Friday, December 26, 2014 • Afternoon Edition • "Resistance is futile."

Outhouse Article Writing and Style Guide

Written by Jude Terror on Tuesday, June 12 2012 and posted in Staff

Outhouse Article Writing and Style Guide

The definitive guide to posting articles on The Outhouse.



Outhouse Style and Publishing Guide

The purpose of this guide is to hopefully answer your questions about posting articles on the site. It's our goal to train everyone to be able to manage their own articles, because we don't have the staff required to manage it for people. Please read over this guide, refer to it when you have questions, and let us know if anything is unclear. If you have ideas for stuff that should go in here, let us know and we'll add it.

Thanks for contributing to The Outhouse!

 

Title/Headline

The headline is more than just the title of the article. It is the first and sometimes only thing potential readers will see when finding articles on social media or through searches. Therefore, it should both describe the content of the article and draw readers in. Headlines should be in title case (First Letter of All Major Words Capitalized).

Poor Headlines:

DC screws up again
Infinity #2

Good Headlines:

DC Shocker: DC Editorial Drives Lobdell Off Teen Titans
Review: Infinity #2

 


The Teaser

The teaser serves as a second, more informative headline. It will appear underneath the headline on most search results and social media, and helps to convince a potential reader to click to read more. It should be written in sentence case, and is generally a single sentence, though sometimes several short sentences are stylistically appropriate.

Poor Teasers:

???

Good Teasers:

???

 

The headline and teaser together are very important because they are what will draw readers into your article. This is where the old journalistic mantra of who, what, where, why, and how comes into play. You should answer as many of those questions as possible in these two sections (unless there is a stylistic reason not to), because people aren't going to click on an article if they don't know what it's about.

 

The Article Image

The article image adds to the presentation of the article. In most cases, we just use the cover or page from a book or a movie poster or screenshot from the movie. It's best to use official images from the content creators (Marvel, DC, Disney, Fox, etc) rather than fan images in order to avoid copyright issues. The image will be automatically cropped, from the center, into three shapes:

1. A small square for the front page article listing.
2. A comic cover shaped portrait rectangle for the reviews sidebar (only ever seen on reviews).
3. A large landscape rectangle for the top of the article itself.

The largest shape is 600px by 300px, so any image uploaded as the article image should be this size or larger, or it will look blurry. Since cropping occurs automatically from the center of the image, try to imagine what your image will look like when cropped into the appropriate formats.

When selecting an image, put almost as much thought into it as you would the headline and teaser, this is a first impression that will show on facebook links, the front page, etc.  Keep in mind the smallest thumbnail will select the portion in the center-most of the 600x300 image size.  And if you do not use an image cropped to 600x300, the autocrop may simply show a vague image of a chest or crotch or other random nonsense. (like so...)
 


The entire cover was loaded instead of cropping it down to 300 tall.  Whole covers should only be used when posting reviews/previews and never for other articles.

Images should not contain wacky filenames, as this can confuse the program and cause the article to glitch while saving.

Bad filenames:

Image.jpg.1
DanDidio#1asrefao%^____.png

Good filenames:

image.jpg
DanDidio.png

In particular, avoid characters like #, $, ?, etc in filenames.

If you save an image already used in a previous article, be sure to delete the _size3 from the end of the file name before attempting to use it.

 

Publishing Options:

There are three dropdown boxes at the top of the article page: Category, Status, and Featured.

Featured should always be set to YES - this makes the article appear on the main article listing on the front page when published.

Status can be switched between Unpublished and Published. When unpublished, you can save an article and view it without the rest of the world being able to. This is good if you need to check your formatting, or if you want to save your work for editing later. See the section below for publishing an unpublished article.

Category is the type of article this is. Self explanatory. We plan to merge the features and columns eventually, but haven't gotten around to it.

 

The Content:

The content of articles should be written using your own voice, and should be grammatically correct as makes sense with the style of the article. For instance… it's okay to use incorrect grammar and punctuation… If. You're. Doing. It. To. Make. A. Point.

When writing a news story, it's best to get all of the pertinent information out in the first paragraph, and then go into details or commentary in the following paragraphs, unless the style of the article you're writing requires it to be done differently.

 

Quoting:

It is okay to use quotes from other sources as long as they are attributed with a link, it is a small portion of the source article, and it is CLEAR that it is a quote. The quote should be in quotes if it is inline with the paragraph (I.E. "Oi, this is a right budget, it is," said Rich Johnston over at Bleeding Cool (linked). "Pip pip!") If the quote is on its own line, use the Blockquote style in the article editor by highlighting the text and hitting the button that looks like a quote (").

In the case of press releases, it is okay to paste the entire thing, noting that it is from the press release. It should be clear to the reader that what follows is from a press release and not the words of the author or the Outhouse. In the case of press releases, we like to at least provide a paragraph or two of commentary first so that the article has something else to offer beyond what every other site offers.

