MoT Writer’s Guide

So you want to write an article with MoT? That’s very exciting! What a great decision. We’re excited about creating articles with you too.

It’s important to remember, article writing is not easy. It takes a lot of time, work and commitment to get from a topic idea to an article outline, to a first draft, and finally to the published article. It’s often difficult to get started, and even harder to get the structure and tone right. That’s why we have written this MoT Writer’s Guide. This guide will help you throughout the article writing process: from determining exactly what you want to say, through submitting your article us.

Use the contents list below to navigate to sections of interest.

Contents

  1. Key Points
  2. Find A Topic
  3. Find Your Topic Angle
  4. Create An Article Outline
  5. Structure Your Article
  6. MoT Style
  7. Ways To Improve Your Article Before Submission
  8. How To Submit Your Article Outline Or Article
  9. What Do I Earn?
  10. Disclosures And Conflicting Interests
  11. MoT Invoice Template

Key Points:

  • We are obsessed with clarity and the layout of content: Your article must have a clear introduction, as well as clear headings, subheadings, and lists that break up content and help readers navigate through your article. Readers are strapped for time and should be able to figure out what your article is about from just a glance.
  • Your article should be original: We all want to publish unique, interesting and thought-provoking content. The best way to do that is for you to write from your own perspective and experience. Try not to repeat ideas and arguments that are frequently discussed in the Testing Community. Consider writing about your current challenges, breakthroughs, grievances, strategies and ‘oh yeah!’ moments.
  • Your article should contain practical takeaways: The more practical your content is the better! Readers don’t only want to gain new knowledge and ideas, but also how to implement them in practice. Share your expertise, the mistakes you have made, the things you have learned and the things you wish you had known sooner!
  • Make your article as comprehensive as possible: Our brains like completeness. Ask yourself whether you have covered all the key issues around your topic that readers may think about? Can you anticipate any specific questions that might be asked? Make sure you cover all key issues and answer all likely questions in your article: we’ll then have satisfied readers.
  • Make sure you justify your opinions: When sharing your own opinions or assertions, remember to justify them and/or provide links to resources backing your claims. You should also provide opposing opinions, even if you don’t agree with them, to provide balance. This allows the community to have meaningful discussions around your article, which leads to community growth.
  • Consider your audience: MoT has a global audience, so try and include examples and references from all around the world, not just your own country. Having said this, it’s impossible for your article to be for everyone! Knowing your target reader and reaching out to them is important. You can do this by having a clear and specific title, opening lead paragraph, headers, and subheaders.

Find A Topic:

When considering what topic to write about for your article or article series, there are 3 factors that must be true for the process to be enjoyable and successful:

  1. It must be a topic that interests you! Interest in a topic is essential, as it keeps the long and often challenging article writing process exciting. Another benefit is that your enthusiasm and passion will translate through to your writing, almost organically, and leads to an interesting read for your readers.
  2. It must be a topic you have knowledge or experience in. Having a good knowledge base and/or first-person experience of a topic is essential for your writing to be valuable to your readers. The MoT community is smart and won’t be interested in generalisations or surface level information. They want thought-provoking and practical content that will enhance their knowledge and skill sets.
  3. It must be relevant to testers. Sounds obvious right? But it does need to be said. Your article will be more successful if testers feel it’s of relevance to them. Your topic needs to be current and something that affects testers in the here and now. General topics, such as communication skills, models of learning, teamwork etc. must be focussed on how these topics affect testers, the testing community, and their work.

Topics That We’re Interested In:

Here is a list of some of the topics that we have previously published on The Dojo, with links to example articles:

It is important to note that this list is not exclusive, if you’ve got a topic idea that’s testing related and that you’re excited about, then let us know.

