PolicyMic Publishing Team Reveals How to Write the Best Story Ever


Editor's note: This story is part of a community-oriented, weekly article series in which Community Manager Caira Conner discusses how to get the most out of PolicyMic.

Sure, you've written for PolicyMic before, you know the drill.  You know how to upload a story, and pass the time during that angst-inducing window of submitting your piece and the magical moment when the email finally arrives, announcing that your article will publish.

But here's a question: When you hit "submit for publication," do you know where your story goes?   

At any given time, the PolicyMic publishing team know what's going right on the site, what's going wrong, and what's just not going anywhere. They're the ones reading every article submitted to the editorial queue, and providing feedback on how pundits can improve their writing.

Who are these guys? They are masters of search engine optimization and mainliners of Nespresso. They're responsible for determining everything from article removal policy to appropriate Oxford comma use. They are constantly analyzing keywords, tracking stories, monitoring content quality and interacting with the community. They are the PolicyMic publishing team, and they're ready to share their tips, wisdom, anecdotes and awkward jokes with you, dear pundits, on how to submit your best work to our platform. 

Key takeaways? Define your one-sentence thesis, ask for help when you need it, and always, always bring snacks when you visit the PolicyMic New York office.

For more advice from our publishing team, join us on Twitter (#TalkPM) with your questions, feedback, and good jokes for a live community discussion Wednesday, September 4 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

1. Chris Miles, Content Ninja

I oversee all of PolicyMic's soon-to-be published content and published content. This includes stories across every vertical, from the latest politics analysis to the newest culture story. I'm looking over grammar, style, and formatting issues, as well as the packaging (headline, picture, teaser) of the content.


I started with PolicyMic at the very, very beginning, when it was just four of us packed into a Harlem apartment building the site. 

The best part about my role is reading all of the amazing content our pundits dream up and submit. It's better than reading the New York Times. The best of the best content from our pundits could make it to the front page of any publication in America.

My tips for pundits? Proofread your draft multiple times before you submit it to PolicyMic. The author is the best editor a story can have.

Float story ideas by the assigning editors. Have our assigning gurus help you craft ideas, walk through your story pitches, and give you advice. This process will make your story 100x stronger when you go to sit down and write it.

2. Nina Ippolito, Snack Enthusiast

I've been working with PolicyMic's publishing team since July. Right now, I'm focused on culture articles, but I've had the opportunity to work within just about every PolicyMic section, from politics, to breaking news, to feminism. I love the diversity of voices writing for PolicyMic, and the important conversations sparked by PolicyMic pundits. If anything, I wish we had more time to interact with writers, and really hone their pieces.

The best advice I have for pundits is that it really helps to have a clear, one-sentence thesis in mind when writing an article. Doing so keeps you focused, and enables you to situate each of your paragraphs within a larger narrative. In writing for PolicyMic, pundits have the opportunity to build an online presence, to hone their writing skills, and, most importantly, start a dialogue with a wide, well-informed, and global millennial audience. *(They also have the opportunity to bring snacks to our office whenever they're in NYC).


3. Laura Dimon, Frequent Sundowner

I started working as a publishing editor with the PolicyMic politics section in late July. "Politics" does not mean Washington — it is really just everything that is NOT breaking news, community, culture, feminism, or activism. We go through tons of articles every day —some that were assigned, and some that were not — and are responsible for the final product and for working with the writers and giving feedback.

Best part about my job? There are lots of things. One is my colleagues who make me better at my job every day and give me opportunities to push myself (and also who keep me laughing constantly). Another is getting to learn about different topics all the time, and seeing writers develop so much in such a short period of time. Our generation's engagement and involvement with international news is impressive. The Internet has given us that opportunity and we've taken it. 

As far as what's challenging about my job: I forgot who once said this, but the writer in me and the editor in me hate each other. I have a hard time keeping my pieces short, so it's painful constantly telling people to cut down their work when I know from personal experience they're attached to it. 

