Leaving Work Behind

The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Formatting a WordPress Blog Post

Written by Anne Dorko on July 20, 2017. 7 Comments

Desk with a laptop, coffee, and writing materialsWhen you first get started as a freelance writer, you may be shocked to find out you are expected to format your own posts within WordPress. As WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms, your clients assume you can submit work completely ready to publish.

Not to worry! WordPress features an easy-to-use editor. The trick is to be familiar with the interface before diving in headfirst. By understanding blog formatting standards and their options in WordPress, you’ll be a pro in no time.

In this article, I’ll show you how to format your first WordPress blog post. By the end, you should feel confident to offer formatting services to your next paying client. Let’s get started!

How to Create a Blog Post in WordPress

After landing your first freelance writing gig, your client likely expects you to create the complete WordPress post from start to finish. If you’ve never practiced this on a blog of your own, it’s a good idea to know how to add a new post in the first place!

Creating a post in WordPress is fairly simple, but seeing the full workflow makes it easier:

  1. Login to the appropriate WordPress site. Your client should provide this access information.
  2. Find the sidebar on the left, and find the Posts link.
  3. Click on the Posts > Add New link.
  4. Here, you can see a place to enter the post title, and a content area.
  5. Paste in your content and get ready to format!
WordPress admin area with menu for creating new post

WordPress makes creating new posts quick and easy!

A word of caution: Be sure to click Save as Draft and not Publish, or you’ll send the post live by mistake before it’s ready. If you’re still in the process of writing the blog post, be sure to follow basic stylistic guidelines to ensure you write quality work.

Once your post is in WordPress, it’s time to start formatting.

4 Tools for Formatting WordPress Blog Posts

Well formatted WordPress posts makes your post easier to read for visitors. It also makes the post more search engine friendly, which can help with rankings.

None of the following tips are difficult, but are important to be aware of and use within your posts. The few minutes it takes to format a blog post is well worth the investment, so let’s get to it.

1. Clear Formatting

Websites are built with HTML and CSS, giving the webpage its structure and design. Unfortunately, many text editors (such as Microsoft Word) add in extra HTML and CSS styles along with the content. When you paste your post directly into WordPress, you often end up with incompatible formats conflicting on your site. This is the cause of many mysterious design issues within blog posts!

Clearing imported formatting removes accidental styles carried over from the original document. This ensures you start fresh, and can properly format the rest of the post without anything confusing hiding behind the scenes.

To clear formatting in WordPress, highlight your entire blog post in the content area and click the Clear Formatting icon in the editor menu. If you don’t see the button, you may need to click the Toolbar Toggle button first.

WordPress' formatting blog posts options

Once your content is clean, you can move forward without any conflicting styles getting in the way.

2. Heading Tags

Heading tags are HTML elements indicating the beginning of a new section in the text. By default, a Heading 1 tag is the most important, all the way down to the Heading 6 tag. Most bloggers stick to the top three heading tags for simplicity. Each lower level heading should count as a subsection for the heading above it, grouping similar content together.

Headings are vital to use in your blog posts for two reasons. They split up long-form content and enable users to quickly scan for what they need. Headings also help search engines identify crucial points on the page. The words you use in a heading tag are considered more important than paragraphs by search engines, so be sure to choose useful and relevant section headings.

To set a heading tag, select your desired headline text in the editor and use the provided dropdown to choose a level.

WordPress heading tag options

Once you make your selection in the dropdown, the text turns into a heading tag!

3. Image Descriptions, Captions, and Sizes

Images are a huge part of blogging, as they add visual interest and engage readers. However, improperly formatted images can slow down a blog post or make the post confusing should an image not load for some reason.

To avoid these issues, it’s important to write image descriptions, include captions, and set sizes. This improves usability for people using screen readers and on slow connections, and even helps search engines index your images better.

Once you’ve inserted a new image, hover over it and click on the Edit pencil icon. This brings up a modal box with options to insert helpful information about the image. For best results, describe the image in the Alternate Tag box and write a helpful caption in the Caption area. To reduce the image size, use the Display Settings > Size option in the same modal box to set the appropriate image size for your blog’s design.

WordPress image details editor

An image should never need to be bigger than 2,000 pixels! Using oversized images slows down your page, and doesn’t improve the visual quality. It’s best practice to make it as small as you can without sacrificing the purpose of the image.

4. Lists and Block Quotes

For our last formatting technique, we have lists and block quotes. These are two textual indicators to set aside special content within the blog post. Lists gather sets of related content in short bullet points, making them quick and easy to read. Block quotes highlight standout content within the post.

Using lists and block quotes makes it easy for readers to find important parts of your article. Search engines also tend to favor these in special results, such as featured snippets.

