Welcome to the Football Nation Writer Program

Introduction

Football Nation was formed to give diehard NFL and College Football fans and fantasy football players all football all the time, in the form of entertaining and informative content, cutting edge statistics and analysis, exciting action, games, and competition, and a place where everyday football fans can voice their opinion, be heard, and be seen.

Football Nation is initially comprised of award winning and long standing properties ColdHardFootballFacts.com, FFChamps.com , and CollegeFootballGeek.com, and new properties FFSlots.com and FootballNation.com.

But the key to the success of Football Nation is the participation of writers such as yourself, providing unique insights, analysis and opinions about all things football. And the more you write for Football Nation, the greater your potential benefits, both in terms of exposure for your writing, and for the best of the best, the opportunity to become a paid contributor in our family of football sites.

Below is all the information you need in order to break the huddle, hit the ground running and begin earning the “Game Balls” that will make you a star in Football Nation. 

Setting Up Your User Profile

Now that you have been selected as a Football Nation “Contributor,” it is important that you begin your Football Nation experience by filling out your user profile, including some biographical information and a picture of yourself. We also encourage you to add your Twitter and Facebook accounts to your profile.

While we encourage individuality and creative license, we ask that you keep all written and photographic displays appropriate for all ages and audiences. Please, no profanity or overly-suggestive material.

BONUS: As our way of welcoming you into Football Nation, we will present to all users who complete their basic profile information (bio, photo, Twitter/Facebook info) their first official “Game Ball,” to help get them started on the road to “MVP” status. 

Game Ball Program

Writers can advance on the Football Nation Writer Platform by earning "Game Balls," which are based on the number of original views and/or comments per each article. For instance, an article that receives 100 reads and/or 3 comments earns the writer a "FIRST DOWN" Game Ball, which will be displayed on the user's profile. As writers accumulate Game Balls, they can increase their readership exposure by graduating to higher levels within the program. 

Game Balls will be awarded on the following scale:

FIRST DOWN = 100 reads, 3 comments

EXTRA POINT = 200 reads, 5 comments

SAFETY = 500 reads, 10 comments

FIELD GOAL = 1,000 reads, 20 comments

TOUCHDOWN = 2,500 reads, 30 comments

MVP = 5,000 reads, 40 comments 

The Football Nation Writer Platform consists of four levels, with each level providing greater opportunities for exposure and income. The five categories include, in ascending order: 

1. CONTRIBUTOR

2. REPORTER

3. SENIOR WRITER

4. MVP 

All writers begin their Football Nation experience as a CONTRIBUTOR. As writers earn Game Balls, they can increase their status level, and earn greater exposure.  Writers earn their first "First Down" Game Ball simply by filling out their user profile, including a photo. 

Writers who achieve REPORTER status will be guaranteed exposure on the front pages of Cold Hard Football Facts, Fantasy Football Champs and College Football Geek.

Writers who achieve SENIOR WRITER status will be eligible to have their work presented to Football Nation's partner sites, including SportsIllsustrated.com.

Writers who achieve MVP status will have the opportunity to become a paid staff writer on Football Nation. 

Writers advance to higher platform levels based on the number of Game Balls received:

Writers who accumulate 100 First Downs or 75 Extra Points or 50 Safeties will achieve REPORTER status

Writers who accumulate 25 Field Goals or 10 Touchdowns will achieve SENIOR WRITER status

Writers who accumulate 5 MVPs will achieve MVP status. 

NOTE: The editing staff at Football Nation will display contributor submissions on the Football Nation homepage based on a combination of merit and relevance/breaking news. We encourage all our writers to submit timely, well-written articles, and will reward the cream of the crop with FN home page exposure, which will increase the opportunity to earn reads and comments, which translates into more Game Balls and the opportunity to advance quickly up the Game Ball scale. 

Eligibility

In order to be eligible to advance in the Game Ball program, writers must contribute a minimum of 10 articles per month.  

All comments and views are subject to review by our technical team. Users may be subject to suspension and expulsion, and Game Balls can be subject to disqualification, if Football Nation determines views and/or comments are fraudulently obtained.