 

Fake quotes:

If writing a humorous article, The Outhouse often uses fake quotes, either by completely made up people, or by real public figures. We only make up fake quotes for public figures - for instance, we wouldn't attribute a fake (and often slanderous quote) to a real fan, message board poster, twitter user, etc. It is generally okay to attribute fake quotes to a public figure, as this is protected by parody, but to be safe we try to make sure the quote is EXTRA ridiculous so it is obviously fake, and when possible we attribute the quote to an "imaginary" Dan Didio, or we say that "Jason Aaron would probably have said this, if he would talk to us," or that the conversation "took place in our imagination." Something like that, to clue the reader in and to protect against lawsuits.

 

Tone:

It is okay to be snarky, satirical, humorous, serious, or however you are feeling while writing an article. The more an article reflects your personality, the better.

It's not okay to be overtly racist or sexist, even if being satirical (unless it is REALLY, REALLY hammered home that it is satirical), because those sorts of things will be brought up forever, over and over, to discredit the site in all future arguments. Trust us on this one. It's better to avoid.

 

Libel:

Occasionally, The Outhouse gets its hands on a real story about a serious matter. When this happens, we must switch to an actual journalistic mode. For instance, we covered a story about a photographer who was taking photos of cosplayers at conventions, printing the images onto body pillows, and selling them without consent. While it was tempting to editorialize, we made sure not to make any statements that implied that WE were saying the photographer was breaking laws. It is okay to say "Party A says that Party B is breaking the law by doing this," but we should not imply that The Outhouse says they are breaking the law, as we could be sued in that case. If in doubt, ask an editor or the Outhouse Writers Chat.

 

Images:

Images can be posted by dragging them from your computer to the editor window, or by clicking the image button (it looks like a photo of a tree) and using the file browser to upload.  Be careful when dragging an image into the editor and make sure you drop it into the editor box and not just the browser window, otherwise it will load the image into your browser as an address and you could lose your article.

Whichever way you upload a photo, be sure to use the image button (the one in the THIRD ROW FROM THE TOP, LEFT BOX) and resize the image to be smaller than 590px wide so that it does not extend past the article width. (Sometimes when first dropping an image into the editor, it will take a moment before it can be selected, be patient.  A good rule is to look at the source button upper left hand corner, when that becomes selectable, the image has loaded)  Keep the size proportional, and feel free to play around with the other settings (but make sure to test the article unpublished to make sure it looks the way you want if you are doing something experimental).  It is also best, if you are not loading an image with wrap around text to center the image, even if it takes the entire width of the article.  Simply click the 'center text' button in the editor while you have the image selected.

Try not to link images from other sites, unless there is some reason to do so. It's better to download the image to your computer and upload it to our site, where we can control access to it. You never know if another site will delete the image in the future, breaking the article.

 

Embedables (videos, tweets, etc):

Embedding content can be done by copying the embed code from the source. In the case to YouTube videos, the YouTube embed dialog allows you to set the size of the video. Keep it to 590px wide or less to avoid breaking the template. Once you have the embed code, there's a simple way to embed it.

1. In the article, where you want your video to go, enter some text like VIDEO GOES HERE.
2. Click the SOURCE button in the top left corner of the editor box. This will switch your article to HTML mode.
3. Paste the embed code over your VIDEO GOES HERE text.
4. Click the SOURCE button to return to regular mode. Your content should be embedded.

 When embedding videos, again check the width and be sure it is smaller than 590px wide.  You should also center any embedables with <center></center> at beginning and end.

For twitter, if you are embedding a tweet that you think the author may remove later, it may be best to either use a screenshot initially, or take one and hold onto it as backup.

 

Review Tips:

Below are some handy "guidelines" on how to review a comic book.  These aren't hard rules that need to be followed everytime; however, we've learned that reviews like these are better received and respected by the larger comic community.

  • One paragraph of synopsis, tops.
  • Addresses plot, dialogue, and artwork. If appropriate, also discusses layouts, lettering and inking.
  • Mentions the creative team by name more than one time.
  • Provides comparisons to past and current comics when appropriate.
  • Ultimately makes a recommendation whether or not a reader should buy the comic book.

While you're welcome to score a book, it's not necessary.  

Sourcing:

At the bottom of the article are two boxes, source title and source link. If your article is using another site's article as a source, put the title of the site in the Source Title box, and put the FULL URL, including http://, in the Source Link box. If you are using a press release as the source, simply put Press Release in the Source Title box and nothing in the link box. If you are not using a source at all, put None in the Source Title box and nothing in the link box. The source will be stripped from the article in that case.

 

Gallery:

At the bottom of the article, you can add up to 40 images, which will appear as clickable thumbnails. This is an easy way to upload stuff like comics previews or large batches of images. You select the images from your computer, and they will be uploaded when you save the article. Images should follow the same filename guidelines as listed in the Article Image section above.

