Now that you have a really terrific, creative title — let’s move on to what you’ve been so patiently (or in some cases … impatiently) waiting to learn to do — writing your page using the WordPress editor.
As I previously mentioned, some people like to pre-write their content in programs such as Microsoft WORD for example and then copy and paste it into their WordPress page or post. This is certainly ok to do, but you should first review my Tips for Copying and Pasting in WordPress which will help you to avoid some self-made problems.
Working in the WordPress Editor
Because I’ve already gone over copying and pasting, this tutorial will talk strictly about writing your content within what’s known as the WordPress editor. Yours will look something like this:
What you’re looking at above is a sample of the entire WordPress page administration panel – including the administration navigation on the left and what I call the “Publishing” panel on the right. The WordPress Editor itself is the box in the middle. The post panel will look pretty much exactly the same. Yup — there sure is a lot of stuff in there! But don’t panic and run off to hide behind a tree or anything. I’m going to help you work your way through this. Also remember that your panel may not look quite so full of stuff either. Web designers will probably have more in their work area than their clients because many of us will hide as many of the things as we can you don’t need to be concerned about which saves you panic attacks and us fix-it sessions.
The Visual and the HTML Tabs
The red arrow on the top right points to two tabs which are the Visual and the HTML tabs. 99% of my clients don’t need nor know how to use the HTML tab and this is a good thing — because in here you can do some damage unless you know what you’re doing. The reason for this is that sometimes there is not only common website tag code visible in there but also what’s called PHP shortcodes coded into the page. Shortcodes provide features and functions for your site that must be left as-is. Should you inadvertently delete or modify a tag or shortcode, you’ve just messed up your site.
I don’t like putting shortcodes where clients have access to them and I try not to do this as much as possible, but sometimes this just can’t be helped because the feature or function doesn’t work any other way. Unfortunately, sometimes the shortcodes are also visible in the Visual tab and that makes me real nervous but again, sometimes there is nothing can be done about it — the shortcodes have to be placed in the page in order for things to work right. I currently have just one client that has any need at all to use the HTML tab and the only reason she uses it is because she’s got some web design experience and knows what to do in that tab.
If you see something that looks a little funky to you — normally wrapped in brackets like this: [ shortcode here] — I can’t stress enough to be very careful to not delete or modify it in any way. It’s just something you must work around. In most instances this is intended to sit at the bottom of the page and everything you do can and should be done above the shortcode.
If you happen to mess with the common everyday tag code more then likely what will happen is your tags will no longer be opened or closed properly and the end result will be funky looking text. For example, you could wind up with an entire page in bold or italics.
Most if not all of your work will be done in the Visual tab. When you open your page editor click on the Visual tab to get where you need to be.
After clicking on the Visual tab, all you need to do to get started is to click your mouse in the upper left corner of the blank area and start writing! My example image isn’t blank because the screen shot you’re looking at is the page you’re reading right now and which I’m writing and editing as I go along. When you first go to create a new page, the editor box will initially be empty or blank.
Saving Your Work
You can write ’till your heart’s content but you should save your work often. Until such time as you’re happy with what you’ve written and ready to make your page visible on your website save it as a Draft. You’re probably familiar with this term already so I won’t elaborate on this but instead just tell you how to do it in WordPress.
To the right of the editor screen you will see what’s known as the “Publishing” panel. The Save Draft button is located at the top of this section. Click it to save your page as a draft. You’ll see other options here but we’ll get into them later.
I can’t speak for other designers, but I configure my own and my client’s sites so that all they need to do to make their paragraphs is strike the ENTER key on their keyboards. This action automatically sets the paragraph tags in the background so that when your page is displayed on your website your site visitors see the customary “white space” between your paragraphs.
Now, let’s say you’ve written some text, you go back and re-read it and find you really should make a paragraph where this isn’t one. No problem. Click your cursor where you want your paragraph to break and strike the ENTER key on your keyboard. Instant paragraph. You may need to go back and add a period at the end of one and a capital letter at the beginning of the next. Very simple, click your mouse where you want to edit and make your changes.
Sometimes our happy fingers get in our way and we hit the ENTER key more than once when making a paragraph. When you do this, WordPress will automatically make two or more paragraphs depending on how many times we’ve happily hit the ENTER key. Again, this is a simple fix! Click your mouse in the left side in the big gap you’re now seeing and then hit your keyboard’s DELETE key ONCE. This will delete one empty paragraph. If you find you still have more of a gap than one paragraph’s worth of spacing, hit the DELETE key again. I would do this slowly at first until you get the hang of it.
Suggestions for Writing Your Content
Because your website is “public domain” so to speak, you want it to look and read right — after all anyone and everyone will be able to read what you wrote! One thing you don’t want is to make yourself look sloppy or like an idiot.
I spend a ton of time editing some of my client’s content because all to often that they don’t watch their spelling, punctuation, paragraphing or capitalization. Sometimes I get one single gigantic long paragraph and have to figure out where to make the paragraph breaks. I do understand that not everyone (including myself) is a professional writer nor do they have an English major. Neither do I for that matter — but I do want what I write to look and read as good as I can.
Unless it’s your intention that your website portray itself (and you!) as a “texting” or Twitter site, don’t use this type of slang or abbreviated writing style when you’re writing. Save that for when you are texting or socializing on Twitter.
If you don’t want to look sloppy or make yourself look totally uneducated in the English language — please — take your time! Read and re-read what you’ve written! If you know you’re a lousy speller or that you aren’t good with punctuation, capitalization or making paragraphs, have someone who is proofread it before you publish your work. Some people make it a habit to write an article one day, walk away from it for a day or two and then come back and re-read it. You might be surprised at how different what you write today may look and read like a few days from now. You have something you want to say which is why you’re writing – say it proudly by doing it as well as you possibly can!
Make It Easy to Read & Keep it Interesting
I’m sure you know what it’s like to attempt to read a looooong page of nothing but word after word after word with no breaks, no pizzaz? Who wants to scroll endlessly without giving their eyes a break? Not me! I get lost, I get bored, my eyes hurt after awhile and if I want to go back and find something it’s nearly impossible to do it quickly if all I see is one word after another after another. If a web page is hard to read I normally don’t bother reading it at all. I’ll go find what I’m looking for somewhere else. The majority of people are skimmers when it comes to reading, especially if they don’t quickly find an interesting read.
Help your readers and make your pages and posts interesting by breaking up the monotony with sub-titles. This isn’t required, it’s a suggestion and one that’s particularly helpful when you’re writing a long page. I also suggest being creative with your sub-titles — this helps grab your reader’s attention, keeps things flowing and interesting. I’ll tell you how to make a sub-title in the next tutorial.
Don’t be so intent on what you want to say that you forget you want others to actually read it! Do a test — put yourself in your reader’s place and look at your pages as objectively as you can. Pretend you’ve never been to your website before and ask yourself “If I landed on this website would I find it easy to read and interesting?” If you’re looking at a blob of never-ending words on a page — take the time and make the effort to fix it.
I Wrote My Page — Now What?
Let’s say you’ve written your entire article (page or post). You’ve proofed it (hopefully several times) and maybe even had someone else read it over. You’re completely satisfied with it and now you’re anxious to publish it on your website for all the world to see. Unfortunately, you’re not quite ready for prime-time just. Most people like to dress up their pages before the public sees them so that’s where we’re going next.