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Perennial Favorites: Features for Longform Writers

Splitting your longer posts in creative ways can keep your readers engaged, no matter the word count.

We often think that our attention spans have grown shorter with the onslaught of digital media, but in fact longform writing — on WordPress.com and beyond — is alive and well. It’s sometimes challenging, however, to display longer pieces in a way that keeps your readers engaged.

If you’re looking for tips on presenting your latest longform creation, this post from last year, by Daily Post contributor Elizabeth, will introduce you to some nifty features built into your site. Whether you’re working on a meaty piece of prose for Blogging U.’s Writing 201 course, or just often have a lot to say, you should try these out.

Today, we’ll cover three features that can help you break up and organize longer posts, so that they display more cleanly and are easier for your readers to digest. We hope these tips come in handy!

Pagination

Longform posts are all the rage these days. We want content, and more of it! But sometimes long, uninterrupted blocks of text can overwhelm your readers. If you sometimes have posts that run on for paragraphs, consider paginating them, to limit the amount of text shown on each screen (example here).

To paginate a post, all you need to do is insert the following tag in the Text editor wherever you want a page break to appear:

<!--nextpage-->

Your post will be divided into multiple pages, with page navigation appearing at the bottom or top like so:

Pagination

The pagination will appear at the bottom or top of the post on your blog’s homepage, and also on the individual post page.

Page Jumps

Another way to help your readers navigate long posts is to add some headings and provide links to each heading at the top of the post. You can do this with Page Jumps.

For example, say you wrote a post for your users with instructions for how to use, oh, I don’t know, page jumps. Here’s how you might go about it:

Step 1: Break up your text with headings.

Step 2: Create links to those headings at the top of your post.

Step 3: Add a unique identifier for each link.

Step 4: Add an anchor where each link should “jump.”

Step 1:  First, you’ll want to add headings to each section of text. You can do that by bolding or underlining a section of text, or by using one of the preformatted heading texts in the Styles dropdown menu of the Visual Editor. For my example, I’ve bolded the Step X bit of each of my steps.

Step 2: Create links to those headings at the top of your post. This gives your readers something to click on to skip to the section of your post they’re most interested in. I’ve provided italicized links above to each of the steps in this set of instructions.

Step 3: For each of the links you’re providing at the top, you’ll need to a “unique identifier” similar to the following in the Text editor:

<a href="#step1">Step 1: Break up your text with headings.</a>

I’ve used #step1, #step2, etc. as my unique identifiers for the above steps, but you can use any identifiers you like, as long as each is different. The text included where “Step 1″ is above should be the specific text that you want to be clickable.

Step 4: Still in your Text editor, add an “anchor” similar to the following for each heading:

<a id="step1">Step 1</a>

The bit in quotations should match the unique identifier you created for each link.

Now that I’ve done that, if you click on my Step 1 link at the top of this section, you’ll be jumped to the associated Step 1 heading, and so on.

This set of instructions is a specific example of one way page jumps can be useful, but you can also use them to create footnotes, to link readers back to the top of your page, and even to link readers to a specific point on another page or post. To see what Page Jumps look like in the wild, check out this Learn.WordPress.com page.

The More Tag

Finally, you might have noticed that some themes here at WordPress.com don’t show the entire post on the homepage. They show an excerpt with some sort of “Read More” link to the full post. If you like this style, but you don’t have a theme that does this, you can still divide your posts this way using the More tag.

Wherever you’d like the excerpt to stop, add the following in the Text editor:

<!--more-->

Or put your cursor where you’d like the break to be in the Visual editor and click the “Insert More Tag” button:

More tag button

Where the tag is inserted, a link will appear on your homepage:

Excerpt

The text “Continue reading” is used by default, but you can customize it by modifying the tag:

<!--more Read on!-->

Next time you have a lengthy post, try one of these tricks for splitting your content! Your readers will thank you.

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  1. I love getting these little hints on how to do things like this! This one, especially, I think will help me out a lot with some of what I’m working on (and some of what I’ve already done). Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Seeing features put to use really helps community members learn. Page breaks can also be used to break up pages with multiple Galleries, but I do sometimes wish the placement of the page numbers was better.

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    1. I agree on the placement of the page numbers. I’ve taken to ending each page with a sentence pointing out the page numbers below because I picked up readers were missing them. If I had to pick one reason to buy the custom design upgrade making them more prominent would be it :-D

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I write what I suppose is long form blogs and I break the body of the text with photographs where possible. My posts are typically circa 1000 words. I can’t tell if that is too long for people’s attention, but I seem to get responses to them. Interesting tips though.

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    1. There really isn’t any fixed rule to say when any of these become necessary — it depends a great deal on your writing style and topic, the theme you’re using and other layout choices, and, ultimately, your own personal preference.

      Some people paginate posts with less than 1,000 words; others publish far longer pieces without using any of these. You could try a couple of these and see how it feels — and whether your readers react positively (or not) to the changes.

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  4. I have a private blog using the Hemingway Rewritten theme and tried the pagination. It worked except for one very annoying thing – it doesn’t highlight or tell you what page you are on. I wonder if I did something wrong, or is this just the way this theme displays it?

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  5. Wow, thanks for all that! I occasionally post 1200+ word blog posts, especially thematic essays on wider issues in books and films and I never knew about the multiple pagination or page jump tags. This is very helpful, thanks!

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  6. I hate pagination with a passion. It irritates me to have to click through 5 or 6 pages; it doesn’t change the length of the article anyway. I guess it matters less with Pocket and the like, though.

    Page jumps are a very handy feature. Going to have to try it on a structured post sometime.

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  7. Pagination= Really annoying.
    With a Page Jump however, I guess I can live through that. I’ll try this page jump with a more structured post in the future. Thank you!

    P.S I haven’t come across the “more” feature on my Visual Editor. I remember looking for it quite recently and found nothing.

    P.P.S Happiness Team, will there be a WordPress App for Windows devices soon? Or does one already exist?

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  8. Opening is crucial. However, if your word content is in excess of, say 2000 words, it would take something remarkable to keep my interest. Split down and succint.
    Excellent piece

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