Writers’ Guidelines for Freethought Nation

Thanks for coming on board! We hope you enjoy your time at Freethought Nation!


While the term “freethought” in my mind is designed to give a great deal of leeway in the subjects we would like to see covered at Freethought Nation, there need to be some guidelines as concerns content. Content such as one’s life history about religion are welcome and usually very interesting to readers. We are also very interested in news items and commentaries contributed on a regular basis. The news items and commentaries should be at least somewhat in line with the articles already posted here, so have a good look at them. Obviously, no foul language or personal attacks will be tolerated.

You can get ideas for news commentaries by using “alerts” from Google, Yahoo or other search engine that filter you news items based on keywords or keyphrases. For example, if you would like to blog about “atheism,” set up a news alert with the terms “atheism,” “atheist” and, possibly, “agnosticism,” etc. Do the same with Christianity, Islam or any other area of interest appropriate for this website.

For examples of what we are aiming for here, please see these sites:

Jihad Watch
Islam Watch

I am interested not necessarily in the content of these sites, although I agree with it, but with the set up. Islam Watch in particular uses the same Joomla technology, so it is of especial interest, but I like the way Jihad Watch makes commentary on news articles.

Article length

Long articles can be broken down into different parts, posted at different times, such as a day or two apart. I would aim for, perhaps, 500 words an article. Contributions can be much shorter than that. We can, however, make them longer but be sure to put the “Read More” division no more than 500 or so words down. As we grow, we will probably need to shorten up the content showing on the front page to a certain length. I’ll have to experiment to see how many words or lines approximately that would be.

If you have a website, feel free to link to it at the bottom. If there are individual articles on your site and elsewhere that explain points within the article, you can link to those articles, using the appropriate text in the article.


If you create a series with a number of parts, please make sure the older articles have links to the newer ones, and vice versa. It is always a good idea to link to other articles, onsite and off, that are relevant. Please put something like “Continued from Part 1” at the top of your next article, with the “Part 1” linked to your previous article. You can get specific links to articles by clicking on the “Read more” or “Write comments” link and then copying and pasting the link as it shows up in the browser. I apologize for the long and ridiculous URLs. (I have tried to switch over to the SEO-friendly html URLs, but I don’t have all the codes and whatnot.  I always need help with the Joomla website management system I’m using.)


Standard English is great, either British or American. When writing, please be aware of the word “this.” Many people leave the word unqualified by saying, “This is the reason we did so and so.” In order to make your writing as comprehensible and quotable as possible, please put a qualifier after “this,” such as:

“This accident is the reason for so and so.” Whatever it is you are speaking about to which the “this” refers, use a word or phrase to qualify it in the next sentence, after you say, “this.” (You don’t have to italicize the qualifying word, as I have done with “accident.” Emphasis is added here for purposes of clarity.)

Writing & Coding

If you have already written your article in Word or some other such program, please put it into Notepad first before uploading it to the Freethought Nation editor. Word brings much coding with it, making it too time-consuming for me and any other editors.

Be sure that you go into the “Format” button of the Notepad and turn off the “Word Wrap.” Otherwise, your writing will end up on different lines.

Also, after the article is input, you will need to put the coding such as bold and italics back in, as it gets lost in Notepad. Please use the coding of the editor provided, such as for the bulleted and numbered lists.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to increase or decrease font size, to my knowledge. I’ve seen others grousing about it on forums, but I haven’t heard a solution yet. That doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Joomla is very complicated, has loads of components, modules and plugins, and one also has to know how to tweak various types of coding.

Also, the curly quotes and apostrophes are not removed in Notepad. Please try not to use them – the straight quotation marks show up better in more browsers and systems. Also, if you can remember to use American punctuation, that would be great. For example, we use ” for the first person quote and ‘ for the second within a quote. The Brits do the opposite. We don’t mind British spellings of words, however.

If you have html experience, all the better, because you can go into the html code – see the small blue “HTML” button above? – and change the coding, such as increasing or decreasing fonts.