Generating Your Topic Ideas:

Now to come up with some topic ideas that are suitable for you. Here is a list of 10 prompts to get the ideas flowing:

  1. Have had a eureka moment recently? Have you overcome any common problems? How did you do it? Will it be useful to others?
  2. Have you been playing with a new tool or new version of a tool? Have you made some interesting discoveries?
  3. Are you doing something new, where there isn’t much content out there? Can you share your knowledge and help others?
  4. Have you spoken to someone recently who has inspired you? Did this meeting cause you to change your thoughts, opinions or approaches? What sparked the change? What are benefits of this change?
  5. Have you had an interesting testing related experience lately? Will sharing this experience be useful to others?
  6. Have you read something interesting recently? Do you have your own take on this or can you extend it? Will this be of benefit to others?
  7. Are you a well-established tester? Can you share your wealth of knowledge and experience with newbie testers to help them advance their skill set, knowledge, and careers?
  8. What’s happening on Twitter? Have a look at Twitter hashtags frequently used in your area of expertise. Are there any topic themes or common questions/problems arising? Can you help solve these problems and answer these questions?
  9. What’s happening on our forum ‘The Club’? Are there any topic themes or common questions/problems arising that are of interest to you? Can you help solve these problems and answer these questions?
  10. Have a play with TestSphere cards. Each of the 100 cards is related to a topic on testing, along with three examples of that topic. So try picking three cards at random and see if they inspire you!

Jot down all your topic ideas, yes some of them won’t turn into anything, but at least you’re coming up with ideas. Now pick one idea that you’re most excited about and that you think will be of benefit to the testing community.

Next, you need to narrow down your topic by identifying your topic angle.

Find Your Topic Angle

When you don’t know where to start with planning or writing an article, often the problem isn’t picking a topic; usually, the problem is that you don’t have a topic angle yet. Finding your topic angle is important, it helps you to focus your thoughts, to write clearly, and to write something new and original, even if the topic has been covered in the past.

To identify your topic angle, write down the answers to these 6 questions:

  1. What do I want to say?
  2. Who is my audience?
  3. What is the purpose of my article?
  4. What narrative perspective am I going to use?
  5. What tense?
  6. What tone?

Let’s have a look these questions in more detail to help you work out your answers:

1. What Do I Want To Say?

Being clear at the start of the writing process on what you want to say and the key points you want to make are essential for these things to be clear to your readers. A clear mind leads to clear writing.

1.1. Do Your Research

To identify exactly what you want to say, it is a good idea to know your topic inside out, so do some research on and around your topic:

  • What are people currently writing about on your topic? Don’t limit yourself, research all kinds of resources e.g. videos, podcasts, articles, books, magazines, social media, blogs etc.
  • What is currently being spoken about at conferences on your topic?
  • What are your colleagues’ thoughts and theories on your topic?

1.2 Gather All That You Know

The next step is to collate your knowledge and ideas, perhaps use a tool such as a mind map (check out these online mind mapping tools: CoggleXmindMindMeister) or similar. This will help you identify a fresh perspective, new ideas or highlight a specific area that is of interest to you. Now it should be clearer what you want to say and what your key points are.

On a side note, this research will be handy if you want to provide references/links to further sources of information that your readers might find useful.

2. Who Am I Writing For?

Identifying who you will be writing for is crucial for your writing to be effective. You have to speak their language and address them directly. You have to connect with them by writing about things that matter to them. You need to make assumptions about their prior knowledge, so you know what content to include and what not to include. But, who are they?

2.1 MoT Audience

Our audience is diverse! We have an awesome online community of tens of thousands testers, at all different stages of their careers, in all different domains, and from all over the world. Our readers are smart and busy; they want information that is clear, complete and contains practical solutions.

Now you need to narrow this audience down. Your piece can’t and won’t appeal to everyone. To be appropriate for everyone, it would have to be a monstrously long article! No one would have the time or inclination to read to find out where the relevant bits were. The angle of your topic will need to target a subsection of the MoT audience.

Questions you need to consider to help you identify your specific target audience:

  1. What domain do they work in?
  2. What role do they have?
  3. What kind of team do the work in?
  4. What level of expertise do they have?
  5. What is their skills gap?
  6. What current knowledge do they have?
  7. What is their knowledge gap?
  8. What are their current challenges?

2.2 Create Personas

Successful writers create personas of their target readers to help them keep their content and messages relevant.

