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“Sample” Tutorial: WordPress and The Art of Formatting

As we enter the second part of  the semester, we’ve learned a lot of important lessons when it comes to online production. At this point, you’ve learned the general ins and outs of WordPress, produced some posts, inserted some photos, and added some links. Each step of the way you’ve gathered new pieces to the puzzle, but now we need to compile all of those pieces and complete the puzzle. That’s not to say there’s one clear way to produce online content, but rather, there are methods that make for a more compelling final product.

This means doing a more professional job of formatting your blog posts and learning new ways to arrange the text, images, and other content in a compelling manner. Compare a magazine article’s layout to your latest post in the student blog: How are they formatted differently? How do the art directors at the magazine use their content to direct your eyes around the page? By breaking up wide lines of text with images, infographics, lists, quotes, etc—you can help make your page less of a labor to read  and easier for those who are just looking for key details. Use your skills in formatting a post to drive people’s attention to the most important elements of your story and to make it easily scannable.

Where to Start?

Click to Enlarge

First and foremost, you need to familiarize yourself with the formatting tools available in WordPress if you haven’t already. Referred to as the “Kitchen Sink,”  you can see them right above the body content while editing a post. (Note: Be sure to expand the tools so you can see both rows by clicking the icon seen below).

The best way to learn about these tools is to simply experiment. There’s also a great overview here if you who are interested in reading about how these tools work.

But remember, these are just the tools for the job. The most important part is learning how to use them in a way that helps shape your posts into something that people will want to read and enjoy.

Text Formatting

A huge element of article layout is text formatting. You can use things like bolding text to call-out subheadings. You can insert a block quote to draw attention to a particular quote in your story. You can highlight a list by using bullet points. There are an endless number of ways you can use the text formatting tools in WordPress (or any text editor for that matter) to draw the reader to certain elements of your blog post.

“You can insert a block quote to draw attention to a particular quote in your story.”

Don’t overlook this ability. While it’s one that takes some practice to get right, it’s a skill that’s necessary to produce rich content that will be successful in the newsphere. And the great thing about working on the web is that you can try whatever you’d like before you publish your content. Don’t discount the “guess and check” method. Keep playing with your copy and using the “preview” feature until you have something that looks the way you want it.

Image Placement

Where you place images within your posts is an oft-overlooked part of online article production. Many people will just stick photos at the beginning or end of a post, or simply throw them somewhere in the middle. These images are frequently too large, too small, or don’t really go along with the context of the article. Don’t do this.

Instead, look again at your favorite print magazine. Pick an article—a  review of a car, for example. While going over the details of the interior, what photo did they choose to go in that section? An interior photo, perhaps? Probably. What about when they talk about the wheels and brakes? And so on. Think context, always.

Furthermore, the size of your photo is very important. While a key element of your story may warrant a large photo (possibly the headline image), not all photos have to be gigantic full-width monstrosities. As with every element on the page, use the image’s size to convey its level of importance. And don’t get too stuck on center justifying everything either. Experiment with left and right justification and wrapping text around the photos. It helps spice up the post and also breaks up line widths, making the content easier to read for your audience—which is a huge plus.

Get Out There and Experiment

As I’ve said, the best way to figure out what looks good is to simply try it. Guess and check. Try something in your post, preview it, and adjust as needed.

Likewise, if you’re unsure of how to do something, search it. Google is your friend. How do you make your image bigger? Try a few things yourself, and if you can’t figure it out, a simple Google query will bring you a wealth of knowledge. Also, YouTube has a huge amount of video tutorials for WordPress that will walk you through just about aspect of blog post production.

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