs to a maximum of a couple of inches of vertical screen real estate. I know it’s not always possible to do, but if you do it most of the time, your readers will thank you. Remember that if you use excessively small or large fonts and resolutions at home that your concept of screen real estate might differ from the average.
Use bulleted or numbered lists when detailing lists of like items or points. Either number them like in this article, or use Unicode characters ( ♣ , • , etc.) and special character notation to set off your bullet point list. [See this page for the codes to insert]
Make judicious use of bold & italic text. Not only will this help people understand your meaning, but it’s also important to the search engines because they give more weight to words enclosed in the strong and em tags. From an HTML perspective, strong carries more weight than emphasis as it means “strong emphasis”. From a typography perspective, it’s considered exceedingly bad form (aesthetically speaking), so please don’t apply both to the same word or phrase unless you absolutely can’t avoid it. Ditto for bolding or italicizing all caps.
This is another thing that’s helpful when reading long commentaries, so please create some subheadings using a bolded text header for each logical segment. They’ll make it much easier for readers to quickly scan the page and get the gist of what you’re saying. Additionally, it will help them locate info they were particularly interested in if they come back to the page later.
Update: the H6 tag at LGF is designed to be used as a subheading style. All the subheadings in this Page are formatted like this:
If you mention a book, please link to its Amazon page so LGF will get credit for any click-throughs. You don’t need to add any special code — just link to the Amazon page for the book, and the LGF Pages app does the rest.
For those of you who link to articles on your own blog please provide at least a brief description regarding what the post is about and/or some text from the post instead of just a link in the body of your LGF page. I don’t know about others, but unless you created a really compelling title I’m not going to click through to read your post if it consists of a single line link. (Most people are smart web consumers and don’t find enigmatic link titles compelling).
17. Lizardisms and other colloquialisms
There are a lot of terms and new ways to use words that develop here and in other places on the net that we find useful, humorous, or otherwise enlightening. However the average reader perusing your post might not understand it or find it amusing if you use one of these terms and don’t bother to define or explain it. You should assume that more people who don’t understand the term are going to see it than those who do since most LGF visitors rarely read the comment streams. If you use a lizardism, or a recent net-spawned colloquialism, please either define it parenthetically after use, or if this destroys the flow of your sentence please footnote it and explain at the bottom of your post. Part of our job is to netucate* those less netucated* than us.
18. Hyperbolic Headlines and Snarktastic Ledes
It’s somewhat of a net truism that over the top hyperbolic headlines and those sarcastically framed do tend to get more hits. Before you go that route there are some things to consider. The first was laid out in point 1 of these style tips, the internet really is about truth and trust, over time many sites will die out but those that are true and those that are trusted will live on. So before you use a snarky barky or hyperbolic headline or lede, please keep that in mind. There’s net fame, and there’s net infamy - continually baiting your readers with over the top headlines will put you into a “boy who cried wolf” state with readers. Eventually you will have something of high import to impart, and nobody will click your links to that incredible story and headline because they’ve been baited by you too oft in the past. Let the Dem Undergrounds, Free Republics, Whirled Nuts Dailies, and Shrieking harpies of the net live in that land of hyperbolic insanity, and realize that if you must snark and bark with your headline or lede that it is a very fine line you walk. Would someone popping up this page in Mound City Iowa who peruses the internet only once a week understand what you are saying? Could someone misread it and assume you (or worse this site,) was advocating something we are totally against? Taken out of context, could the Headline or Lede make for too much grist for enemy blogs and stalkers? Re read your headline and lede objectively before you post it, hits are not everything. All of that said, well tuned snark is a thing of joy and we do come here to have some fun. Use it where it works, but always reread and edit yourself keeping in mind that snarkasm shouldn’t be over abused or overly abusive.
I’m sure there are plenty of other thoughts about pages, what are yours? Please add them in comments.
Contributors: Charles, Reine De Tout, Curious Lurker, wrenchwench
* Netucate, (Netucated, Netucation): to teach and learn the latest internet colloquialisms and memes. This is honestly neither a lizardism nor a colloquialism, but rather something I made up on the spot to illustrate my point.