The SNO Report: Story formatting no-nos

You know how on cop shows the detectives always show the crime scene photos to the person they believe to be the perp to see if it triggers a reaction?

Below, we’re going to show you a bunch of images of things that are wrong when formatting stories on your news site — little things you’d likely be called out for if applying for our Story Page Excellence badge.

These are things we’ve seen enough times to know they’re commonly overlooked. For fixes, follow the hyperlinks, when present, or instructions outlined for each one.

And now, the photos from the crime scene:

  1. THAT’S NOT A HEADLINE. It’s not even a good title. A headline should have a subject and verb and give the reader some representation of what the story is about. When using a title instead (something like “State Champs”), add a deck, or secondary, headline (the third to-do in Step 1 here) that keeps to the subject-verb best practice and keeps your reader in the know.

  1. NOBODY WINS THAT BATTLE. Hierarchy matters and it’s easy to control. When you have several forms of media for a story, pick one to dominate. The others are secondary. Is it a great photo, or is the video the essential part of the story? In Featured Image and Video Location options (look to Step 5), set one to “Above Story” and one to “Beside Story.” Assigning both to the top looks bad; I mean, I couldn’t even fit all of both pieces in my one screenshot.

  1. VIDEOS DON’T GO THERE. Use the custom field for Video Embed Codes (half of the write-up here), instead of adding it as media within the text area — frequently caught before or at the end of the story. Doing it the bad way, the video is never the width you need it to be and it creates a headache next to your Featured Image.

  1. LOST IN SPACE. Sometimes your site’s text editor will add an additional break between paragraphs when pasting your story into it. But just because it happens, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fix it. In each case, backspace from the beginning of the next paragraph. Or, for goodness sake, add the break. Neither style — extra breaks (first part of the picture) or “single-spaced” (second part) is doing you any favors. (P.S. Don’t indent the beginning of paragraphs either.)

  1. NOT SNO’S WAY. Yes, WordPress has its own pull-quote formatting tool built into the text editor. (You get there by clicking the quotation mark next to the alignment icons.) SNO’s pull quotes (by way of the “Add SNO Story Element” button) is the prettier version of it and gives you full control over the alignment, backgrounds and borders of it.

  1. DON’T STACK LIKE THAT. Imagine there were 10 more photos stacked below the two that are pictured. Yeesh! Avoid nonsensically stacking photos, one right above another, anywhere in your story. Instead, pick a couple to embed throughout the text, and then use the rest in a photo gallery. (Learn all about it here.)

  1. PICK A BETTER PLACE. The Related Stories box (another SNO Story Element) is a great tool to keep readers moving throughout your site — but maybe not at the bottom of the story, especially when it’s a tease to one or two stories. Such a small box should be highlighted higher up in the story. After all, what if the reader doesn’t finish the story in the first place? Catch them before they’re gone.