Tuesday, July 7, 2015 • Afternoon Edition • "Assholes welcome."

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, though we're happy to help you get acquainted with it. Please read over this guide, refer to it when you have questions, and let us know if anything is unclear in the writers email group. 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!

 

Filling Out the Article Template

Details Section

ArticleDetails.png

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). When doing the news, the more sensational, the better.

Poor Headlines:

DC screws up again
Infinity #2

Good Headlines:

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

Headlines for non-snarky-news articles do not need to be so sensational (though you're encouraged to have fun with it).

Headlines will show as all caps in the article itself, but will have proper case in google searches and other places.

Category

Choose the category that makes the most sense for your article. Remember to set this or it defaults to Webcomics, which basically no article we publish actually is.

Status

This can be published (live), unpublished (saved for later), or trashed (deleted - really hidden, but effectively the same thing). Until you've got the hang of things, set it to unpublished.

Show on Front Page (Featured)

This should always be set to yes (and one day we'll figure out how to make that the default). This is what causes your article to show up on the main page at www.theouthousers.com, rather than just on the individual category pages.

Article Section

Article1.png


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:

Read more!

This is The Same as the Headline!

This is way too much stuff to go in one teaser, and it will end up looking really weird and be truncated on Google searches and Facebook links and stuff like that. Really, there's no reason a teaser should be longer than a single medium length sentence, and if you look at google search results, you can see roughly how much space is available for the teaser.

Good Teasers:

Prepare to have your mind blown as we reveal Rich Johnston's great big secret!!!

Find out why Dan Slott was mistaken for a bear when he visited the Marvel offices today!

???

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 between the teaser and the headline (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 inadvertently stealing someone's personal art. 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 at that size. 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. Sometimes that works, but a lot of time, it's crotches. Take that into account.

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, and make sure they always end in jpg, gif, or png, and you should be fine.

If you save an image that you downloaded from an existing outhouse article image, be sure to delete the _size3 from the end of the cropped file name before attempting to use it, as that also confuses the system.

The Editor

Article2.png

The editor is fairly self-explanatory (though I put some explanation in the screenshot). Hover over the buttons (in the editor, not the screenshot) to get a little pop up about what each of them do.

A few tips:

I avoid using the Image Uploader and instead just drag and drop images from my desktop to the browser. That works better, it's quicker, and it forces you to download the article and upload it to the Outhouse instead of linking to it elsewhere (which leads to linkrot).

For adding video or other embedded objects, I go to wherever I want to add the video, and I type something like VIDEO HERE in all caps, as pictured below:

Embed1.png

Then I click the source code editor button (pictured above), which looks like <>, to open the article in HTML mode. Because my "VIDEO HERE" was in all caps, it's easy to spot in the HTML:

EmbedVideo2_copy.jpg

 

So I grab the video embed code from YouTube (or wherever):

YouTube.png

And then I paste it in place of "VIDEO HERE."

SourceCode2_copy.png

Then I press the HTML (Source Code Editor) button again and voila, my video is embedded up above where I had originally written "VIDEO HERE". The embedded video will look like a yellow box. It will look like an actual video when you save the article.

EmbedFinal.png

After the Editor

Gallery.png

Gallery

This lets you upload a bunch of images that will appear as thumbnails at the bottom of the article, but it's kind of outdated. Much better to just drag and drop images into the editor as mentioned above.

Source Title

This is mainly for news articles. It should be the name of the publication that is the source of the story. Sources should be the original source, I.E. Publishers Weekly. Sometimes, it's more appropriate to link the original source in the text of the article, and say where you read it, if the outlet where you read it brought your attention to a story you might otherwise not have known about. So you might say, Via ComicsBeat, and link to them in the source section.

If you do not have a source, or if you are writing a review or feature or something that wouldn't have a source anyway, just write none here, and put nothing in the link box. The word "none" will cause the system to remove the source section entirely from the published article so it's invisible to the reader.

If you are using a press release, just put Press Release here and put nothing in the link box.

Source Link

Only if you've supplied a source, you should put the full url to the original article here. It will be posted in the beginning of your article. It's important to give proper attribution, and links are the currency of the web. Always cite your source!

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

Bottom.png

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, though it will still link to your profile. 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.

Note that, when publishing a new article, you don't need to worry about setting the times at all. Just leave both of these blank, and they will automatically be set to the time you hit the save button. 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 appear as a blank page until that time arrives. It's best, if you want to publish an article in the future, to simply save it as unpublished, and then open it up later when you are ready to publish and set it to the current time then.

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. It's best to leave the Metadata Options section completely alone. We never even click on it.

 


Guidance and Tips

Use this as a loose guide. The most important thing is that you be yourself and put your personality into your work. That's what sets you, and us, apart from generic corporate websites, and what will ultimately gain you fans as a blogger.

Style Tips:

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." It's up to you to decide what works best, but don't get us sued.

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 is ok and welcome to take a serious approach, especially if the story requires it.

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 and that the point of what you're doing is to show that racism and sexism are bad). Remember that you are writing for a public audience, which does not just include your regular readers or your friends. We know you're not a bigot (or we wouldn't have you writing for us), but not everyone who reads your article has that context. So if you're addressing a sensitive issue through satire, which is a great way to address sensitive issues, just be sure that you provide all of the context in the article itself, so that even someone who is a first time reader of you or the site will understand the point you are trying to make, rather than mistaking something satirical you might say for something serious.

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. 

Embeding Tweets or Other Social Media Posts:

Embedding social media posts can be done by copying the embed code from the source in the same way as described above with videos. HOWEVER, it's better to take a screenshot of these and upload them as images instead (be sure the screenshot has a .png at the end of the filename, which some operating systems, like Mac, do not put there automatically).

You never know when tweets or Facebook posts will get deleted, especially if they're juicy, so 

Review Tips:

Below are some handy "guidelines" on how to review a comic book.  These aren't hard rules that need to be followed every time; 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.
  • Does not automatically assume that the story is exclusively written by the writer, as often comics are a collaborative effort.
  • 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 (this may change).

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 it becomes broken in some way. Feel free to use these three:

If you update your article after publishing, click on "Loltron Updater" to update the version that appears in the forum to have the latest text. I often just hit this even the first time I save an article, because sometimes the whole article doesn't make it all the way to the forum.

If you notice more than one forum thread was made from your article, click on "DUPLIKORR". Do this before clicking LOLtron Updater, as it may not recognize the duplicate afterward. If DUPLIKORR doesn't work, contact a site admin.

If your initial banner image didn't load, try clicking on "Image Unfucker," then opening the article for editing and uploading a new image. This usually works.

Promoting your article

We have editors that keep up with Twitter 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, as we use a service called Buffer to space them out. If your article is time sensitive, or if it got accidentally skipped, 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 (that last sentence was written by former editor in chief Christian Hoffer, who is a mod at /r/comicbooks, so he knows what he's talking about). The general rule with Reddit is that it's okay to post your own stuff if it's allowed by sub rules, but only if you are a regular Reddit user who posts other stuff all the time. If you're seen as just posting your own articles, people will downvote it and complain about the site.

An important thing to remember before tweeting, posting, etc. your article is to click the title of the article and let the page reload.  This will make sure that any additional junk that got added to the URL if you used something like one of the Admin Control Panel fixers or clicked your author profile or whatever doesn't end up in the tweet.

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 on Publishing Options 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 please do not bother with any kind of formatting because the article editor will strip this when you paste it in. 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. So do write in whatever program you like best, like Word or Google Docs, but do the formatting here on the website.

 

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




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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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