You should consider writing a persona or 2 with the following information:

  • Name and Picture:
    • Give your persona a fictional name
    • Find a representative picture or photo
  • Details:
    • Job title and major responsibilities
    • Level of experience
    • Common tasks
    • Current challenges
    • Current attitudes
    • Hobbies
  • Goals from reading your article:
    • What do they want to achieve?
    • What do they want to learn?
    • What problem do they want to solve?
    • How will they benefit?

Write out your personas and consider their needs regularly throughout the writing process.

2.3 Signal Your Readers

Let your readers know that your article is for them by writing:

  • Effective titles, headings, and subheadings: Tell them who your article is aimed at. For example, if  your article is for beginners have a title that indicates this:
    • How To Build A Performance Testing Stack From Scratch
    • Web Testing 101
    • A Beginner’s Guide To Performance Testing
  • Clear opening paragraphs: Tell them what you’ll cover, what they need to know, what you won’t cover and what they need to do next.
  • In their language throughout: Try not to use jargon or terms that your readers won’t understand. If it is unavoidable, you should provide a definition or link to a resource that does.

3. What Is The Purpose Of My Article?

You need to write your article with a clear purpose in mind. Working out the purpose of your article is as easy as PIE… S. Are you trying to:

  • P = Persuade: to convince the reader to agree with you.
  • I = Inform: to enlighten the reader about a topic by stating facts.
  • E = Entertain: to make the reader enjoy reading and react emotionally to your article.
  • S = Share personal experiences: to share memories, hopes or dreams.

Choosing your purpose from the four main options above will affect your content, structure, and the language used throughout. It’s important to note that your article can have more that one purpose e.g. to persuade and inform your readers.

3.1 Types Of Articles

The type of article you are writing also affects your content, structure, and the language used:

  • How To’s: Step-by-step process for setting up something or getting to ‘Hello World!’
  • Compare/Contrast: Using one language or library code or tool over another one.
  • Pros/Cons: Taking a topic and detailing the pros and cons of using a method, language, style or etc in circumstances described.
  • Stories/Experiences: Using a storytelling style to create a narrative that conveys information about a method, language, tool, or topics appropriate to testing.
  • Problem/Solution: but more with takeaways in mind on how to approach a problem.
  • Spotlight: Stories that focus, usually on a tester, doing something awesome in the community. Ideas could be around awesome meetup events, someone mentoring computer classes, scholarship opportunities, or fun projects that are open to the community for trial & feedback.

4. What Narrative Perspective Am I Going To Use?

We all have a subconscious need for order. To keep your readers content and focussed on your key messages, you need to choose a narrative perspective wisely. Even more importantly, if you change perspective, do it knowingly and be consistent throughout your article. Most articles are predominantly written in the third person voice to provide objectivity and professionalism.

There are 3 narratives to choose from:

  • First person perspective makes the writer a participant. It uses words like “I” and “we”, or “my” and “our”. It’s good for presenting an opinion.
  • Second person perspective talks directly to the reader. It uses “you” and “your”. It’s great for encouraging the reader to take action.
  • Third person perspective refers to someone that is neither the person speaking, nor the person being spoken to. It uses pronouns like he, she, it, and they, and him, her and them. It’s good for presenting information objectively from a distance.

5. What Tense?

Verbs come in three tenses:

  1. Past: To describe things which happened before the present time of writing (I wrote my article yesterday
  2. Present: To describe things that are currently happening (I’m writing my article)
  3. Future: To describe things that haven’t yet happened at the present time of writing, but which are due or likely to occur (I’ll write my article on Thursday)

You need to predominantly stick to one tense throughout your article and be mindful, purposeful and clear when you’re changing tense.

Verbs can also be written in an active or passive voice:

  • Active: focuses on the agent e.g. “Richard wrote his article” (Richard is the agent)
  • Passive: focuses on the object that is acted upon e.g. “The article was written by Richard” (The article is the object)

Use active verbs where possible to persuade your reader to take action and to liven up your writing. Try to avoid passive verbs and “-ing” verbs (e.g. “Richard is writing his article”), where they’re removed from the action and weak.

6. What Tone?

Tone, in written composition, is your attitude towards your topic and/or your readers. When deciding on tone, be sure to consider your target readers and personas in the process. Which one would resonate best with them?