Turning content into a list or block quotes is another simple task that can make a huge difference! Simply highlight the text you’d like to turn into a list or block quote, and choose the appropriate icon in the editor.

WordPress lists and blockquotes

Including lists and block quotes makes the post much easier on the eyes. The easier a post is to read, the happier the visitor is to read it.

Conclusion

Becoming a professional blogger has a small learning curve where you are expected to learn a few new tools. It may feel scary at first, but formatting a blog post in WordPress is relatively easy! Your freelance clients will appreciate your newfound expertise.

These essential tools will help you format professional WordPress blog posts for clients:

  1. Clear formatting, in case any code gets copied from your writing software.
  2. Heading tags, to create sections in your text correctly.
  3. Image descriptions, captions, and sizes for better usability.
  4. Lists and block quotes, for content that doesn’t belong in paragraphs.

What questions do you have about formatting blog posts in WordPress? Ask away in the comments section below!

Image credit: Andrew Neel.

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7 Responses to “The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Formatting a WordPress Blog Post”

  1. Lauren Williams
    July 27, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Big help. Thanks so much!!!

    • Anne Dorko
      July 28, 2017 at 10:52 am

      Hi Lauren, thanks for taking the time to let me know this was helpful for you!! It’s always a good feeling when I can help others 🙂

      Please feel free to ask any other WordPress formatting questions that come up as you continue your journey towards becoming a freelance writer.

  2. Tracy Starreveld
    July 28, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you Anne – it’s great to read such accessible, helpful, practical blog posts! I’ve been writing and formatting my WP blog since I started 3-4 months ago, but had never even noticed the ‘clear formatting’ or ‘block quote’ buttons!

    Re: images – the only info I’ve been adding to the images is the ‘alternative text’ where I usually put the keyword for my post. Is that the same as ‘alternative tag’? I’ve also never re-sized any images other than stretching them in or out a bit within my text. I just import them and they appear as ‘custom size’ – seems super easy in WP! What is the value of adding the other bits you mention – e.g.: descriptions and captions? My photos are from Pixabay so are not my original photos and are only adding visual appeal – so not sure what captions I would add.

    I have also, after reading your post, gone through all 12 of my posts and changed my headings from 5 to 3 – much better now!

    Thanks!
    http://www.tracystarreveld.com

    • Anne Dorko
      August 7, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Tracy!

      Wow, thanks for all your positive feedback here 😀 I’m happy this was so helpful for you. Your site is looking great, by the way.

      To answer your questions about images:

      1. Alternative text is what goes into the alternative tag, so you are correct that these are the same thing. However, I would recommend using ‘alternative text’ to literally describe the image (e.g. empty desert with a blue sky) and then the ‘title text’ to insert your keywords, preferably in a way that relates them back to the image (e.g. nurturing neglected areas like you would a dry desert). It’s a subtle semantics thing that makes your site more accessible for screen readers and is less likely to make Google suspicious of you.

      2. The main benefit of additional text is for SEO and accessibility, as textual descriptions are much better than lone images. Captions can offer a bit more context to your thoughts behind the image you chose in a visible way, as title and alternate tags are behind the scenes. Captions are not always necessary though!

      I hope this is helpful! Keep at it, you’re doing a wonderful job.

      Cheers,
      Anne

      • Tracy Starreveld
        August 9, 2017 at 10:40 am

        Thank you Anne – this is so helpful and clear. I’m going to try tweaking my photos now!

        I only just saw your reply when I revisited this post – if I submitted my email address with my comment, am I not meant to receive an automatic notification of your / a response?

        Thank you for your encouragement re: my blog : )
        Tracy.

      • Tracy Starreveld
        August 16, 2017 at 7:32 am

        Hi Anne,
        As you suggested – I described the image in the ‘alt text’ box and used the keyword (relating them back to the image) in the box that said ‘Image Title Attribute’ (under advanced options – the only box referencing ‘title’ I could see there). This didn’t affect my overall SEO light which was already green, but in the Yoast/SEO notes at the bottom, one of my green lights had turned to orange: ‘The images on this page do not have alt attributes containing the focus keyword’ – so it made my SEO worse overall. Any ideas?
        Thanks,
        Tracy : )

        • Anne Dorko
          August 17, 2017 at 3:03 pm

          Hey Tracy,

          Hm, well first of all, you should always take Yoast SEO’s ratings with a grain of salt, though they are an amazing resource.

          Secondly, you can usually find a way to integrate your image alternative tags with your keyword. I’ve had better success doing this with title tags because it is more semantically correct, but you can replicate it in the alt text as well to make that SEO light turn green again!

          Let me know if this works for you.

          Cheers,
          Anne

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