Control Panel Directions

Once your user profile as been created and/or updated, it is time to log into the Writers Platform with your Football Nation email address and password. It is within this control panel that all articles for Football Nation will be claimed, written and submitted.

To claim an existing article: Click on "Available Assignments" in your control panel dashboard, then click on the story you wish to write. A pop-up will prompt you to apply for the article, with the option of adding a short message.

Once a site administrator grants your request, you will receive an email with a link to your assignment.  The editor will automatically save for you as you work. When you are finished typing your article, click the "Submit Article" button.

To create a new article at any time: Click "Submit Article" in your dashboard, create a title and description, fill out all required fields and write the article in the content window. Click the "Submit Article" button when finished.  

Social Media

We strongly encourage all our user writers to take full advantage of social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, to promote their published works on Football Nation. Users should link their Twitter and Facebook accounts to their Football Nation profile pages upon sign-up, and should link and re-tweet their Football Nation articles to those sites upon publication. The more people who see your articles, the more page-views and comments they will generate and the more “Game Balls” you will earn toward increasing your user status. Users are also encouraged to “Like” and “follow” the official Football Nation pages on Facebook and Twitter.

NOTE: Please post links to your articles only. Do not re-post or cross-post your Football Nation articles. Content is the exclusive property of Football Nation. 

“Football Nation” Style Guide

Football Nation’s style guide is employed to ensure the professional presentation of all Football Nation content, making it more attractive both to readers and to media partners, which in turn helps to maximize exposure for Football Nation writers. A strict adherence to Football Nation’s style standards is essential its long-term growth.  

Football Nation regulates four essential elements of style: (1) Paragraph and Sentence Length, (2) Keyword Usage in Headlines, (3) Presentation of Numbers and Statistics and (4) Quotations from Written Sources
These are among the first things people notice when they read an article on Football Nation. If these elements are consistent in all Football Nation content, Football Nation will be well on its way towards cementing its status as a professional media outlet. If they aren’t, it will be harder for readers and prospective media partners to take the network seriously.  

1. Paragraph and Sentence Length 
Football Nation writers and editors are encouraged to create short paragraphs and short sentences wherever possible. Anything we can do to trim excess verbiage will improve reader experience on Football Nation. Long blocks of text make readers lose interest. Short paragraphs keep them engaged. 

2. Keyword Usage in Headlines and Opening Paragraphs 
See “Search Engine Optimization and Article Tags” below 

3. Presentation of Numbers and Statistics 
As a general rule, the numbers zero through nine are spelled out in Football Nation articles, while the numbers 10 and above are presented in digit form. The same logic applies to ordinal numbers: "First" through "ninth" are spelled out; "10th" and above are presented in digit form. 
One key exception to that rule are single digits presented as part of a stat line (e.g. “9 yards 3 TD 4 INT”).

4. Quotations from Written Sources
All article text excerpted from written sources must be surrounded by quotation marks. Football Nation writers who quote written text should explicitly identify its source. Double quotation marks (“...”) are the standard form in all Football Nation articles. Single quotation marks (‘...’) should only be used to set off a quote within a quote.  
All punctuation (excluding dashes and parentheses) should go “inside,” and not “outside”, the “quotation marks.” (“Playoffs?”) 

Search Engine Optimization and Article Tags

The inclusion of search keywords in headlines and opening paragraphs helps articles reach the broadest possible audience. Football Nation writers and editors are instructed to add keywords to headlines and opening paragraphs when appropriate. 
The best search keywords generally come from the following categories, listed in order of maximum effectiveness: 

1. Personal Names (first AND last names wherever possible) 
2. Team Names (city AND nickname for pro sports; school AND sport for college/HS) and Events 
3. Divisions, Conferences and Leagues 

Bad example: Fins Take It On The Chin

Good example: Dolphins Lose Heartbreaker

Best example: Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins Lose Heartbreaker

Because keywords at the beginning of a headline are weighted more heavily, keywords should be ordered according to their effectiveness. Personal names should come first, followed by team names and events, then divisions, conferences and leagues.  

TAGS are what link articles together, creating a “tag cloud” that is especially useful for SEO purposes. Be sure to add relevant tags and fill out other prompts at the top and bottom of each assignment page. Tags are automatically recommended while you edit the article based on league, team, week, and the content that is entered. Click on a recommended tag to add it to the tag list, or simply type a tag and use ENTER or TAB after each tag. Tags may contain spaces. 

