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15 Mistakes WhatCulture Writers Are Making

10 Mar

CBS

CBS

We’re looking to tighten up some of our articles as we head into 2014, and with more writers than ever before submitting good content, we’re trying to streamline the editorial process as best as we can, so that turn-over on articles can also benefit. (If you aren’t a WhatCulture.com writer already, you should think about signing up. It’s pretty cool and you can earn money from each article you produce).

The overall goal, of course, is to have uniformity across all articles, in terms of how the articles look, as well as eradicating common mistakes across the board – so with that in mind we’ve put together a simple cheat sheet of mistakes that frequently appear on articles submitted for inclusion on the site.

Please don’t think this is a personal attack on anyone’s work – it’s merely a general reminder to try and iron out some mistakes we see again and again when editing. Below are our commandments for content – a style guide of sorts that relates to the most common mistakes we currently see in your articles. If it appears on the list below, chances are it has appeared in multiple articles in the past few years.

As a first general rule, know your audience. By now you should be aware of what readers expect from WhatCulture in terms of articles and content approach – if you have a pitch that doesn’t fit, it’s probably best not to pitch it. That doesn’t mean we are closed to new content ideas, far from it in fact, but there’s very little point pitching to write an 35,000 word dissertation on the life cycle of deep sea prawns. Consider your audience – they may want to know about deep sea prawns, but they have expectations of how they will digest content on WhatCulture, and that just isn’t it.

1. Not Checking Your Work

Please proof read your own articles before submitting. It’s amazing how many errors would be eradicated if writers just took a few minutes to read their own work and check for mistakes before submitting – which also means a massive ease of editorial workload. Your help is always appreciated, so please, don’t press Submit unless you think your article is finished to the best of your ability. Rushed work is very easy to spot.

2. It’s/Its

By far the biggest recurring error on the site – please learn how to differentiate between “It’s” (which is only a contraction of “It is” and shouldn’t be used in any other way – unless relating to Stephen King’s It or The Addams Family’s Cousin It in rare cases) and “Its”, which relates to the possessive tense. It might seem like a simple enough thing, but the frequency with which this error occurs assures that it isn’t commonly known, so please be sure to check.

3. General Apostrophe Use

Too often possessive apostrophe use is overlooked in articles – please make sure that you are using them correctly. If you are referring to something belonging to someone, or a group, the apostrophe must be used in every case, and should never appear when you are merely suggesting multiples of something.

Quick Cheat Guide:

  • It’s = A contraction of “It is.”
  • Its = Belonging to “It”
  • Scorsese’s = Belonging to Scorsese.
  • Scorseses’ = Belonging to multiple people called Scorsese.
  • Let’s = A contraction of “Let us” (Lets on the other hand is a word meaning allows, or rents an apartment.)

4. Sourcing Images

When looking to upload images to your articles, please use the backend of the site first to search our gallery, which can be accessed in your draft using the ADD IMAGE option…

Add Image1

Search for the film or actor that you need before you upload any new image, as a lot of images end up added multiple times, and there’s no value in doing so…

Screen Shot 2014 01 09 At 11 30 00

If you are repeatedly uploading the same image we’ve used a number of times, please know that you are making the editors’ lives a living hell.

5. Image Formatting

All images should be 600 x 300 in size in all cases, unless there’s a good reason for an alternative size (such as film posters, or particular images). Please resize images using a programme like Photoshop (or GIMP as a free alternative), and not one that will simply squash the image into the right size with the integrity of the image compromised. If you need help, please don’t be afraid to ask.

You can also use Pixlr.com, which will also allow you to edit images for uploading to the correct size. It’s a really simple system to use as well, so there really shouldn’t be any issues with uploading images.

http://search.creativecommons.org/

The only exceptions to this are album covers and movie posters, and in sports images (which as a rule tend to be 600 x 400.)

6. Swearing

Without exception, we cannot include profanity in articles, from the most typical curse words in usage to the most profane – or in comments either from writers or readers. If you notice any swearing in any comments, please email simon@whatculture.com immediately to report it. And when writing, please don’t use any swearing at all – it is far cleverer to refrain and say it another way anyway.