Do NOT put anything in the Title or Alt Text boxes - more often than not, this breaks the article.

 

Admin Control Panel

After you have published your article, you will see this box at the bottom of the article.  It is only visible if you are logged in as staff.

First thing you should do here is tag your article.  This is not like meta tags, where you select every possible thing that could apply to your article.  This simply allows us to categorize articles.  Normally select one primary tag, then perhaps one or two others, sometimes with repeating columns and events (like SDCC) more might be needed.  But if you try and tag your article with ten different tags, someone will probably end up removing them after they cry for a bit.

The other links in the panel are for fixing your article.  If you update your article after publishing, click on "Loltron Updater" to update the version that appears in the forum.  If you notice more than one forum post was made from your article, click on "DUPLIKORR".  If your initial banner image didn't load, try the "Image Unfucker".

 

Promoting your article

We have editors that keep up with Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, but if you use social networks you may want to post links to your articles as well.  Keep in mind that your article may not be posted to a social network right away, if it is time sensitive or you think was overlooked, please contact one of the editors to check on it.  If you use Reddit, do not spam your articles to their website every time you write one please, that will only get you and the site targeted as spam.

An important thing to remember before tweeting, posting, etc. your article is to click the title of the article and let the page reload.  If you see anything like "articles" or "saved" etc above the title, then the actual article page hasn't loaded yet and your link may end up broken.  Always click the article title and let the article reload after you post an article.

 

What is all that other crap at the bottom of the new article page?

You may have noticed some other stuff at the bottom of the New Article page, such as under the header Publishing Options, where you see Created By Alias, Created On, and Start Publishing.

Created By Alias will change the text of the "Written By" part of the article. Generally, we leave this alone, but if a few people collaborate on an article we may put all their names here.

The Created On and Start Publishing are date fields that control when the article gets published. They should always match each other, or weird results can occur. Provided you have configured your time zone in your account settings, you can use your local time in this box. The date goes in the format YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS, so 2013-09-12 05:00:00 would publish at 5AM, your local time. It goes in 24 hour cycles, so 3PM is 15:00:00. When publishing a new article, leave both of these blank, and they will automaticall be set to NOW. If for some reason you need to set an article to publish in the future, you can set these to a future date and time, but your article will load as a blank white page until that time arrives.

Under Metadata Options, you'll see Meta Description and Meta Keywords. Meta Description will automatically be filled with your teaser text, so leave this alone. Meta Keywords is optional - you're welcome to use them, but most search engines don't pay attention to them anymore. They won't show up anywhere visible in your article.

 

Publishing an Unpublished Article:

If you have an unpublished article you are ready to publish, you have to remember to set the Created On and Start Publishing dates as outlined in the section above, or else your article will be published retroactively to when it was originally written (which means forum members might not see it and it might end up far down the page in the article list). You can empty out the Start Publishing date and leave it blank and it will auto-populate, but you need to put the actual date and time in the Created On date. Set it to whatever time it is for you right now and all should be well.

 

Formatting:

A lot of people like to write their articles in an external editor (like Microsoft Word) and then publish them. This is fine, but before you paste it into the editor, you want to remove ALL WORD FORMATTING, same with any other text editor. This is because outside programs will insert a bunch of invisible HTML crap that you can't see, but which WILL fuck up the formatting on the web page. An easy way to clear out the formatting from your word processor is to paste into a PLAIN TEXT EDITOR like Notepad first, then copy and paste from there. Another way to do it is to paste into the teaser box, which is a plain textbox and will strip formatting, and then move it to the editor area. A third way is to use the PASTE AS PLAIN TEXT button on the editor. It's the middle of the three clipboard buttons on the top row of the editor, the one that looks like a clipboard with a written on piece of paper on it.

Once you've got your text in the editor, use the formatting buttons at the top to format it as you like. One thing to note - the buttons in the RIGHT BOX on the SECOND ROW FROM THE TOP are advanced HTML stuff that you should just leave alone. The buttons in the RIGHT BOX on the BOTTOM row are also advanced crap that should be left alone. Other than that, go nuts.

 

This is a work in progress, and if you have anything that you think should be added here, please do it.




About the Author - Jude Terror


Jude Terror is the Webmaster Supreme of The Outhouse and a sarcastic ace reporter dedicated to delivering irreverent comics and entertainment news to The Outhouse's dozens of loyal readers. Driven by a quest for vengeance, Jude Terror taught himself to program and joined The Outhouse. He instantly began working toward his goal of forcing the internet comics community to take itself less seriously and failing miserably.  Ironically, our webmaster, whose website skills know no end, has very little understanding of social networks or how they work.  Regardless, you can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, but would probably have the most luck just emailing him.

 


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