One of the biggest irritations for the busy Article Marketer is the difference between the way an article looks in MS Word or other writing software and how it looks when submitted. Sometimes, word processing programs will generate code-based characters that can't be read by online text editors. Or, you may be using formatting such as bullet points and bolded headings that simply get lost in translation when you copy your text into the online editing space. Let's look at a few of the biggest offenders, and what you can do to keep them from chewing up your articles and spitting them back out into pieces.
1. Avoid code based characters. Many word processing programs use proprietary code-based characters to create many common symbols such as quotes, foreign language characters, em dashes and so on. You'll never see this code, but it will often show up when the copy is run through an online text editor, resulting in mangled text filled with strings of unreadable symbols. These code-based characters are intended to make your text look all spiffy and professional. However, the butchered results created by importing these characters into non-compatible online text editors are also responsible for the institutionalization of scores of hapless writers into the Rest Home for the Terminally Frustrated.
The easiest way to avoid this is simply to turn these functions off. In MS Word, you can do this by going to Tools, then clicking on the Auto Correct button. Search through this group of tabs to find the offending processes and disable them. Other programs should have instructions for accessing these tools in the Help file. You can always turn them back on later if you need them.
2. Don't copy and paste straight from your word-processing program. To ensure that you're not importing garbage code, paste your copy into a plain-text editor like Notepad. This will strip out all the codes and formatting, leaving your copy all clean and minty fresh. Of course, it will also leave it completely plain, with no fancy bolding or bullet points.
At this point, you can either opt to insert your HTML tags by hand into your plain text version now and save it that way for later submitting, or you can reformat your work in the online text editor as you submit. In rare cases, the site's online text editor won't accept HTML coding of any type and you're just out of luck. Usually, though, you can re-insert most basic HTML code back into your copy and recreate the original formatting. If you're lucky, the online text editor will come with built-in buttons that will allow you to simply highlight and reformat your copy. If not, though, then you'll have to do it by hand. Which leads us to our next point?
3. Learn the basics of HTML. Bold, italics, bullets and other formatting can also be lost when transferring your copy to your plain-text editor or when pasting it into your site's online text editor. And while learning HTML sounds intimidating, if you're just doing basic text formatting the process is actually fairly simple and basically involves placing a pair of opening and closing tags, or short bits of code, around the words you want to format. There are hundreds of HTML tutorials out there on the web that can teach you how to create basic formatting commands (here are a few to get you started: HTMLPrimer.com and Page Resource's HTML Basics page).
Of course, if this all seems too complicated or simply too much trouble, you can always opt to keep it simple by just sticking to plain text and not including any formatting whatsoever. There's nothing wrong with that. But eventually, most writers find that they crave the emphasis and flexibility of being able to use formatted text. If this is the case for you, then you will find learning the basics of good formatting hygeine well worth the effort.
Learning to keep your copy intact, in shape and looking good is an important part of successful article marketing. Properly formatted articles are easier to read, create a smoother flow and have a definite eye appeal a plain-text article simply can't compete with.
And to all my pals up at the Rest Home for the Terminally Frustrated - get well soon. We're all pulling for you out here in the land of the bold and the beautiful.
Soni Pitts is a professional freelance writer and editor, with experience that ranges from short web articles to full-length ebooks and beyond.
"Need professional quality writing, but hate to write - or just don't have the time to do it all yourself? Don't let less-than-perfect writing skills or a tight schedule leave you at a loss for words. Query writer [at] sonipitts.com for a free consultation, samples and a quote."