It's an interesting time for us at CSR. We've had a huge influx of new members thanks to a certain rookie QB and our editors have begun to look to expanding the staff. But even for those who don't want to join on as regular contributors, there have been a great number of new articles recently and I thought I would share a few pointers on how to make a good article even better with some really easy tips and tricks.
Full disclaimer: By no rights is this a condemnation on people who choose to forgo this advice. I like to think I write a pretty good article. You can take my pointers and run with it or ignore them as you please. All up to you!
Making Good Use of Headers
That one got your attention right? Well good, it was supposed to. Think of headers as titles of individual "chapters" in your article. They provide a couple really useful things for the reader. First and foremost, it allows you to break up the flow of you article a little bit better and provides information to your reader about what the following topic will be about. Remember way back when your English teacher used to stress that whole "3 points to make a good argument" idea? This is where that can come into play. Each header can be used as an individual main idea that helps make up your article.
But you can't just go all willy-nilly putting these things everywhere. They have to be substantive enough to justify their use. Too many headers and your article becomes cluttered and it actually makes it harder to read. Too few and you get into the dread "text-block" situations. While we're on the topic, it should be noted that paragraphs work much the same way. Their purpose is to make the article easier to read. However, if you have a paragraph after every sentence, you're not helping. And if you have no paragraphs, no one will read it. People will skip over parts of your article if you don't use any or even if you use too many.
Unless it's a single point at the end or beginning of a section, avoid using one/two sentence paragraphs and certainly don't make them individual sections with headers. (See how I covered myself just now?)
What is the Jump?
I see a lot of people take the jump out of their article all together. If you aren't thinking about your article being moved to the front page, it probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense to you. The jump's whole purpose is to divide the introduction of your article from the main body. Simply put, it's that first paragraph or two that describes what you're talking about and what your ideas on the matter may be. I like to try to raise people's interest with it by asking a subtle question and then answering it in the body, like baiting a fish and reeling it in.
That's great and all, but why is it important? Well, when the editors move your article to the front page only what is before the jump is shown. If you are thinking ahead of time, it does a few things. First of all, you can purposefully phrase your introduction to hook people into your article. Secondly, the editors won't come banging on your door asking for dues for editing your article and putting the jump in an appropriate place. It's almost always more natural if you write your article with the jump in mind though.
It can be tricky to maneuver around the Jump. If you click below it, just hit Enter/Return to give yourself a bit of space to come back down below it later. If you delete, just use the Undo button (or Ctrl+Z), and it'll come back. There used to be a button for the jump I thought... but I can't seem to find it for now...
Pictures, Videos, and Tables! Oh my!
Inserts are great. They can really help make your article stand out. They can also detract from your article. If you put a huge picture in that takes up the entire page, it will take up the entire page of your article. Put that before the jump? It'll put the entire image before the jump if your article is moved to the front page. At that point, it's just a distraction. The best advice is to make sure they are sized appropriately. There is a whole article on inserts at the bottom of the "Inserts" tab in the editor help. Just click "Show Editor Help" and a lot of nifty information will pop up.
As far as tables go... they are very finicky things, but absolutely amazing for organizing sets of data. But they can be difficult to get to work right and I'll be honest, I'm no expert with HTLM or SB Nation's code. I simply make a table in Microsoft Word (I'm sure any editor that supports them would work) and I copy the table directly in from there. I hear a rumor that BW and Jaxon may know more on that topic. (If said rumor is true, feel free to email me and I'll make an addendum to the article with an in-depth how-to here).
Obligatory Spelling/Grammar Advice
It's pretty common sense, but try to be semi-formal in your writing. Don't use slang or poor grammar and run a spell check before you finish. There is one built into the SB Nation FanPost creator. Of course, we don't expect you to be an expert on grammar. Use proper capitalization, try your best not to have run-on sentences, and make sure you utilize proper punctuation. These might sound small and asinine, but it does help. Clarity is key in a print-medium.
Hopefully this was in some way helpful to everyone. Like I said before, I didn't write this because I saw things wrong in other threads. The articles have been great so far. Hope to see the same quality throughout the next few seasons as we continue to grow the community and become one of the major blogs on SB Nation.