Category Archives: Internet

En dash, em dash, hyphens—how to use them and how to create them in WordPress

How many of you writers differentiate properly between the usage of the hyphen, the en dash and the em dash? Not yours truly! Until today, that is. I hereby vow—well, not exactly, of course—to explain to you how to use these three little beauties properly in your writing and to then use them properly myself.

Photo source
Photo source

According to this piece on Get it Write Online

The hyphen is used like this:

Twentieth-century
or
Well-being

The en dash (which is the width of the letter N) is used like so:

7:00PM–9:00PM
or
August 17–September 2

And the em dash (which is the width of the letter M) is used like this:

I went to the store—the one on Keren Hayesod—and I bought the damn apple.
or
The apple turned out to be rotten—or so I believe.

Now how do you create en and em dashes in WordPress?

Aha! This is the second most exciting part of this post. Turns out WordPress is all ready to go with en and em dashes. I learned from this post that if you simply write two hyphens next to each other, without spaces, you’ll get an en dash and if you do the same with three hyphens, you’ll get the em dash.

- this is a hyphen
— this is an en dash
— this is an em dash

Finally…

All this being said, is this whole topic passe or do you think it really is good for writers to make sure to use these punctuation marks properly?

P.S.

According to this piece, the official way to create en and em dashes is like this:

In any software program that handles text, the em dash can be typed on an enhanced keyboard as Alt + 0151—that is, hold down the “alternate” key and type, using the numerical pad on the right side of the keyboard, the numbers 0151. The en dash can be typed as Alt + 0150.

What links should open in a new tab and how to do that in WordPress

Sometimes when you click on a link it opens in the tab you’re in and other times it opens in a new tab. Here I’ll explain when to choose each option and how to make a link open in a new tab in WordPress’s editor and menu. These instructions work for both WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Which links should open in the same tab?

All regular links within the same website should open in the same tab. That means that if on the deena.co About page there is a link to My Writing, it should open right here, where you are.

And now the above paragraph has two examples of links opening in the same tab because this piece is in deena.co and so are those links.

Which links should open in a new tab?

All external links should open in a new tab. So, for example, if I now mention that I have a new post on habitza.com, the link should open in a new tab. Here is a link to Dear Introverted Man,.

Also, links to media should open in a new tab. For example, if my friend’s catalogue page includes a link to the catalogue in PDF format, when you click on the link to the PDF, it should open in a new tab.

These rules apply for menus as well.

How to make a link open in a new tab in WordPress

In a regular editor

1. Click on the link you want to edit.
2. Click on the Insert/edit link button in the WYSIWYG:

linking1

3. In the popup check the box “Open link in a new window/tab”:

linking2

4. Save and check your changes.

In a menu

1. Click on Appearance > Menus
2. At the veeery top of the page, click Screen Options:

screen options1

3. Make sure Link Target is checked:

Screen options2

4. Minimize Screen Options.
5. Go to the menu item that should open in a new tab. Click to expand this item. Click on Open link in a new window/tab:

menu new tab

6. Save and check your changes.

Good luck!

Dear WordPress client, those aren’t categories. WordPress lingo 101

Lingo shmingo and yet one cannot deny that if we all take a moment to speak the same language things will go that much more smoothly. WordPress clients often call items in the menu “categories,” which is understandable. The problem is that the word category has a very specific use in the WordPress Universe.

photo source
Please take my hand and I’ll tell you all about it. photo source

The main menu/main navigation and menus in general

You know those items at the top of the site with lots (or just a few) links to other places around the site? That is called a Menu. The main one that shows in the header on every single page of the website is called the Main Navigation. But it is made of a WordPress Menu. (Tip: WordPress Menus are created and edited in the Dashboard at Appearance > Menus.)

WordPress has the most easy-to-use menu system. You can create countless menus and stick them in different places around the site. You can also create one menu and use it in multiple places.

Here are the main places where you would use WordPress menus:

  1. One main menu in the header
  2. Possibly a second minor menu in the header
  3. A list of useful links in the sidebars
  4. A list of links in the footer

Tip: Menus are entered in the sidebars and footer using Widgets (stay with me! you can do it!).

Got it? So the main menu in the header is called a Main Menu or a Main Navigation.

Pages

Pages are static items on the site like the About or Contact page.

Pages can be related to each other as parents and siblings.

parent_pages

For example, under the About page can be Our Staff and a Mission Statement. About is the Mama Page and Our Staff and Mission Statement are the beautiful children. What a lovely little family!

