TheSprout’s Style Guide
NB: Before reading, please note that this guide is intended as a reference tool and should not put you off contributing. It is here if you want to improve on your writing, but remember that our team of editors will do most of this for you.
This guide will help you to write and upload articles on TheSprout. It covers things like word counts, punctuation, copying and pasting, slander, translation, images and videos, copyright and layout. We have kept the guide simple, but if you want some more in-depth information regarding uploading and TheSprout in general, you can read our Frequently Asked Questions, Terms And Conditions and Acceptable Use Policy.
If there is anything you think should be added to this guide, or if there is any part of it you don’t understand, please don’t hesitate to email us: info@TheSprout.co.uk, or call the office on 029 2046 2222.
We always recommend writing your articles in something like Microsoft Word first so that there is always an offline backup because, hey, things can go wrong (like someone unplugs your internet!).
- 1. What is a style guide?
- 2. What can I upload?
- 3. How do I upload?
- 4. Moderation
- 5. News / Inspiration
- 6. Newsworthiness
- 7. Research
- 8. Top picks
- 9. Your article’s title
- 10. Writing the article
- 11. Notepad
- 12. Your personality
- 13. Swearing
- 14. Offensive material
- 15. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, violence, porn, gambling etc
- 16. Religious and political views
- 17. Word count
- 18. Spelling & punctuation
- 19. Article layout
- 20. Copying & pasting
- 21. Exclamation marks
- 22. Capitalising words
- 23. Clichés
- 24. Repetition
- 25. Slander
- 26. Titles of movies, films, books, job titles etc
- 27. Bullet points
- 28. Reviews
- 29. Links
- 30. Translation
- 31. Comments
- 32. Image sizes
- 33. Resizing images
- 34. Copyright
- 35. Creative Commons
- 36. Crediting photographers and artists
- 37. Uploading a video
1. What is a style guide?
Newspapers, magazines and websites all have their own writing structure, which is referred to as a style guide. It is important that the way things are written is consistent which makes the publication or website look professional.
2. What can I upload?
Anything you want. TheSprout is a platform for you to express yourselves emotionally and creatively. If something is annoying you in your area, tell everyone about it. If you’ve written a poem about snails, please share that too.
3. How do I upload?
There are two ways:
- Register to become a contributor. This will allow you to upload pictures and videos with your article, lay it out and preview it before going live. You’ll get an account and your articles can be grouped under your username.
- Or simply submit your article or event via the contact page, if you don’t want an account. It will likely be published anonymously and you can’t add pictures.
Nothing uploaded to the websites goes live until it has been checked and edited by the editor or sub-editors. Where possible we will always put articles live, but occasionally we will contact you if something is unsuitable or unclear.
5. News / Inspiration
Content is everywhere and easier than ever to follow in the age of smart phones, texting, Twitter and Facebook updates. If you would like to write an article, think about your target audience of 11 to 25-year-olds in Cardiff.
Why would someone want to read your article? Is it engaging and informative? Does it explore a subject and reveal things the majority of people don’t know? Would you read it yourself? These are all things worth knowing before starting.
Unless you’re the most experienced person in the world on the subject you’re writing about, you’ll want to get some background info. Get your facts and figures right, and remember people can comment under your article and highlight any errors.
8. Top picks
This is a longer article that might not be current affairs but will be of interest to people, even if it is something they’re not usually interested in. If you’d like to suggest something as a Top Pick, drop us an email – info@TheSprout.co.uk.
9. Your article’s title
Also known as your headline, this is where your imagination needs to come up with something short and attention-grabbing. Try and keep it to 6 words or less, but don’t worry if you can’t think of one as we can do this for you.
10. Writing the article
We strongly recommend you write your article in Word or similar and save it as you go along. This means you will always have a copy. You can then copy and paste it into the Add New Post page on TheSprout’s CMS (Content Management System) – you can access this page after registering and having your account activated. Otherwise paste it in to the contact form.
A big wall of text can be difficult to read and people increasingly skim articles online. Inserting subheadings that summarise what’s next in the text or cherry-picking good quotes and putting them in a larger text can help break up your article and make it much more readable.
12. Your personality
Please, please inject your personality into your articles. We positively encourage it. Tell us if the subject you’re writing about has affected you and in what way. Be cheeky and opinionated, but without being rude or insulting.
Gratuitous swearing cannot be allowed on TheSprout due to the age range of our readers (11-25). If you feel you absolutely have to swear, please keep it light and ensure it is in context with your article, although we can’t guarantee its inclusion. We will likely use asterisks for the big ones. This is regularly discussed at our editorial group meetings.
14. Offensive material
Any articles or comments (see point 31) containing threatening, bullying, homophobic or racist material or similar will not be put live. We discuss borderline material at editorial group meetings.
15. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, violence, porn, gambling etc.
Articles or images glorifying any of the above will be heavily edited and probably not go live for the same reasons as swearing. If you’re writing a balanced and informative story regarding any of the above, however, we’ll be happy to support you. We discuss borderline material at editorial group meetings.
16. Religious and political views
Whatever your beliefs, please be respectful of other people’s.
17. Word count
Although there is no set word count for articles, if you’ve only written a few sentences it will be too short. As a rough guide aim for a minimum of 250 words for a standard article (poems and such may be shorter).
18. Spelling & punctuation
Don’t worry if you’re not the best with spelling or punctuation, we have editors who shall correct mistakes. But please don’t use text speak (LOLZ / PMSL / THNX) or smiley faces (you can however use both in the comment boxes under articles).
19. Article layout
As well as using subheadings (see 11 above), use short sentences and paragraphs, as they are easier on the eye and look better on the page. Again, don’t worry too much about this as we can help edit your article accordingly. You can also use pictures and videos (see 32 to 37 below) within your articles to improve the readability and appearance of your article.
20. Copying & pasting
Please don’t copy and paste more than a few words of text from other websites. This is called plagiarism and can get us into trouble. The exception is when using a quote from someone, but put the name of the website used (in brackets) after the quote.
21. Exclamation marks
You may have the urge to add an exclamation mark to the end of every sentence in order to get your emotions across. You really don’t need to. People will feel your anger, humour or disbelief just as well without them.
22. Capitalising words
Same ball park as exclamation marks. Capitalising words in an attempt to get across your fury or frustration looks clunky on the page and is the equivalent of shouting at your readers.
You cannot afford to miss this… a feast for all the family… for a good time, get yourself along to… These are all clichés best avoided. Words like amazing, brilliant and incredible are okay, but try and use description to put your point across.
It’s easy to keep repeating words and phrases, especially when writing a longer article. A good tip is to read your article aloud to a family member or friend, and use a thesaurus to help you with alternative words.
www.dictionary.com lists this as ‘a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report.’ In other words: accusing someone of doing something without any evidence or good reason. This could get us (and you) in trouble.
26. Titles of movies, films, books etc
These should have the first letter of each word in capitals and be italicised i.e. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. Titles do not need to be in ‘inverted commas.’
27. Bullet points
- These have a capital letter at the start but no full stop at the end
If you are reviewing something (film / music / gig / book / show) remember to include links to websites and things like age ratings and running times for movies. Also include a video of the trailer (or music video of the band) – see point 33.
All articles should have links in them. When writing put your links in brackets after the text where you want them. You can then hyperlink them when you layout your article (or we can do it if you’re using the contact form)
If you are able to write in both Welsh and English it would be great to see your article bilingually. If not, certain articles, usually Top Picks (see 8 above), will be translated at some point.
Under live articles is a box where people can leave comments. Feel free to respond to comments but please play nice and remember that comments are also moderated before going live. You have to register with Disqus to use the comments section and we strongly recommend using an email address and not using your real name.
32. Image sizes
You can upload images in JPG, PNG of GIF formats (yes that includes animated gifs) and a decent size: ideally around 1000px wide. Smaller images will look blurred if used as cover pictures, but can be used within articles (align them in the middle); if too big the website won’t cope with them (upload limit is 8MB) but anything over 1500px can cause issues. But don’t worry if you can’t find any images as we can do this for you.
33. Resizing & editing images
There is an inbuilt function on the CMS (Content Management System aka the back-end of the website) where you can crop and reduce the size of pictures. Landscape and letterbox-shaped pictures work best, as lots of long thin pictures means lots of scrolling. You can also use a site like pixlr.com to edit and resize pictures if they’re too big to upload (see point 32 above).
If you are not uploading your own images you’ll need the permission of the person who owns them. If you haven’t done this, don’t upload the picture just add a link to the picture and the site the picture is from in your article and we’ll look into it. More on copyright here.
35. Creative Commons (CC)
Creative Commons is an increasingly popular way of sharing creative work. The artists involved will allow you to use their images as long as they are credited and a simple set of rules are followed. We recommend Compfight.com for searching CC images on Flickr.
36. Crediting photographers and artists
If you use someone else’s image (with their permission) you’ll need to add a link to their gallery page or website under the image to give them credit. This is important as all Creative Commons pictures require this credit to use them on TheSprout.
37. Uploading a video
Pasting the link to a video on YouTube or Vimeo in your article on the CMS (the back-end of the website) automatically embeds it. But please make sure a) you have permission to use it, b) that the video contains nothing offensive and c) isn’t embedding disabled (This means the video isn’t allowed to be copied from YouTube / Vimeo).