How to write a Daily Kos story: The basics

This document explains the three basic steps required to post a story: 1) Opening a draft window for your content, 2) Composing your story, and then 3) Publishing your story. (A Story is also called a Post or Diary, just so you know.)

Opening a draft window

When you are logged into Daily Kos,  look for an big orange-and-white button at the top right of the page that says "Write a Story." Click it. A draft window will open.

TIP: As you go along, remember to SAVE your draft often. The SAVE button is at the top of the right side bar. We cannot retrieve lost drafts, but there is no limit at all on how often or how many times you save your draft.

Composing your story

We have no minimum or maximum limit on story length. What matters most to our site members are timeliness, authenticity, and passion. Every story published has some required elements, namely a headline, body content, and a tag. A title image is optional but recommended.

TIP: Some people compose their drafts elsewhere first before copying & pasting their words into the draft story window, to avoid the risk of losing a draft. That’s a good option, though please be aware that formatting may carry over from word processing programs or from other websites and conflict with our editor's built-in code.You may prefer to use a text editor over a word processing program.

Headline: Required
To enter text into the Headline field, put your cursor within the "Write a headline" prompt and click. You can write just about anything you like, up to 100 characters.

TIP: It's worth taking extra time to get your headline "just right." Our staff writers often workshop them, trying out different brief, catchy, and accurate versions before publishing their stories.

Avoid excess capitalization in your headlines. Only the first word and any proper noun should be capitalized. Avoid "breaking" unless it really is that new and urgent, and also avoid click-bait headlines that don't match the story content. As a matter of style, refrain from using a . at the end of your headline. Avoid including hyperlinks, because they will likely trigger the spam bots and lead to an unpublished story and banned user account. Lastly, profanity in headlines is frowned upon because it runs afoul of filters on public computers. Substituting special characters is the usual workaround. 

Title image: Optional but preferable
Providing an image at the top of your story is optional, not required. We know from reader response that effective title images can make or break a story.

TIP: Images including people tend to do much, much better than images without people, no matter how beautiful that image may be.

The image you choose for your title image will display at the top of your story along with your headline and your username. With the new Front Page design, a compelling title image may be what motivates readers to click through to read your story. 

To add a title image, click on the little image icon (a mountain outline) in the middle of the big open space under the headline. You'll be offered the option to choose an image that someone else has already uploaded OR to upload your own image into our Image Library for use in this spot. Please consult the Image Library reference for details about how to use it. Please also be mindful of our commitment to respect copyright guidelines when using images, described in brief in our Copyright and Fair Use reference.

Feel free to add a descriptive caption below the image as well.

If you change your mind about the image you have chosen for your draft at any time prior to publishing your story, just click the orange X in the top right hand corner to remove the image. Save the draft again after you change it.

Text: Required
To enter text into the main body of the story, put your cursor within the "Write your story" prompt and click. Write what you like!

TIP: There is no "preview" mode for a story draft, so this process works differently from the way comments do. The draft view as close to a WYSIWYG -- What You See Is What You Get -- format as we can manage, but it's not perfect. If you find post-publication that the formatting is really off, you CAN edit the post after it's up. Clicking on the Edit link to the left of your story will return you to the draft window. There you can revise it again and choose to Publish your changes (or not).

The toolbar provides nifty options if you want to play around with it. Please consult the Daily Kos Editor Toolbar reference for more information, including explanations for how to format your text and how to embed social media content.  

Pay careful attention to the first few lines of your post, because they'll show up as a preview of the rest of the story. (Hover over a title in the right sidebar of a blog or story page, and you'll see what a preview looks like.) A good preview can also draw in many readers who are looking for interesting stories in the sidebar.

Tags: Required
Every post must have at least one Tag for it to be published, or even to be able to queue or schedule a post to be published later. Tags serve as labels for our stories, permitting users to search for stories on a particular topic and identifying which topics are covered the most.

TIP: Our Tags follow the same conventions as a Twitter hashtag, meaning that a multiple-word name or phrase will appear as #AllOneWord. Our software automatically applies the #, so you don't need to add one yourself. In fact, if you DO include the #, your Tag will not be accepted. 

The text area in which to enter Tag(s) is right beneath the text area for the body of the story. To start adding your Tag(s), put your cursor within the window and click. To complete a Tag, end it with a comma or click Enter.  Either keystroke will signal an end to the tag and put it in a display right below that Tag field. You can remove a Tag from the list displayed by clicking on its X. For the finer points regarding Tags, please consult the Tags reference.

Publishing your story

If you want it to publish immediately, that's really easy. Click the Publish button in the right sidebar. You'll be asked to confirm (or cancel) your choice. As soon as you hit Publish, your story will appear in the top-most spot in the Latest Community Stories section on the Front Page. 

TIP: A site expectation has developed for users to be available to reply to any comments that are made on your post, at least for the first hour or so. It's not required but it will endear you to the community.

You can choose to schedule your post for a later time. That option is available in the right sidebar, too. Look beneath the Publish button. If you click Schedule for later, a calendar will display to permit you to choose a future date and time for publication. Confirm your choice with the button that appears below the calendar. A draft scheduled for later publication will be entered into your own draft queue.

Good luck and have fun in the comments!

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