In order to give the WordPress website owner ultimate control (evil laugh) relating one page to another within the page editor (see screenshot just above) does not automatically make it show up that way in the main navigation. It makes sense that you very possibly will choose to have Mission Statement show under About in the drop down under About but it’s totally up to you. (Tip: Again, this is edited under Appearance > Menus.)

Categories

Categories. OK, you ready?

Every WordPress site comes with blog functionality built in. This can be used as a standard blog or as a news section or, with a creative web developer, it might be used for other things as well.

Posts are individual pieces in a blog. They are time marked and they can be organized by category.

For example, this post which I’m writing right now is about WordPress and so I am going to put it in two categories: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Check it out:

categories

These are categories I created on my site because I know I write enough about WordPress that it warrants a category (in my case, two). You will create whichever categories you need.

And check it out, at the top of this post you can see that WordPress.com is a link. Click on it and you’ll get to all my content on WordPress.com.

Categories are general areas of interest covered on your site. You create them as needed and categorize your posts before publishing them.

How do categories connect with menus?

It’s totally possible there will be a category that is of particular importance to you and in that case you may choose to put it in your main navigation. On my site, for example, Photography is a category in my main navigation and if you click on it, you get to a mini blog, a list of all the posts I published categorized as “Photography.”

category_in_menu

And if you click on it, you get to this URL: http://deena.co/category/photography/.

An item in a WordPress menu is not necessarily a category

All this is to say, dear WordPress client, that items in the menu are not (necessarily) categories and are not called categories. There might be categories in the menu but a WordPress menu can be made up of anything: page, posts, custom post types, external links, categories or tags.

Bottom line: Categories can be in the main menu of your site but it isn’t necessary. The main items in a menu are usually pages though they can be anything.

So what do you call the different levels of a main navigation?

Because a WordPress menu can have any kind of item in them, each item is called a link. Here, let’s practice:

A link!

OK. And as far as the levels, there is the top level and then there are either the second and third levels or the first dropdown and the second dropdown. Etc. etc.

That’s it. Thank you for your courtesy towards WordPress nerds.

Sincerely,
A Wordy WordPresser

Here are the WordPress services I offer.

Why you should stop reading your readers’ comments

A very famous blogger (if only I could remember who) doesn’t allow comments on his blog. If someone wants to share their thoughts (or passionate attacks) about a piece, they can do it on Facebook, he said, in order to keep it more controlled and to keep his website clean.

Continue on, my friend. (image source)
Continue on, my friend. (image source)

Assumptions assumptions. It is assumed that having a conversation going on your blog is some great ideal. And that it’s important to interact with your readers, replying to most/all of their comments. Why? And talk about freakin’ exhausting!

I keep speaking to popular bloggers who are emotionally worn from comments left them by their faithful followers. Sometimes it’s the same reader every time who pushes the writer’s buttons. Sometimes it’s trolls (whatever that is). But does it matter? Every time, these writers spend countless joules figuring out:

  1. How to internalize the comment – what to think and feel about it.
  2. Whether or not they should reply to the comment of question.
  3. What to reply.
  4. Whether or not they should continue a conversation with the reader.

Ugh! Aren’t we writers? How did we become socializers instead?

Now, this is not only a problem because it takes up so much time and energy. It’s also a problem because of how it can affect a person’s writing.

Having to deal so much with readers’ comments has three potential negative repercussions.

  1. A feel good picture (image source)
    A feel good picture (image source)

    It could have the writer calculating what/how/how much to write too much based on the readers. This could be misguided based on one or two verbal people who have nothing better to do than try to get your attention. It could also be based on not getting comments, the thinking being that if I didn’t get comments, it must not be a good piece or maybe I’m just not a good writer.

  2. It could make the writer obsessive about what comments she’s getting and how many. It could have her returning to a post many times on the day it’s posted in order to see how it’s doing. This activity is supposedly based on the above-mentioned assumption that it’s of utmost importance to read your readers’ comments and interact with them. But this what writing is supposed to be about? I don’t remember reading about the importance of obsessing over readership/commenting in On Writing by Stephen King.
  3. It almost definitely creates a situation where the writer becomes dependent on external feedback – writing passionately after getting good feedback and hiding miserably in a corner after negative feedback. And when you’re bombarded with feedback (silence is feedback too), it’s a creativity-sucker (or a muse-muter).

I think one of the great challenges for writers is figuring out how to tap into our own feedback system and decide selectively who is worthy of our listening ears. From whom am I truly interested to hear what they think and continue developing my writing accordingly? This is a question not to be taken lightly!

For now, this piece is dedicated to the talented bloggers I know who periodically curl up in a corner because of the interactions they need to deal with online. When I hear about it, I feel like giving them a virtual slap and saying, “Don’t you see that you’re writing is good? Continue on, my friend. Continue on.”

