Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a huge influx of articles from lots of new and veteran Content BLVD writers. That’s great news! We’ve also signed up a bunch of new publishers, so the best, most marketable articles are finding homes quickly. As when hauling in a giant net of fish, however, there are invariably some fish in the net that can’t be used. Mistakenly caught fish (vocabulary word of the day: “bycatch”) get thrown back. Articles usually can be fixed! Here are some of the top recent reasons we’ve had to request edits.
1. Copyscape Issues
We talk a lot about original content. We mean it. Every article that gets submitted is run through Copyscape, which compares the article text against the whole Internet in seconds. When Copyscape alerts us that there is some duplicate text, we check the text.
Often enough, the duplicate text is a small portion of the article – less than 5% – and/or is comprised of terms or short phrases that cannot be changed without materially altering the meaning of the article. These word-bits appear in thousands of documents and clearly aren’t being lifted without attribution. These are no big deal.
We’re also OK with block quotes or other longer quoted sections, provided they are properly cited and critical to understanding the topic about which you’re writing. Citations should be in the form of links in the body of your article, just like the link in the first sentence of this section, or in the following sentence. Ideally, you learn, adopt and employ the Curator’s Code.
Wait, we just covered that. Curator’s Code, remember?
But what if you’ve done a good job of not lifting the work of someone else, yet seem to nonetheless have an article peppered with meaty numerical statistics and quantitative data? Chances are, publishers are going to raise a stink. After all, it’s unlikely that you personally went and measured the leg room of the new Boeing jumbo-jet, or used your power of spatial perception to intuit the diameter of a new cigar. You found those numbers somewhere else online. In these instances, it’s OK to add a link following your article body and list it as a source. Like so:
My fish bycatch simile above isn’t groundbreaking, but it brings the concepts I’m about to discuss to life in a different context. It might get you thinking about how there is a type of fish/articles that we want to have in abundance, and various types that we don’t want to see at all. It might not. In either case, just two sentences accomplish the task of introducing the idea. All of our articles need to have introductions to be marketable to publishers.
Consider how confused you might be reading this piece starting with “1. Copyscape Issues.” You wouldn’t have a context in which to understand where I would be heading with this, erm, heading. Thanks to my fishy introduction, you do.
4. First Person Narratives
I’m sure there are plenty of topics in our gallery about which you have feelings. Maybe you are super anti-gun, or super anti-smoking. Maybe you think the government should issue 5 guns wrapped in tobacco leaves to every kid turning twelve. You’re welcome to have whatever ideas you want on these topics, but what we need you to put in your articles is actionable topical information, not personal opinions. See, our client and his/her customers may or may not agree with you, and since we’re ghostwriting after all (say it with me, “BOO-yeah!”), our articles are the wrong forum to express yourself. Sorry, Madonna.
Travel narratives can be an exception, but it’s better to err on the side of this: “While in Copenhagen, visitors often remark that Edvard Eriksen’s Little Mermaid statue is indeed quite little, at just 4 feet tall.” Instead of this: “I was surprised to see that the portside bronze representation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid was as diminutive as in the story.” Oooh, pretend that’s the end of the article and watch this:
5. Word Count
I was saddened over the weekend to learn of the death of Jerry Nelson, puppeteer and voice of Count von Count from Sesame Street. We can honor his contributions to society by continuing to properly count the words in our articles and make sure they are at least 500 words. Otherwise, lots of blogs just don’t care to publish them. Most of our assignments ask for 600+ words, which, as I write my seven hundred and seventy first word, I can attest is not a terribly difficult goal to surmount.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that MS Word and our own platform word counts don’t always agree. See, software didn’t watch Sesame Street, so the Count wasn’t available to teach it to count. Software’s loss, really. If both systems tell you you’ve got more than 550 words, you’re probably in good shape.
Keep these tips in mind when working on your next pieces and you’ll be sure to have a better chance of quick publication.