Guides for content contributors

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Photo by Aaron Burden.

Here are some helpful hints on writing for our website, whether a blog post, news item or a speed blog post at one of our events.

Purpose of the blog 

Our blog is a platform to share lessons learned and challenges faced when working with software in research. It can be used to raise awareness of good software practice, as well as support and opportunities available to help improve the quality of software used in research.

The blog is aimed at researchers at different levels of software knowledge/involvement, policy makers, Research Software Engineers and service providers that support research software development (e.g. infrastructure providers, IT departments).

Possible topic ideas include:  

  • software-sustainability 

  • digital preservation 

  • software best practices 

  • how software has helped your research 

  • personal experiences  

  • challenges of lack of software support 

Writing about us

We are the Software Sustainability Institute. The first time you refer to us in any piece of writing, you should use our full name. 

Our name's rather long, so after its first use you can refer to us as the SSI or the Institute. 

Writing for the web  

People read ~25% slower on screens than print and tend to scan rather than read thoroughly. Because of this it’s important to break up your text so it’s easier to take in. Use clear headings. Give space around important thoughts so the eyes are drawn to them. 

‘Front-load’ your text – put the key points at the start of the blog (like an abstract) and the start of each section. Keep sentences short, sticking to one thought per sentence. This will help you to be direct and get your main points across. 

Writing in the way you’d talk to a friend makes your content more engaging. Informal language is faster to process, so be natural and use contractions where appropriate, e.g. ‘you’d’ instead of ‘you would’. 

Use your own voice. Share your opinions and talk about experiences from your point of view. Write with confidence e.g. say “we will teach” instead of “we aim to teach”. 

Keep abbreviations to a minimum and always use the full term the first time it’s used (unless it’s very widely known what it stands for). 

Images 

Include an image that relates to your content to liven up the page. The easiest connection is with the purpose of the software. Does it model climate change? If so an image of flooding will be more engaging that a process diagram. 

If you have your own image let us know who to credit and suggest a caption. If you don’t have an image you can look on sites like PixabayUnsplash and Flickr. Make sure that all images are Creative Commons and provide a link to your source in the caption.  

Make sure the image doesn’t look blurry at 400 x 300 px at 72 dpi. 

Blog structure 

Aim for your post to be 500 – 1,000 words long.

  1. Title 

Give your content a meaningful title. Titles are what readers see first and the first thing that shows up in search engines. Think about the person who will want to read the page: what are they looking for, and what words will grab their attention? 

  1. Clear introduction 

Start your blog with a summary of your content – what is your post about? Think of it as an abstract, showing your reader why they should read on. If you’re writing about an event or workshop, make sure you include its date and location. 

  1. Main content 

Use your own voice to get your points across. Remember who your audiences are and try to keep the language as accessible as you can for people outside your field. Use this section to: 

  • Share insight into a topic 

  • Teach/explain something 

  • Discuss a problem and its resolution 

  • Express your opinion e.g. personal take on an event 

Use short, meaningful subheadings to break up your text. Remember to add any relevant links and references. If you make reference to tweets or a video, please include the link so we can embed it on the website. 

  1. Conclusion 

Wrap up your main points and ideas. For instance, explain why attending a particular event or organising a workshop was relevant for you and if you would recommend it to your readers. 

  1. Call to action  

Include a call to action to let your readers know what you want them to do next, e.g. sign up to an upcoming event or find out more about your work on your website.

Further support 

Get in touch with SSI Communications Officer Jacalyn Laird to discuss blog post ideas and get feedback on draft posts. 

Useful resources 

Speed blogging and tips for writing a speed blog post.  

Plain English guide. 

Academic blogging tips.

What scientists can expect when dabbling in science writing

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