WordPress-ing 101

The following are my general instructions to students (mostly in my own courses) posting entries to the WordPress blogs designated for my various courses. (For a list of my past and present course blogs, scroll down on this page.) The blog is where you will post your findings, methods, and questions — and respond to with your colleagues’ posts in the comment fields.

Before reading further, you need to set up an account on UCalgaryblogs.ca.

Okay, let’s begin. After you log in to UCalgaryblogs, the next step is to register your account with the course blog. This will give you authoring privileges. Look for the word “Register” somewhere on the page’s margins (i.e. the sides or the bottom); it will usually be with information like a list of recent posts. Enter the password I have given you, either by e-mail or in class.

There is a very good training video on YouTube on posting to WordPress, the platform that UCalgaryblogs uses. It also gives you an overview of the Dashboard menu. Some of this (and some of my images) will look a bit different because of software updates, but the essential functions are the same.

There are also a range of more specific videos accessible under the Dashboard menu, at left.Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 10.37.02

The length of each post is flexible, unless I’ve specified otherwise in the course outline. Aim for about 500 words. Longer is fine, but don’t ramble.

The language of your posts can be informal, yet they should follow the rules of English grammar and punctuation. (I have a whole section of my Effective Critical Writing guide on correct English.) Write as if you are speaking to a crowd, so it’s more formal than you would speak to a friend. “In any case, strive for thoughtfulness and nuance” (says Mark Sample).

As you’re speaking, you’re consulting a list of well-ordered bullet points. The structure of your posts can be informal, too, but there should be a progression or narrative: from problem to solution, or from initial questions to more complicated ones. For instance, you don’t need to begin with a formal introduction, “In this blog post I will argue…”. But you do need to say, somewhere near the beginning, what your motivation is for writing it. What payoff will your readers get from reading this post? Then at the end, say a few words about what this post has helped you resolve or clarify, and what your next steps are.

Take a look at these three posts from former students of mine, who offer advice on how to write blog posts:

You should always write your posts in a word processor and save them to your hard disk before pasting them to the blog. Then if any alterations or errors occur, these documents are proof of your original writing.

You should also consider adding:

Links and Visuals

Links are an key part of an effective blog post. You’re always working and thinking and writing in tandem with others, no matter what kind of research you’re engaged in. Links just make these connections explicit. That means your readers can easily check the sources you’re citing — building on, agreeing or disagreeing with, or whatever. Link to anything and everything that’s influenced your thinking. Here are some categories to consider:

  • other blog posts, either on our course blog or elsewhere
  • Wikipedia or other information sources (yes, even SparkNotes: don’t be shy)
  • forums you’re consulting
  • tweets to which you’re reacting
  • videos you’re watching
  • text sources you’re using

Where necessary, screenshots are a great addition to your posts, because these visuals show readers exactly what you’re looking at when you write your post. It’s kind of like a Kijiji ad: it’s easier to interest readers in a thing they can see for themselves.

Here is a screenshot of the Wikipedia page about screenshots:

Notice how clicking on this thumbnail brings up the full-size image in your browser.

How did I insert it in WordPress, the blog writing platform that UCalgaryblogs is using? I’m glad you asked! So now I can demonstrate how useful screenshots are for explaining things.

[1] First I began writing a post (this is from an older example):

[2] Then I captured the image using the instructions on the Wikipedia page. These will be different depending on your operating system. (In Mac, I use the keyboard shortcut command-shift-4.)

[3] On a new line in the post, I clicked on that little picture icon next to Upload/Insert. See here:

You can also upload other kinds of media files. You can ignore them for now. (If you’d like to upload these files, go ahead — anything that clarifies or augments your post is fair game.)

[4] Then I clicked the Select Files button in the pop-up window. If you’re not getting this window, you need to use a different browser. (I’m using Chrome.)

[5] I find it simplifies things to upload files and insert them immediately. So after my file has uploaded, I scroll to the bottom of that pop-up window and select the Alignment > None and Size > Medium radio buttons, like so:

You can play around with these settings, but those are the two I like. Other alignments will insert the image into the middle of your paragraph, and other sizes just seem too large.

[6] Then click Insert into Post, and you’re done. To see what it will look like without committing to publish the post, click Preview in the Publish box to the right:

You can take pictures of any window, or even (as I’ve shown here) of selections from within a window. The Wikipedia page has detailed instructions.

Models

Finally, if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are just a few offerings from past students that can serve as models. Each one shows you that you needn’t restrict your creativity to the official course blog; you can always start one of your own, and make aesthetic decisions to suit your material and your whims. But be forewarned: blogging is highly addictive for the aesthetically and verbally inclined.

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