Your article can be:

  • Conversational,
  • Friendly,
  • Informative,
  • Enthusiastic,
  • Thought-provoking,
  • Humorous,
  • Optimistic,

And more.

You might think you want your article to be all of the above, but force yourself to prioritise just a few. Tone can get confusing and miss the mark without a focus.

Your tone must be positive and objective. Yes, we want to know your opinion, but this must be balanced alongside other information, even if you don’t agree with it.

Create An Article Outline

Your next step is to create an article outline. An outline is a great way to organise your thoughts and research. It will help you plan the structure of your work, ready to begin writing your article. We strongly recommend that you create an outline before you write your article.

For your outline you should consider including:

  • Title
  • Target audience
  • Article purpose
  • Key points
  • Brief notes on your key points
  • Resources

Here is an example article outline for you to use. You should create an outline in a format that works for you. We are happy to receive outlines as documents, mind maps, or in other formats.

Structure Your Article

All articles on The Dojo follow this structure:

  • Article Title: Your title must be catchy, clear and attention-grabbing
  • Introductory Paragraphs: Make your introductory paragraphs count. It should tell your readers what your article is about. Don’t leave cliff hangers, your introductory paragraph should contain all the answers.
  • Headers/Subheaders: All key points that you’d like to make in your article should have their own section and header/subheader. Headers and subheaders must be catchy, clear and attention-grabbing. A reader should be able to establish what your article is about at a glance.
  • Content: All content should be written in short paragraphs and sentences. Use bulleted or numbered points to note steps, prompts, or takeaways for the reader. Use bulleted or numbered points for all lists.
  • Summary/Conclusion: This section should wrap up your article, tie up loose ends and discuss ‘the future’ where appropriate. Your header for this section must not be ‘summary’ or ‘conclusions’, be creative and come up with a catchy heading.
  • References: Your references should have a consistent format and include all resources that you hyperlink to, or refer to throughout your article. Examples:

1. Title of Book, Author(s) name, Page number
2. Purdue Online Writing Lab
3. A Tale of T-Shaped Engineers (video)

Bio: Your bio can include any information about your or your company. It can also include up to 2 hyperlinks to personal or corporate web pages or social media accounts.

MoT Style

Below is a list of MoT’s style standards for the writing and design of articles published on The Dojo:

  1. Formatting
    • Create simple but catchy headings/subheading.
    • Capitalize ALL words in headings/subheadings.
    • Use bulleted or numbered points for all lists.
    • All quoted material should be in “quotes”.
  2. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) Principle
    • Don’t hang prepositions on verbs.
      • Good Example: “Where is she?”
      • Bad Example: “Where is she at?”
    • Get rid of adjectives and adverbs that don’t add anything.
      • Good Ex: However, there are some…
      • Bad Ex: However, ultimately there are some…
    • Cut phrases that can be replaced with short words.
      • Good Ex: Also, you should…
      • Bad Ex: For this part, you should…
    • Don’t use big words when small ones will do.
      • Good Ex: She tested her sample choices…
      • Bad Ex: She experimented with her sample choices…
  3. Cliffhangers are for Fiction: questions should have answers.
    • Answer questions in the same paragraph you have written them into.
    • Make sure all questions are answered, or given adequate enough answer to allow the reader understand.
    • Test whether questions should/could be statements instead.
  4. Be MINDFUL when using these to start a paragraph or sentence
    • Conjunctions: But, So, And, Because, For, If, Or, When
    • Overused words/phrases: However, Ultimately, For what it’s worth, It’s worth noting, Usually…
  5. Limit unusual punctuation
    • hyphens, parentheses, colons, semi-colons, exclamation points.
  6. Other tips:
    • Keep paragraphs short, with just one idea per paragraph.
    • Keep sentences short.
    • Put keywords as close to the start of headings/subheadings as possible.
    • Use bulleted or numbered points to note steps, prompts, or takeaways for the reader.
    • Write in the active form.
    • Predominantly write in the second and third person voice.
    • Address your reader as ‘you’.
    • Avoid slang, idioms, jargon and colloquial phrases where possible.
    • Avoid absolutes such as ‘must’ and ‘will’. Use ‘could’, ‘might’ or ‘may’ instead.
    • Hyperlinks in articles should be used to help direct the reader to other materials. We’d appreciate it if you check whether MoT has a link you can use to cover that subject.
    • All hyperlinks should be referenced in the ‘References’ section of your article.
    • Check the spelling, grammar and style (extra grammar help e.g. Hemingway appGrammarly).