The use of dramatic words in a not-dramatic industry

I don’t know why but I repeatedly see website development clients pushing their service providers to rush. Is it just in web development or are clients of all kinds pushing their service providers to do everything faster? And better too, I’m sure.

computer
Look at your new website! Isn’t it beautiful? photo source

To the chagrin of web dev clients the world over, I believe there are certain words that should never be used when discussing building a website. These include:

  1. Urgent, and
  2. Critical

Work for a client should ideally be done in a normal amount of time, but is it really necessary to make it urgent?

And here’s the irony. Almost every single time, at one point in the project (if not more), the work comes to an absolute and complete halt. I mean 100%. And not because of the web developer or project manager or graphic designer.

Wait... How did we get here? image source
Wait… How did we get here? image source

Nope. At some point, the project stops because something happens to the client. They realize their attention needs to be put elsewhere for a few days/weeks/months. They run out of cash. They find they have difficult decisions to make regarding the site. So many possible reasons, with the exact same outcome: a project that’s on hold.

I find rushed projects to be problematic but it isn’t only because of the stress of having someone push and push, feeling like you’re never working fast enough. It’s also because I know – I just know – that there is a 99% chance that this mad rush to the finish line will stop so fast that the worker will be left trying to figure out what just happened.

Being part of a regular flow of a project is fine. Sometimes it moves faster, sometimes slower, sometimes it needs to be put on hold for a bit. But after being pressured by a client to rush, when the client becomes the one to hold up the project, it’s tempting to start giving them talks about the importance of keeping a project going, even if under normal circumstances the delay wouldn’t have bothered you too much.

The talk won’t work, though. Because the same way that the project should have moved at a natural pace to begin with, including fast movement, slow movement and pauses, it will need to stop when the client needs to take that breath, whatever the reason may be.

And that’s OK. And you know exactly why. The reason it’s OK for the project deadline to be pushed off is because it wasn’t really urgent. Nope, it was just a really nice website that hopefully one day soon will be a really nice live website that will be enjoyed by all who visit it.

And when that happens, it’ll be really lovely.
Not at all critical.

Is the website still breathing? image source
Is the website still breathing? image source

Why do you complain about free services?

I always find it so strange when people take things for free and then complain about them. Like Facebook. OK fine, complaining about Facebook is one of the tenets by which our technologically-connected society lives.

But to think that something better is actually coming to you from these services is absurd. It’s like getting a present from someone and complaining to them that it isn’t good enough.

Unfortunately we really are getting in that mindset. We’re aware of the better things out there and we’ve been trained to get lots of free things so that we’re beginning to think that that’s how it should be and if it’s different, we’re being screwed.

Dan Ariely, in the video below, talks about what a big leap there is between free and practically free. Once something is free, starting to charge for it is very difficult.

I’m always curious to see what happens the day Google starts charging for services like Google Analytics or Google Apps. Ah, an interesting, revolutionary, sobering day it will be.

The dark secrets of my writer’s block exposed

Oh, I love to write. So why do I keep not writing? Considering this conundrum I realized if I can’t write, I may as well write about not writing.

Here are 11 reasons I don’t publish way more considering how much is going on inside my head and how much I love writing. I am not sure if there are many more or, maybe, there is actually one reason standing behind all of these.

  1. She's a lefty!
    She’s a lefty! (Photo source)

    The tools: I don’t love using a computer. I don’t like the electronic feel and it hurts my hands and eyes. Also, because I do all my work and a bunch of “socializing” on the computer,  it’s hard to separate between them and my beloved hobby, writing. This is a huge psychological issue, with me often finding it difficult to focus. And as for hand-writing, I do it quite a lot; the first draft of this post took place in my handy dandy notebook. But my hand starts hurting from writing (many of us lefties were not taught how to properly hold a pencil) and it’s sloooow which doesn’t work with my…

  2. Impatience: So much importance is put on productivity today that it has made me hyper-aware of time ticking by. I might feel the need to stop and think, to contemplate, to formulate but it’s so hard for me to allow myself to give my attention how I need because the productivity devil makes me give up and often, ironically, do the most unproductive thing of all – Facebook. Or any other…
  3. (Photo source)
    (Photo source)

    Distractions: We are bombarded with information (which is often presented as utmost important) probably way more than any king or emperor was until 100 years ago. I am quite convinced it’s a big challenge for our brains to decipher between important and less important distractions. It’s very confusing. Not to mention that distractions are a perfect excuse to stop trying to finish the piece that anyway will probably be…

