Blog Post Formatting

Lurking over in the Blaugust Discord today, I noticed a conversation about the details of precise formatting in blog posts. Someone was having some trouble trying to get the WordPress editor to format their post exactly the way they wanted it to be seen. It inspired me to throw out a bit of unsolicited blogging advice related to this topic.

First of all, I think we can all agree that the newest WordPress editor is terrible. Okay, well I don’t like it. I routinely have difficulties with it, that basically boil down to “it’s just weird and you just have to learn how it’s weird and work around it.” My biggest problem is that it routinely deletes an entire paragraph whenever I try to delete the last sentence in a paragraph.

Many of my blog posts begin on the iPad in EverNote and look like this.

Secondly and more generally, I’ve long since given up trying to format my blog posts in any particular way. I focus entirely on the text now. The “content” that I’m creating is all plain text, and Markdown is my preferred method of writing for both the web and fiction these days. I always assume the reader is reading what I’m writing here in different fonts, different sizes, different colors-whatever they want based on their viewing preferences. The theme I picked for my blog is one of the most basic, minimalist themes I could find.

I always write in plain text, and I put a double-space at the end of each paragraph. I do not touch HTML markup unless I absolutely have to.

I can't cut and paste directly from EverNote into WordPress, so I have to paste the text into Notepad first to make sure all formatting is stripped, where it looks like this.

The only formatting instructions I use inside a post is italics occasionally. I use asterisks to delineate them, as defined by Markdown, and depend on WordPress to format it. I don’t use bold-faced or underline. I write in a way that is pretty similar to text that you would upload to an old BBS, or Usenet posts, now that I think about it.

Occasionally I will use a header, but I don’t particularly like doing it because it makes my blog posts look like I’m following Blogging 101 Advice. (“Always use headers! People can’t read anything unless there are headers!") It’s entirely true that headers are useful, but my personal feeling is that the title of my blog post is the header.

Once the text gets into WordPress it looks like this. The \*italics\* are converted to _italics_ at this point. This is where I edit the drafts to fix mistakes and tighten up the text.

I add pictures to blog posts to break up the text a little bit, and because screenshots illustrate whatever game I happen to be talking about. I also find it amusing to write pithy captions for pictures and screenshots as if they are cartoon panels, a practice I first remember seeing on Inventory Full. I use the WordPress “caption” feature for images, and allow it to format it however. In most cases it translates into a paragraph below the image.

Pictures are also mandatory to get anyone to look at your blog post, apparently. Adding pictures is actually one of my least favorite things to do with a blog post, because it usually takes a long time to find a suitable picture. Getting the pictures from my phone into this particular blog post was a pain, and I enjoy it as much as I enjoy eating brussels sprouts.

(Wow, who knew “brussels sprouts” was such a difficult thing to find the correct spelling and plural form for.)

And finally when my posts get to the Newsflow RSS reader, they look like this.

I try to add links because Yoast SEO yells at me if I don’t include links, but I don’t really consider that part of the “formatting” process. I don’t like adding links because it adds another layer of fiddly work to the blog post creation process. But I like to link to blog posts I reference or that inspired me to write something. And sometimes I’ll link to a Wikipedia article to explain something if I don’t think people will understand what I’m talking about. I don’t always remember to do that, though. In most cases, a lack of links in my posts usually means a lack of patience on my part.

The point here is that I never, ever worry about fonts or colors or spacing or justification when I’m writing. There are multitudinous ways that people could be reading my posts, and it’s impossible to come up with one format that works for them all. The words themselves have to provide the impact I need or else I’m out of luck.

This page is a static archival copy of what was originally a WordPress post. It was generated from Markdown files with Hugo, a static web site generator. There may be formatting problems that I haven't addressed yet. There may be problems with missing or mangled images that I haven't fixed yet. There may have been comments on the original post, which I have archived, but I haven't quite worked out how to add them to the new site.

Note: Comments are disabled on older posts.