Here is a brief explanation of how to apply for, and execute NFL and College game previews and recaps. 

-- Game Previews/Recaps: Each week, we assign stories in advance of college and NFL games. These assigned stories will be Game Previews and Game Recaps. As we go forward, we may also introduce Key Matchups to go with the previews and Key Moments to go with the recaps.

We plan to have previews/recaps for all 16 weekly NFL games and as many key college games as we deem necessary. 

These assigned stories will be given priority by our editors. Writers who claim and are assigned a Preview/Recap will be given the first opportunity to have it published on FN, even if similar stories are submitted that were not assigned.  

Each of the "assigned" stories will contain a specific deadline, and we want to make it clear to all writers that if a story is claimed, the deadline must be met, and that we strongly encourage the previews to be submitted well in advance of the deadline.  

Preview stories, both college and NFL, will be available for claiming as early as Tuesday and will have deadlines set for the day before that particular game is played. Recap deadlines will be set for 3 hours after the completion of the afternoon games and 2 hours after night games. 

During free agency in August, we encountered confusion when some writers submitted breaking news stories even though these authors had not "claimed" the assignment, and we often posted those "freelanced" stories at the expense of the writer who claimed the assignment, but did not file in a timely fashion. 

With previews and recaps, we are holding firm to giving the "assigned" stories first dibs at being published, provided they are filed before its deadline, even if we receive a similar story filed by a contributor taking his own initiative. 

We still encourage writers to submit their own stories related to the Preview/Recap topics, and if the assigned writer does not meet the deadline, that topic will be opened back up for any writer to claim. But publishing priority goes to the "assigned" story. 

What we want to avoid is having multiple previews/recaps of the same games. We want to encourage all our writers, if they are unable to claim a preview or recap, to find hot angles, storylines and opinions about each game and bring those ideas to the table. 

In other words, we want to publish 10 stories about the Patriots-Jets game, we just don't want them to be the same 10 stories. The more variety in our submissions, the more readers will take the time to read each one. By limiting the Preview/Recap stories to one writer, the rest of you can focus on the other areas of each game that will separate Football Nation from other sites by offering more comprehensive insight, opinion and analysis. 

We want to share with you some important tips and reminders that will help you write better stories for Football Nation, and, more important, draw larger readership audiences.

Perhaps the most important tool at your disposal to increase the readership of your articles is through Search Engine Optimization. Linking your stories across Social Media platforms is also a critical function we strongly encourage you to follow.

But over these first few months since the site's launch in June, the editors at FN have detected some patterns of writing no-no's, and we would like to address them here. This is absolutely meant to be constructive criticism, and we hope it is taken that way. We want all our stories to present themselves in the best way possible, and eliminating minor, chronic mistakes is a great step toward accomplishing that goal.

That said: please proofread carefully! There is no excuse for basic spelling errors and, worst of all, mis-spelled names. Before you hit the submit button, be sure to give your stories that one extra looking-over, just in case you missed something the first time through. Be sure to use the spellchecker, but remember that misspellings can also be "correct" in the spellchecker's mind.

You might even want to go back and look at your story 5-10 minutes after writing, but before submitting it – it gives the mind's-eye a chance to cleanse its palate, making obvious mistakes stand out better and allowing you to fix it before we get a chance to work on it.

Before we get into the list of specifics, a few other things to pass along:

-- Do not indent your paragraphs. Please make sure all paragraphs are flushed to the left. Also when placing a photo inside the text, try to keep the image size no larger than 400x300, and be sure to give it a border of 1, an H-Space and V-Space of 5 and alignment left. All this can be found by right-clicking the image inside the text and clicking on "Image Properties."

-- While we certainly encourage you to use your own "voice," in your articles, try, if possible, to avoid a lot of "conversational" writing. Try not to start sentences as you might speak them, with a "So," or " As I was saying," or other such familiar phrases. You want to balance your "voice" with a certain amount of professionalism, giving your stories more of a feel of expert opinion. 