  4. One in a million: Because we’re so exposed to “the rest of the world,” it’s hard to continue feeling unique. Every time I come up with a piece, even write a large portion of it, I get down on myself for being like all the other people who are currently expressing themselves publicly and are, in my mind, writing the same stuff I’m writing. Also, knowing what else is out there often makes me feel the need to heed to…
  5. Convention: Because I see the big world, I see how people typically write and when my writing doesn’t fit convention – for example, often I feel like writing posts that will be very short (like, 1-2 paragraphs) – I get self conscious and stuck and instead of continuing writing whatever I want, I convince myself that it’s…
  6. A waste of time: If a piece is going well I start thinking that it doesn’t need my attention anymore and I focus on something else. If it’s going badly, I get emotional about it and push it aside. I also get stuck because of…
  7. Inhibition: I’m so careful about people’s feelings which makes it almost impossible to ever write 100% what is on my mind. This bums me out. Particularly when I notice…
  8. This is my laundry! (Photo source)
    Check out my (and my closest friends’) dirty laundry! (Photo source)

    The more verbal writers: They seem to be much more lenient about #7. I get busy resenting them – judging them for being insensitive and being angry for all the attention they get, feeling like it’s attention being taken away from me. Meanwhile I am also aware that, in fact…

  9. I’m often not interested in other writers’ writing: There is supposedly some kind of writers’ culture going on but truth be told, I’m not interested in most bloggers’ writing. So why should mine be of interest to others? And what if this is a sign that…
  10. I’m going to fail: Of course there is the fear of failure. The concern that I won’t get across what I want to get across how I want to get it across. The feeling that I’ll finish the piece and feel like it’s lacking (much like I feel right now as I write this piece). And all of this, of course, makes me think of…
  11. (Photo source)
    Smooches to me. (Photo source)

    Narcissism: So I’m going to publish my writing for the world to see? What is that?

There. I said it. What are your dark feelings and thoughts around the “thang” you really want to be doing? And if you don’t have any dark and difficult feelings, I don’t really want to hear from you. Thanks. : )

Sending presents to ourselves

I currently get around four pieces of friendly snail-mail a year (my birthday card from my ever-reliable aunt and a couple of invitations). That small amount leaves a heavy place in my heart.

When mailboxes were fun (photo by
When mailboxes were fun (photo by mrtechc)

It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even check my mailbox anymore because I feel no need to expend energy opening a box (so tiresome!) so that people can tell me how they want me to spend my money (aka junk mail and bills).

But ordering online makes it all better. After I’ve made an order, I have an incentive to open my mailbox. For example, today I ordered The Artist’s Way (finally!). It’s been, like five hours. Do you think it’s here yet??? One sec, let me go check.

See?!

And then, every time I get a note from the post office that a package has arrived, I get all giddy and I want to drop everything and go pick it up. I sort of pretend it’s a present and that I don’t know what it is. It’s a little sad to think I’m buying myself presents but it’s happy to be handed the package at the post office and then to open it when I get home. And… SURPRISE! See what thoughtful gift I just gave myself!

I’ll admit it. I even considered ordering the item gift wrapped one time. For myself. I haven’t stooped that low yet but who knows…

Maybe it’s sad that we’re sending ourselves presents but at least it will keep us opening our mailboxes, so that’s really great and responsible and so actually this post is really positive. No, really.

WordPress.com, I don’t like this page after publishing!

OK, I can’t hold myself back any longer. I love WordPress and use it for all my blogging needs, but I don’t like the relatively new feature whereby after you publish your new blog post, instead of being taken back to the editor, you are taken to a page that looks like this:

Why don’t I like this page? Well, most importantly, I don’t like it because 99% of the time I must go back into the editor to make some final changes to my post. So that means you are taking me away from where I need to be.

I also don’t like it because you’re trying to motivate me with your “goals” talk but it’s BS because you don’t know my goals and you’re a machine. Seriously!

Finally, you’re offering me all these options I don’t need. I suppose the share buttons are a nice touch, and maybe you can integrate them into the regular editor page once a piece is published, but I could add tags when I’m in the editor, which is where I’d really love to be right after I publish a post. I don’t need a special page for that.

So, please, when you next upgrade wp.com, please get rid of this feature!

Thanks,
One of your biggest fans

Embedding stuff in wordpress.com

It is amazing how many different types of content one can embed just in wordpress.com (meaning, without having the option to add any extra features/plugins). The following are all embedded just by pasting the links/HTML code into the Visual editor of this post.

Don’t forget to unlink the links so that the image will work.

A YouTube video:

A Vimeo video:

A Google Map! (Paste HTML code into the Visual editor, NOT into the HTML editor.)

A Google Doc (copy iframe into visual editor)