When you go to insert a link, be sure that it opens up into a new window. Highlight the text and click on the “Insert/edit link” button (the three chain links). Put in your Link URL and then hit the “Target” drown down menu.  Make sure it is set on “Open link in a new window.” A title is a good idea because it helps with search engines.  Usually I just name it the same as what I’ve highlighted. Then hit “Update” and you’re done.


Be sure to put in a description of your article at the bottom of the editor or in the “Metadata Information” section. The info in this box will show up in search engines under the link to your article. The description should be one or two sentences such as in your opening or closing paragraphs that describe what you are writing about.  Please don’t just write in a few keywords, as those belong in the tags.

Please do put in the appropriate tags.  All of these will increase any possible views from search results.


Another bug happens when images are inserted. Writers are welcome and encouraged to include images in their posts. There are some good places to get images, such as:

Wiki Commons
U.S. Government Images

These are generally copyright free. But you will need to include a caption with the attribution of the photo, such as “(Photo by Runninghorse).” I also like to then link the image back to the original site.

Unfortunately, setting the code in the images has proved difficult, because it keeps removing such features as “align,” which tells the computer to place the image on the left, right, baseline, etc. At first, I resorted to coding my own images, by putting the coding in the <img src> html phrase. I have also had to put horizontal space and vertical space in that same code.

However, I discovered that if you highlight the image by clicking on it and then go to the image button, which is the one with the tree on it, you will be able to align and put in the hspace and vspace as well. I usually put the alignment on other “right” or “left” and set the hspace=10 and vspace=5.

(If it still doesn’t work, put “align=left” or “align=right” in the <img> code. Also, put in “hspace=10” to give your image some surrounding (horizontal) space. You can also put in “vspace=5” for some vertical space around your image.)

I will continue to try to work out the bugs, but my time is very limited, and operating this website can be tricky and time-consuming.

I like to set the image sizes to 150 or 200, either the height or width, whichever is greater, set to the maximum 200.

If you use an image from another site that needs to be cited, including authors at Wiki commons, please include a caption with the person’s name in it.

The code for the captioned image should look like this:

<img class=”caption” src=”images/stories/ramatavivartifacts.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”ramat aviv artifacts stone” title=”Yoav Arbel (Ariel Schalit/AP Photo)” hspace=”10″ vspace=”5″ align=”right” />


To put a Youtube code in, go to the “HTML” button of the article and bring up the source screen.  Pick up the “Embed” code at YT, down to the right above the “Related Videos” area.  Get the code for the smaller screen, either 480 or 420. Copy the code and insert it into the HTML screen on the FTN article, down at the bottom.  To center it, put <p align=center> before the code and </p> after it.

Naming Files, Adding Descriptions and Tags

Keep search engine optimization or “SEO” in mind when naming your articles, files and images, as well as including a description and keywords in your article.

Traffic & Posting to Web 2.0 Sites/Social Bookmarking

Although we will continue to publicize the site as a whole and to highlight some articles, we will also rely on FTN writers to bring in their own traffic to whatever extent they can.  That’s how we hope to build the community. I highly recommend creating a mailing list.

Please pass your articles around to whomever you wish. If you know how to do social bookmarking, that’s a good thing as well.

It is a wise idea to learn several of the more basic Web 2.0 sites included in the “Share This” button. There are many others there, but the ones we currently work with are:

Stumble Upon
Buzz Up

These seem to be the most relevant and easiest to use on a regular basis. There may be more, and if anyone discovers another to be useful, please let the rest of us know.

To post your article at the Web 2.0 sites, go to your article by clicking on either “Write Comments” or “Read More,” click on the “Share This” button and start posting it around. If you want to link to your article individually, make sure you are on the article page, rather than the home page of FreethoughtNation.com, by clicking on the “Write Comments” and “Read More” links.


Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

P.S.  If you have any other suggestions to make things easier, please feel free to comment.