-- When typing in the description that accompanies your story, remember that the description is a separate thing. Do not use the first sentence of your story as the description, nor should you repeat the description as the story's first line. Make the description a separate entity that paints the picture of your article.

Also, if you're not already, make a mental note of the edits that we make to your stories. I know when I edit, I try to bend over backwards to give the writer their due and not change too much of what they're trying to say. I certainly didn't like it when my editors at the Courant did it to me. Your writing is a personal investment, and should be treated as such by us, the editors. I think, for the most part, we do that. But changes will be made, and you can learn from them if you take the time to note them. 

With that, here is a list – far-from-complete – of some of the most-common examples that should be corrected across the board. I am not singling out any individuals here. No names are included to protect the innocent. In some cases, only one of you might be "guilty," but for the most part, I am seeing these examples across multiple entries, so don't take any of this personally. In the long run, it will make all of you better writers, which is a win-win for everyone. 

-- Mistake No. 1: All references to No. 1, No. 2, No. 23 should be just that: No. 1; not Number 1, or #1. Do not use the # symbol.

-- Headline News: The first letter of ALL words in headlines must be capitalized, and the headline space generally consists of 42-44 characters, including spaces. 

-- Show me the money: This was a common mistake during free agency. When writing about contracts, use the number and the dollar sign, then the word, "million." DO NOT follow it with the word "dollars." The dollar sign does that for you.

CORRECT: $6 million

INCORRECT: $6 million dollars

Also, when referring to length and value, hyphenate the length and list it first: Larry Fitzgerald signed an eight-year, $120 million contract. 

-- The Name Game: I've mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating: Do not use first names after the first reference. Always use the last name ONLY on successive mentions, unless you are writing about two people with the same last name (Peyton and Eli Manning) and need to differentiate between the two. In that case, use both first and last on the successive mention. There should never be just the use of a first name.

-- Capital offenses: We all love football. But that doesn't mean that everything football-related deserves Capital Letter treatment. In fact, only proper nouns, like names and places, should be capitalized. Positions and coaching titles, such as quarterback, free safety, offensive coordinator and general manager, should always be lower case, unless it's the first word of a sentence, of course. 

-- Nicknames' not nickname's: Team nicknames are always plural. Always. No exceptions. Giants, 49ers, Redskins are all plural. Any time you use a possessive apostrophe with a team nickname, it must come AFTER the "s".

CORRECT: Jaguars', Jags', Broncos', Patriots'

INCORRECT: Jaguar's, Jag's, Bronco's, Patriot's.

-- First offense:  When referring to draft picks, quarters in games – basically any reference to single-digit number other than down-and-distance, always spell out "first, second, third," etc. If talking about a draft pick, use a hyphen: first-round selection, seventh-round draft pick.

The only times we should see a 2nd or 3rd is in reference to down and distance, and always with hyphens in between:  "1st-and-10," "4th-and-goal," etc. The other exception (see below) is for double-digits. 

-- Numbers game: It's as old as the AP stylebook: Numerals between 1-9 are spelled out, numbers 10 and above, use the digits. The exceptions are for stat lines: Drew Brees completed 4 of 9 passes. David Akers was 3-for-4 on field goals.

Also, with heights and weights, use this form: 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. For ages: 22-year-old.

-- Go the whole nine yards: Spell out the word "yards." Don't abbreviate with "yds" 

-- Hyphens should not be seldom-used keystrokes: As noted above, terms like "first-round pick," require a hyphen. Another is free-agent selection. On its own, "free agent" would not use a hyphen. But when used as a qualifier for selection, it requires the hyphen. As does "much-maligned," "top-ranked," etc. 

And, finally: Super Bowl. Two words. Capital S, Capital B. 

“Cold Hard Football Facts” Style Guide

Writing for Cold Hard Football Facts on Football Nation is like serving in Iraq’s Republican Guard: We only accept the best of the best. Not only that, but the style of writing for CHFF is unlike that of the regular football world. It is what separates CHFF from the rest of the pack and makes it the crown jewel of Football Nation’s partner sites.