7. Offensive Content

We cannot allow offensive or bigoted content to appear on the site, whether in articles or comments. That includes comments that could be construed as homophobic, racist or prejudiced in any way, or relating to news events or people in a distasteful manner, regardless of whether the intent was comedic and not malicious. We are in this to engage readers and give them a reason to come back and read your work, not to develop a reputation as an offensive site.

Again, if you notice anything that falls under this banner and which doesn’t fall under the category of simple criticism, which is to be encouraged (healthy debate never hurt anyone), please email simon@whatculture.com with your report.

8. There/Their/They’re

Please learn the difference between the three words above, and when to use them correctly. Once you’ve grasped it, you’ll never go wrong again. For those who are confused about when to use the variations of this word, refer below:

Use “there” when referring to a place, whether concrete (“over there by that bush”) or more abstract (“There is a unicorn on the front lawn.”)

You would use “their” to indicate possession. This is a possessive adjective and indicates that a particular noun belongs to them. An example would be: “My family have lost their house.”

“They’re” is a contraction of the words they and are. It can never be used as a modifier, only as a subject (who or what does the action) and verb (the action itself) As in “They’re going to be mad they lost their house. or “They’re trying to ride the unicorn.”

9. Double Spacing/Paragraphing

Please refrain from using double spaces between sentences – it is not a convention we have ever used, and removing them from articles can take up valuable time that would be better used elsewhere. So please, from the outset, stick to using single spaces. Please also remember to use paragraphs instead of separating sentences onto individual lines, or presenting massive chunks of unbroken text: both cases make your work more difficult to read, and look better on the page.

10. Capitalising Subheaders

All subheadings in every article must have a capital letter at the start of EVERY word.

Incorrect:

Incorrect Title

Correct:

Correct Title

11. Sentence Length

Something that tends to come up quite often is unnecessarily short sentences, or over-extended ones. It’s important for an article to flow well to engage the reader, and having short, staccato sentences is not always the right way to do that. A short, punchy sentence has its place – for instance when used for impact – but using bridging punctuation like colons and semi-colons is a far better option, and makes reading an awful lot more natural.

Equally, it is important to know where to correctly use all forms of punctuation: filling your article with hyphens might feel right, but it is often better to use an alternative. If it helps, try reading your work out loud: if you can’t catch a breath or you feel you’ve been reading the same sentence for too long, it probably needs to be shortened.

12. Next Button Placement

When pressing the option to add a page break, please make sure that you are doing so on a new line in the article: if you press it immediately following the end of your sentence, it will appear on the end of that sentence, and the code will be compromised. This makes text unreadable, and it is a common problem in articles that could be entirely avoided by simply putting the Next Page on a new line.

13. It’s Spider-Man, Not Spiderman

If you’re in doubt concerning the spelling of film titles or talent names, check IMDB – it is an invaluable resource for that sort of thing, and making mistakes like that is akin to showing a red flag to a bull for some of our more colourful commenters.

14. Blog-Writing

It is good to have opinion in your pieces – after all, two of the key pillars of engagement are information and opinion – but we are not a personal blog, and too much of a personal voice, and unrelatable anecdotal evidence to back up general points is not something we would look for. It is far more authoritative to say “Jaws is the best shark film ever” rather than “In my opinion, I think that Jaws is the best shark film ever” – it is inherently implied that your opinion is in the piece, so it’s unnecessary to express it overtly.

And saying “I watched Jaws a while ago with my dog, who was so terrified I had to take him for a walk, which got me to thinking about this article. That proved to me that Jaws is the greatest shark film of all time” is even less authoritative. And there’s no need to talk about the process behind the article- don’t mention commissioning editors, or how long it took you to write it, or how difficult a subject it is – all that does is offer excuses for yourself that readers will take as a flag for your unsuitability to be writing on the subject.

15. Never Use Italics & Bold

No film, game, song or comic titles require italics, or bold. We don’t use those distinguishing elements in any articles, so please remember to simply leave all text unformatted.

More than anything, please double-check your work, and if in doubt, just ask an editor: that’s what we’re here for, and our primary concern is making you the best writers you can be. Feel free to contact any of us at:

simon@whatculture.com, editor@whatculture.com, edward@whatculture.com, joseph@whatculture.com, peter@whatculture.com

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