See links below for further guidance on style, punctuation and how to present code:

Ways To Improve Your Article Before Submission

To improve your article before submitting to us, consider the 3 methods below:

1. Self-Editing

Ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. Where am I unsure about the wording or intent? If I’m not clear, the reader will be confused.
  2. Where have I failed to tell the reader something they needed to know?
  3. Have I been consistent in style and tone?
  4. Where have I repeated myself or bombarded the reader with clutter?
  5. Does it follow the S.U.C.C.E.S. guideline? Simple. Unexpected. Concrete. Credible. Emotional. Story.

2. Peer Review/Feedback

Send your article to colleagues, friends, and family (and ideally to a target reader) for feedback because it can:

  • Give you perspective on your topic
  • Help clarify your thoughts and ideas
  • Help verify and validate sources
  • Help you identify missing or incomplete information

3. Article Vs Blog

Check that your piece of writing is an article, rather than a blog. While blog posts have their place, MoT is looking for content which is written and structured in a more formalised way. Below are some indicators of whether you have an article or a blog.

It Might Be An Article If:

  • The content has a distinct structure.
    • More than simple paragraphs.
    • Sections are subtitled or have subheaders.
    • Good use of white space.
    • Has a consistent idea or presents ideas to the reader in an organised manner.
  • The content has a balanced viewpoint even if you disagree with several of the views represented and say so while explaining the one you do agree with.
  • The content is mindful of narrative perspective. Remains in second or third person mostly.
  • The content has a distinct audience. A reader can instantly decide if the content is for them or not.
  • The content is less opinionated. Mostly stays away from the first person narrative perspective.

How To Submit Your Article Outline Or Article

Email an article outline or draft article to dojocontent@ministryoftesting.com by attaching a word processing document, a link to a collaborative online editing document with commenting features available (e.g. Word Online, Google Docs) or a link to a mind mapping tool (e.g.CoggleXmindMindMeister) or similar.

You will be informed if your outline or article is suitable for The Dojo and you’ll be given constructive feedback on your idea and content.

If your outline or article is suitable for The Dojo, you will go through a rigorous editorial review process with at least three members of the MoT team. There will be several rounds of editing and refinement before your article is published. Be prepared to work hard, to compromise and to make changes to your article throughout this time.

What Do I Earn?

We don’t expect you to work for free. All authors get compensated for their published work. There are 4 standard remuneration options available for each article published:

  1. Pro membership to The Dojo (6 months)
  2. 50% discount code to TestBash (1-day event)
  3. £150 payment directly to the author
  4. £150 to MoT’s scholarship fund

It is up to you to choose which method of compensation you prefer and this will be agreed up front before our collaboration begins.

If you are interested in producing a series of related articles; payment for these are discussed on a series by series basis. Please contact dojocontent@ministryoftesting.com to discuss this further.

Disclosures And Conflicting Interests

  • Please don’t link to a website that you’re affiliated with more than once.
  • Please keep the links to websites that you are affiliated with to as few as possible. We always provide you with the option to add links in your ‘Author Bio’. Any excessive links will be either altered or removed.
  • If you do link to products, services or tools that you are affiliated with throughout your article. Please also provide links to websites with similar products, services or tools to provide balance.
  • All articles submitted to MoT need to be original and not previously published in another professional or personal publication or blog. MoT requires first right of refusal and will copyright all works selected for publication.
  • Please see our Publishing Policy for more information on our principles that are followed for every article we publish on The Dojo.

MoT Invoice Template

Once your final draft article has been approved for publishing on The Dojo, please email an invoice using this template, for the agreed amount to accounts@ministryoftesting.com with dojocontent@ministryoftesting.com cc’d in.