With that in mind, allow CHFF Founder Kerry J. Byrne to explain the kind of writer – and writing – he is looking for at Cold Hard Football Facts. Join the few, the proud, the Trolls: 

Your mission is to take overly opinionated and mis-educated fans, bloggers and media “pundits” of the pigskin world and ruthlessly beat them about the head, neck and face with a billy club of truth called the Cold, Hard Football Facts. This guide will help you do it. 

The Cold, Hard Football Facts “voice”

The best way to explain it is that we speak on behalf of the numbers, the data, the Cold, Hard Football Facts. We don’t care about opinions – yours, ours, or anyone’s. You know what they say about opinions, right? Well that’s how the Cold, Hard Football Facts feel about opinions, too.

Instead, we care only about the data. We speak on behalf of the data. It’s what sets CHFF apart and gives us our unique voice and our legitimacy in the crowded sports-media marketplace.

So speak strongly and definitively on behalf of what the data is telling you.

Don’t be wishy-washy, thinking you have to tackle all sides of an argument.

Make a definitive statement, then hammer people over the head with the Cold, Hard Football Facts. 

No: I think the Chiefs were lucky to make the playoffs.

Yes: The Chiefs were lucky to make the playoffs, thanks largely to a soft schedule. They faced just three Quality Teams all year, the fewest in the NFL in 2010.  

No: Those rascally Rams really looked better on the defensive line last year.

Yes: The Rams skyrocketed from No. 32 on our Defensive Hog Index in 2009 to No. 7 in 2010.  

No: Kansas City has a kick-ass running game! Yeah baby!

Yes: Kansas City has a kick-ass running game. The Chiefs led the NFL with 2,627 yards on the ground, behind an historic performance from Jamaal Charles. He joined Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Barry Sanders as the only players in history with more than 200 carries and more than 6.0 YPA in the same season. Yeah baby! 

No: I think the Colts need to run the ball more.

Yes: The Colts need to run the ball more. They ran the ball 393 times in 2010 against 679 pass attempts, the greatest run-pass disparity in the NFL.  

No:  The Packers won the Super Bowl because Aaron Rodgers is wicked awesome!

Yes:  The Packers won the Super Bowl because they paired awesome quarterback Aaron Rodgers (record 112.6 postseason passer rating) with the best pass defense in football. Green Bay finished the season No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential – and teams that dominate the passing battles are always contenders. 

Study our Quality Stats and look at your team through how they perform in these indicators. You will have a have clear and easy-to-explain statistical window into the strengths and weaknesses of your team, or any team, if you stick to our Quality Stats. 

MORE TIPS below

Other style tips:  

Never use “had” or “got” in place of an action verb

No: Lewis had 1,500 yards rushing.

Yes: Lewis ran for 1,500 yards. 

No: The Jets got better this year.

Yes: The Jets improved this year.  

No: Chad Johnson had 10 catches.

Yes: Chad Johnson caught 10 passes. 

No: Peyton Manning had 400 yards passing.

Yes: Peyton Manning passed for 400 yards.  

Use hyperbolic, slapstick language and metaphors whenever possible, and in most every story – it’s what we do.

No: We know football.

Yes: We know football the way a teenage boy knows his daddy’s collection of vintage Penthouse.  

No: We are overweight.

Yes: When we lie on the beach animal rights activists soak us with a cool water and attempt to pull us out to sea. 

No: Analyst X is stupid.

Yes: Analyst X is so stupid he asks Michael Vick for pet care advice. 

Place the word “only” in the proper position; people mess this up all the time and it drives me nuts.

No: Lewis only averaged 3.6 yards per attempt

Yes: Lewis averaged only 3.6 yards per attempt 

The first means that Lewis was the only guy to average 3.6 YPA, which is not what you meant to say. The second statement is what you meant to say: that his 3.6 YPA average was disappointing. 

No: The Chiefs have only won three playoff games since Super Bowl IV.

Yes: The Chiefs have won only three playoff games since Super Bowl IV. 

Every statement MUST have supporting Cold, Hard Football Facts

No: The Steelers are consistent playoff contenders.

Yes: The Steelers are consistent playoff contenders, with 25 playoff appearances in the last 38 years.  

No: Tom Brady is the winningest quarterback in modern times.

Yes: Tom Brady is the winningest quarterback in modern times (111-32; .776).  

