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.

Also please note that your chances of becoming a contributing author are significantly lower if you can’t read Chinese well enough to translate it. We’re not trying to be elitist, but you’ll notice that the vast majority of our posts are translations or contain some element of translation.

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 translation and analysis site first and foremost.
  2. 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 or personal rants, Lost Laowai and china/divide are great blogs with a more personal flavor that are always looking for writers. 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. Yes, I’m sure you can dig through the archives and find plenty of mistakes I have made, but I pay the hosting bills.
  4. Try to keep paragraphs short, and break up longer pieces with block quotes, lists, images etc. to make the page a bit easier on the eyes.
  5. All posts need at least one image.

For All Posts

  1. At least one photo or image is required for each post. 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.” Be sure your image is also the post’s featured image by clicking “Use as featured image” on the screen that pops up after you have uploaded the image
  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.
  7. Use footnotes! If a direct link isn’t the best way to cite a source, or if you want to make note parenthetical in nature or too off-topic to go in the main text, you can use footnotes by putting your footnote text inside double parentheses after the text you want to add a footnote to. However, there MUST be a space before the opening double parentheses, or the blog will not recognize it as footnotes. Don’t worry about numbering, that happens automatically. So a properly formatted footnote citation looks like this but without the spaces between the parentheses: Here is your in-post text ( (Here is your footnote text) ).

For Translations

I found the John Pasden’s translator interview series very helpful. Here’s a link to my favorite, an interview with freelance translator and blogger Brendan O’Kane, but the series continues on so don’t stop there.

  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. For titles, use your judgement. Often, 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 (or not a good title), 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. Or just write a totally new title, that also works.
  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. Send links of your posts or ones you really like to family and friends!
  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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