Staffhacker writers, here’s a guideline for what we’re looking for from your writing. It’s not expansive, but I hope it gives a feel for the writing style.
- Write like other sites in our field: Lifehacker and Profhacker. Professional and instructional, but with good humor.
- For now, our posts will be two types: blurbs or writeups.
- Aim for clarity and concision.
Write like other sites
The easiest way to describe our desired writing style is to acknowledge that Staffhacker owes its existence to two sites: Lifehacker and Profhacker. Their writing styles are the perfect balance of personal writing, writing as a member of a site, writing as a professional and an expert, and writing as a real person with a real sense of humor. [Quick side note: In mid 2010 Lifehacker’s tone shifted to be a little more humorous than we’re aiming for. For the style we want for Staffhacker, see posts by Gina Trapani.] Jakob Nielsen has a great (but long!) collection of articules on Writing for the Web, if you want to learn more.
The Blurb Post
Blurb posts are really a glorified link; they’re similar to a link on Twitter or Tumblr. These posts introduce, link, or contextualize some content elsewhere, in usually 50-300 words. They usually follow the pattern of introduction, summary, and optional pull quote and contextualization. For example, if Lifehacker wrote a great post on a Text-Blasting service, our blurb would look like this:
- Intro: Have you ever wondered why students never remember anything you wrote on the email listserv? […]
- Summary of the linked post: Lifehacker has written a great review of a new texting service called TxtBlaster. They write:
- Pull quote (optional): “Txt Blaster saved my life this week! […]”
- Contextualization (optional): As our students move away from email and further toward texting and Facebook messages, we risk becoming outdated […]
The Writeup Post
The writeup is a long-form (usually 250-1500 words)piece of instruction or review–a piece of original content. For example, you can see the post entitled “Keep It Simple: Getting Started with Facebook.” After reading this post, the readers know everything they need to know to do whatever the post is about–in this case, get started with Facebook. One note: writeups are not about opinion, but rather information.
If a good writeup already exists online, the question to ask is this: Can we add anything to this writeup that will benefit our readers more? Remember that our readers are a mixture of geeks and technophobes. If we can write something significantly better, let’s do it. If not, just write a blurb posting to the existing writeup.
As you can see with the above post, there’s a special category of writeups called “Keep It Simple.” These posts describe the basics of starting to use some technology that most web-savvy folks won’t need instructions on–but the goal of Staffhacker is to teach geeks new things and still be approachable to technophobes.
Clarity and Concision
Lifehacker has a great post about clarity and concision here. Here are a few selected points from it:
Introduce What You’re Talking About in One or Two Short Sentences
You may have noticed that posts at Lifehacker all start with one or two sentences—what we call the lede—made up of roughly 40 words or less. Here’s what we try to pack into those ledes:
A brief statement summing up the purpose of the post. Whether we’re writing up a download, a DIY hack, a step-by-step guide, or whatever, our lede tries to sum it up as directly and succinctly as possible.
Writers for Staffhacker are not paid for their work. Currently, advertising revenue only cover the costs of hosting and promoting Staffhacker, and there is no external source of income by which to pay editors and contributors. Writers own the original copyright to their work, but grant Staffhacker full permissions to reproduce, edit, abridge, change the title of, or use in promotional work the content submitted.