Use EXACT number at all times, never approximations

No: Dan Marino passed for more than 5,000 yards in 1984.

Yes: Dan Marino passed for 5,084 yards in 1984. 

No: Kerry is a fat pig who weighs more than 250 pounds.

Yes: Kerry is a fat pig who tips the hopelessly overburdened bathroom scale at 259 pounds.  

Use m-dashes (–) d for parenthetical statements, not the double n-dash (--)

No: Joe made a great play -- a play we’ve admired for years.

Yes: Joe made a great play – a play we’ve admired for years. 

Use “per” (not “a” or “an”) to represent a statistical relationship

No: Walter Payton averaged 4.5 yards an attempt

Yes: Walter Payton averaged 4.5 yards per attempt 

Or, use YPA, YPG and PPG whenever its meaning is obvious.

Yes: Walter Payton averaged 4.5 YPA in 1976.

Yes: Peyton Manning passed for 280.5 YPG in 2004.

Yes: The 1950 Rams scored 38.8 PPG. 

Use city name, not team nickname, for possessives. It’s just cleaner.

No: Jimmy Jones is the Bills’ first-round draft pick.

Yes: Jimmy Jones is Buffalo’s first-round draft pick. 

No: He’s the Texans’ all-time leading rusher.

Yes: He’s Houston’s all-time leading rusher.  

Use the standard CHFF format for QB data whenever game, season or career stat-lines are offered:

No: 30 for 42, 352 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Yes: 30 of 42 (71.4%), 352 yards, 8.38 YPA, 2 TD, 2 INT, 92.56 passer rating 

No: 2,969 att., 5,205 comp., 37,920 yards, 247 TD, 181 INT

Yes: 2,969 of 5,205 (57.0%), 37,920 yards, 7.3 YPA, 247 TD, 184 INT, 81.1 passer rating 

No singular team names. Ever.

No: He was a great Steeler

Yes: He was great player for the Steelers 

No: Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriot kicker

Yes: Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriots kicker 

Never say “Pats” or “Niners”

No: He plays for the Pats

Yes: He plays for the Patriots 

No: He plays for the Niners

Yes: He plays for the 49ers 

Use “YEAR/Nickname” protocol for historic teams:

No: The ’01 Bucs

Yes: The 2001 Buccaneers 

No: The Buffalo team of 1973

Yes: The 1973 Bills 

When using traditional stats for yards and points, always use the phrases “total offense” or “total defense” (i.e., yards) and “scoring offense” or “scoring defense” (i.e., points).

No: The Giants offense ranked No. 3 in yards and No. 8 in points

Yes: The Giants ranked No. 3 in total offense and No. 8 in scoring offense. 

Players or teams never “hope” for something, unless they say so in a quote

No: Coach Sean Payton hopes his Saints can re-capture the magic of the 2009 season.

Yes: The Saints will attempt to re-capture the magic of 2009.  

Subheads and bullet points are your friends

Dense paragraphs full of numbers are hard for readers to follow. Break things up whenever possible with subheads to introduce new topics and bulleted lists of comparative data. It makes info much easier to follow.  

Bulleted list example:  

  • The 2009 Rams ranked 30th at forcing Negative Pass Plays (6.4%); The 2010 Rams ranked 9th at forcing Negative Pass Plays (9.3%)
  • The 2009 Rams ranked 29th in third-down defense (43.5%); The 2010 Rams ranked2nd in third-down defense (33.5%)
  • The 2009 Rams were 32nd and dead last overall on our Defensive Hog Index; The 2010 Rams were 7th overall on our Defensive Hog Index.

Almost every story in CHFF history provides examples of how to break up data and make it easier to read with clear subheads and bulleted lists.  

FINALLY – don’t follow the crowd!

There is a mob mentality in sports reporting. Rest assured, the mob is not always right and is often comically wrong.

Sure, it’s good to react to current news and storylines. But EVERY other outlet will be doing the same. Hard to make your voice heard among the mob.

Just remember that you’ll find plenty of great stories – including many that conflict with the conventional wisdom and stand out from the crowd – by studying your team’s statistical trends, especially if you follow their performances through our Quality Stats.