Style Guide

We don’t have a lot of rules here at ChinaGeeks, but there are some simple guidelines we ask our writers to follow most of the time. Please read all of this, and bookmark the page so that you can check back on it when you are unsure of something.

For First-Time Writers

If you’re a new writer, following these guidelines makes getting published on the site much more likely. In no particular order:

  • 1. Your first post cannot be an opinion piece, so don’t try to send something like that in. We all have opinions and we’re sure yours are great, but this is a news and analysis site first and foremost.
  • 2. You’ll note that you rarely see the word “I” on this site. There’s a time and a place for personal stories, but we try to stay away from them here, even in opinion pieces. If you’re looking for a place to share crazy expat stories, Lost Laowai is a great blog with a more personal flavor that’s always looking for writers or, alternatively, just start your own blog.
  • 3. Make sure your writing is good and your grammar and spelling are correct. Typos happen sometimes, but give the piece a once-over before you hit send. I (read: Editor) do not have time to sift through other people’s articles, editing them for bad or ungrammatical writing. I’m sure you can dig through the archives and find plenty of mistakes I have made, but I pay the hosting bills.
  • 4. Your main point, or at least a strong hint about it, should appear in the first sentence or two of the article so that it shows up on the front page. Also, try to give your article an interesting title to attract people to it.
  • 5. Try to keep paragraphs short, and break up longer pieces with block quotes, lists, etc. to make the page a bit easier on the eyes.

For All Posts

  1. Photos or graphics make a post look nice, so add one or three, especially if your post is long — people don’t like to read huge blocks of text, and without images to anchor them, it’s easy for readers to get lost if they look away for a second. Feel free to steal images from other sites, but don’t link to them, upload them to our site using the Upload/Insert tool (right above the text box when you’re writing a new post) — that way there’s never a broken link. And be sure the image you’re using fits. It’s best to set it to “align left” or “align right” and choose a smaller image size (something with a width of 350 pixels or less) and then click “insert into post.”
  2. Use your HTML tools. Blockquote anything longer than two sentences. Use lists to make things clearer, and if you don’t know how to use those things, ask or look on the WordPress forum.
  3. Don’t be afraid of headings like the ones on this page. They can help break up a long piece and clarify your point at the same time. Unlike most useful HTML, there isn’t a built in WordPress button for this, so just type it yourself. The code looks like this:

    Your Heading Goes Here

    , just remove the spaces!

  4. Use the “Excerpts” Field (you should see a series of blue bars below the text field when writing in WordPress, click on the one that says “Excerpt”) to keep the front page looking clean. Normally, the blog will automatically take the first chunk of your post, no matter what it says, and turn it into the pull quote on the front page, so if you want the front page to say something different (or if the first part of your post is a note or a citation, etc.), copy and paste what should appear on the front page into the Excerpts field; this will replace the automatically generated pull quote on the front page with whatever text you copy-pasted. Be sure you keep it at approximately the same length, though (no more than a few sentences).
  5. Make sure your tags are useful. Don’t restate the categories, and be specific. If your post involves specific people, their names should be tags, for example. Anything that you think might help readers search for the post or find similar ones should be a tag.
  6. Titles should be properly capitalized. A proper title capitalizes all the major words, i.e., “Why Western Media Mistakes Matter”, not “Why western media mistakes matter”. See the translations section below for specific rules regarding titling translations.

For Translations

  1. In translations, editorial notes go in italicized brackets [Like this -Ed.], text the translator inserts into the translation for clarity’s sake that isn’t present (but may be implied) in the original Chinese goes in regular brackets [like this].
  2. The title of a translation post should be the original author’s name followed by a colon, followed by the title of their post translated and in quotation marks. Capitalization should be as though it were the title of a book. For example, a proper post title could be Li Yinhe: “Sex and Human Rights” or Ai Weiwei: “Let Us Forget”. In the event that the original post title is too long or awkward to translate, you can also format the title as [Authors name] on [topic], i.e. Ai Weiwei on the Sichuan Earthquake or Wan Xiaodao on Rural Worker Salaries
  3. Use span tags to make it so that readers can place their mouse over your english text to read the original Chinese text. You aren’t required to do this, but it’s highly recommended, especially for any essay that might get harmonized. Your HTML markup will look like this (without the spaces around the brackets): Your translated English text. Here’s what it looks like in the field: Mouseover this sentence to see some Chinese. If you still don’t get how to encode it, click “View Source” under the view menu in your browser, and take a look at my HTML for that sentence. Keep in mind it’s best to do this paragraph by paragraph; it doesn’t work if you translate a whole essay and then dump in the original text in a single span tag (there’s a limit on how much mouseover text can pop up, I guess).

Helping Spread the Word

  • 1. When you’re finished writing a post, click on the Haohao button at the bottom of the page to add your story to Haohao (if you don’t have an account, sign up for one, it’s free and useful).
  • 2. If you have a facebook, or anything else that can import blog posts, set it to import the ChinaGeeks feed as notes (or whatever) to help spread the writing around a bit.
  • 3. If you frequently comment on other China blogs or websites, set your “homepage” as ChinaGeeks (or posts here with you as the author, or whatever) so that when people click on your name, they come here.

That’s it for now. Happy writing!

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