What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: A Space For Learning
Every day, 19 WordPressers are featured on the Freshly Pressed section of WordPress.com. And every day, many more wonder, “What do I have to do to get Freshly Pressed?”
Well, it’s time to reveal what the folks who push the launch button are thinking. Each week, a member of our editorial team will do a close-up on one post and why we thought it was Press-worthy. We hope we can provide insight into the process and give you tips and tools to make your blog the best it can be.
Pamela Moran’s recent post, Abandoning the Space Shuttle…a Lesson for Educators, resonated with me, and I’ve thought about it numerous times since I promoted it to Freshly Pressed last week. I’m enthusiastic about Pamela’s post not just because it’s original, but because it’s at once timely and reflective. She tackles something topical—NASA’s space exploration—but also uses personal experience to frame and shape the post. Through this lens, she weaves a unique and much larger discussion about the state of 21st-century education.
Here are three ways she does this:
She uses a metaphor to connect disparate topics in a natural way.
In the introduction, Pamela grounds us by recounting a recent talk by retired space shuttle astronaut Kathy Thornton. Kathy said NASA abandoned the shuttle program—a tough decision—to dream up a new, bold human narrative of space exploration for the 21st century that moves beyond orbiting Earth. “Otherwise,” writes Pamela, “the current program doomed NASA’s astronauts to circling the globe in low space orbit, over and over and over again.”
After describing this evening with Kathy, Pamela states:
I thought that night—just like kids doomed to sitting in rows, facing the same direction, doing 20th century test prep worksheets over and over and over again. When she finished speaking, I couldn’t help but think that we educators are caught in low orbit work, too.
I felt that Pamela’s connection between the abandonment of the space shuttle program and the stunted state of education is natural and fitting, evoking visuals of shuttles in low orbit and apathetic students at desks. You don’t have to be a space enthusiast or educator to understand this metaphor. Through it, she weaves a fresh, intriguing discussion about two separate topics: space exploration and education.
If you want to experiment with metaphors in your own posts, consider different subjects that interest you. Can you find connections? Crafting a metaphor can be tricky, and you need to be sure the comparison you are drawing is not contrived. Furthermore, using a metaphor may not be appropriate for every post. Read your writing aloud to be sure it makes sense and doesn’t sound forced.
The language is appropriate and accessible.
A commenter on last week’s “What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able?” post talked about the authority of a blogger. Must a writer be an expert to write about a topic? Fellow bloggers commented that we don’t have to be seasoned journalists or established sources to share our thoughts; the blogosphere has room for many modes of writing.
That said, Pamela establishes credibility in both space exploration and education through her word choice. In the first paragraph, she writes:
[Kathy's] earned that right, having been key to several major payload deployments into space including the first service work on the Hubble telescope. She’s a real-deal spacewalker.
Above, Pamela establishes her authority with insider speak such as “payload deployments.” But in the next sentence, she balances the jargon with more accessible language: “she’s a real-deal spacewalker.” She’s authoritative, but doesn’t distance herself from us.
She also strengthens her metaphor with precise (and evocative) word choice. She uses phrases like “shuttling test prep cargo” and plays with language:
If NASA is doing it, shouldn’t we also “go boldly where no educators have gone before?”
Reworking a well-known phrase, like this one from Star Trek, may help readers to identify with your topic and engage in your discussion.
In your own writing, pay attention to the words you use. Are you using the best adjective? Is there a more appropriate noun that matches your tone or the mood you want to create? Don’t worry too much about word choice when writing your first draft. Structure your post, do a round or two of editing, and then zoom in on revising specific phrases and words.
Links support stats and information.
Lastly, Pamela supports her post with links to external sources, but doesn’t overwhelm readers with too many links—it is possible to link too much! Many posts on WordPress.com—such as information-heavy pieces on science, politics, and history—include percentages, statistics, and monetary figures. Your discussions are stronger and more reliable when you cite and link to credible sources.
For more posts from Pamela, visit A Space for Learning.
So, tell us: Do you think this is an appropriate selection for Freshly Pressed?