Writers’ Guide

writers guide blog
Get ready to write! Image: Public Domain

Updated August 28, 2013

Produced by the Colin L. Powell School communications department. For questions, contact Amanda Krupman, Communications Coordinator (akrupman@ccny.cuny.edu).

First, we welcome all contributions to the School’s blog. This is a communal forum; the more voices and opinions, the better. This document will guide you through the (hopefully) painless process of writing a successful post.

If successful, our blog will attract a wide audience of people who are interested in the School and in the activities and ideas of our students, young professionals, guests, and other stakeholders.

The blog will be a hub of conversation about the issues we care about. It will serve as a place where the community of fellows—current and former—can connect through their common concern about the public good. It is also where we can connect with the CCNY community—and the community beyond the campus gates—around civic engagement. Our blog’s success will depend on your active participation! So blog early and often.

Our Job

The communications department at the Colin Powell School is responsible for the production of blog posts. Our job is to make your writing ready for online publication.

Your Job

That being said, you have responsibilities as well. And that takes us to the meat of this guide:

Length:

Blog posts are neither essays nor tweets.Length is important. Posts that are too short or too long will quickly be ignored by readers. Construct posts that capture the essence of your reflection or argument without taxing the attention span of your readers or underselling what you have to offer.

As a general rule of thumb, solid blog posts run roughly from 300-800 words in length. But shorter or longer posts are OK if that’s what you need to express what you have to say.

Tone:

Think carefully about what sort of writing you enjoy reading the most, and model your own accordingly. The blog format allows a good deal of latitude in style: Generally speaking, lively, informal writing styles are most attractive to readers (even to the stuffiest academics!).

Feel free to show your personality. You can use the first person and contractions, but keep your language clean and inoffensive. Informality should NOT be allowed to compromise seriousness. Think conversational, yet professional.

Formatting:

Long blocks of text are daunting, especially to online readers. Keep your paragraphs to 5-6 sentences at most. Feel free to include subheadings between paragraphs to break your post into sections, like chapters.

Check your post carefully for grammatical and spelling errors and typos before you submit it. Every error you catch is one we can’t miss. Sloppy editing communicates that you don’t really care about presentation. And if you don’t care about your writing, why should anyone else?

Adding Audio and Video:

security-camera
Photo: pylbug / Creative Commons

Videos from YouTube and Vimeo can be embedded in posts. If you would like to do so, include a link to the video in your contribution, and we’ll take care of it. Other videos can be embedded as well- usually, if there’s an option to “embed,” it’ll work.

We can also include audio recordings. If you’d like to do so, contact Amanda Krupman (akrupman@ccny.cuny.edu) and we’ll see if it’s possible.

Photos:

Each post will be accompanied by at least one photo. Don’t worry if you don’t have a photo; we’re happy to find one for you. If you do wish to provide one, make sure that you have the right to publish it. That means no results from a Google image search.

Where you can get photos:

  • Photos published online under one of the six Creative Commons licenses at the bottom of this page are free to use: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/
  • Flickr: under Advanced Search, check the box for “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.” Your search should then yield only results that are ok to use.

Lastly, if you do submit a photo with your post, please include a link to where you found it, so we can verify its copyright status before publishing.

Extra lastly, make sure the image is at least 500 pixels wide.

References:

If you cite a study or refer to a print or online source, include a link to the page where you found it. Organizations, companies, and well-known people should have links.

Check your facts, check ‘em twice.There is nothing more damaging to your credibility as a blogger than to find out that you don’t have your facts straight. Check your facts with multiple, credible sources. And always, always cite your sources.

Think Clearly, Write Clearly:

Just like a standard essay, your posts should be focused and logical. Some questions to ask yourself before sitting down to write each post. What is the issue or topic? What is your stance? How, if at all, does your opinion differ from those of others on this particular issue or topic?

Can you find evidence to briefly support your preliminary conclusions on the subject? Does the content of your post hang together well? In other words, are you logically progressing through your thinking? If the answer is no, you have more work to do.

Deadlines:

white-rabbit-late alice wonderland
You don’t want to be this guy. Image: Public Domain

We are flexible about setting deadlines, and aim to have content prepared to send live at least one week in advance. When you have an idea for a post, note it on the calendar and set a deadline for yourself.

Having said that, once we’ve agreed on a deadline, respect it.

Submitting Your Work:

Submit your post as a Word document via e-mail to Amanda Krupman (akrupman@ccny.cuny.edu). If you are providing a photo, include it as an attachment (note the link where you found it in the Word doc).

Include a short description of yourself and a headshot, so we can add you to our Contributing Authors page. It doesn’t have to be long or serious, just let everyone know who you are and what you’re up to- even what your favorite food is. If you have your own blog or Web site, let us know; we’ll be happy to link to it.

Feel free to suggest a title for your post, although the Center reserves to right to change it. In some cases, we may send your submission back to you with comments for additional editing.

Otherwise, expect to see it live on the date noted in the editorial calendar.

It’s Alive! Now What?

Promote your work! Post it to Facebook, Twitter, and/or email it to your friends and family. This blog is a vehicle for public conversation, so read what people comment on your post, and respond. Engaging in dialogue with readers will encourage them to come back for more—and that’s what we want.