So, politics writers, keep it short and sweet! It's harder to do this for a reason. I love this quote (though don't know who originally said it): "I'm sorry to write such a long letter, I didn't have the time to write a short one." 

4. Tom McKay, Eagle Launcher

I'm a publishing editor, currently working on the breaking news team. My job is make sure our trending content gets a little TLC — including edits, polish, multimedia, and headlines.

I first arrived to PolicyMic at the end of November 2012 as a writing intern. 2 months of 50-hour weeks and writing 5 stories a day later, I got brought on as a full member of the editorial team.

I like getting in a good story, and making it an excellent story with a well-paired headline. Then we set that baby eagle free and watch it soar, snatching up views and shares and media mentions in its deadly, deadly claws.

The toughest part of my job is dealing with those subhuman troglodytes who insist the Oxford comma is unnecessary.

My tip for pundits: Before you begin writing, write a clear, 1-2 sentence thesis statement. Make sure that your entire article is built around that argument. Think like Captain Ahab and set off with a clear, focused objective. Unlike Captain Ahab, make sure it won't result in the futile deaths of your entire crew.

Make sure you are spreading your content far and wide. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, and send it to friends and relatives. The more exposure your stuff gets, the more people will keep coming back to read it!

5. Jordan Fraade, Flat Cap Revivalist

The best thing about my job is definitely the sense of accomplishment I feel when we've all worked together to put out a really, really great piece. It takes a lot of hard work on everyone's end, from the assigners to the pub team, but getting to help a writer sculpt a compelling argument and make their piece the best it can be is just really fun.

One thing that's especially challenging is learning how to exercise editorial judgment. I try to look at pieces from an impartial perspective, but obviously I come to the job with certain political beliefs and experiences. So I have to train myself to tell the difference between a piece that really has deep flaws, and one that I just disagree with strongly. The publishing editors have a fair amount of discretion over deciding what passes the smell test, and we all try to be as fair as we can, but I think we're all aware that we each have our blind spots and limitations.

Pundits, if you want to make my job easier and your stories better, proofread your articles before you submit them, and make sure you've got a strong, clear thesis featured at the front of the article. The more explicit your argument is, the easier it will be for us to get your piece posted as soon as possible! We're an opinionated bunch here, so don't be shy about how you feel.

My favorite thing about the PolicyMic community in general is that we're opinionated, feisty, and well-informed. I think that regardless of where we stand ideologically, the community members are incredibly smart, engaged, and open to hearing different points of view. There's none of the "He said, She said" stuff that you often get when you watch cable news, and I think PolicyMic people tend to have a very low tolerance for conventional wisdom. Stay awesome, dudez and ladiez.

6. Sarah Singer, Adrenaline Aficionado

The rush I got from writing on deadline combined with my unwavering obsession with storytelling got me hooked on journalism as an awkward 14-year-old cub reporter for my high school paper. Now, 12 years later after working as a reporter, editor, and high school journalism teacher, I have landed at PolicyMic. 

As one of the breaking news publishing editors, I edit stories covering critical topics as they are developing before the world. Much of the content addresses national and international political and diplomatic actions of the day. I am constantly energized and challenged working for the breaking news section as the writing covers a huge range of issues that the pundits break down for their readers in real-time. The challenge for me lies in editing not only thoroughly and consistently, but at rapid-fire speed to keep the content on the site relevant and fresh!

Pundits, it is crucial to do ample pre-planning before beginning your articles. The more thought and deliberation that goes into developing your argument before you start writing, the stronger your piece will be! Also, make sure that while writing for PolicyMic, you are constantly reading the site and reflecting on the articles that you come across. The best writers are constantly learning from the styles and tactics of others. So, if you notice an article that you are particularly drawn to, don’t be shy about implementing some of techniques that writer used into your own work!

7. Thomas McBee, Color Coordinator

I'm an editor in the activism/feminism section with the incredible Sam Meier, who is the brains. I am...the brawn, I guess, according to my own metaphor. I arrived here a couple weeks ago. 

I'm a systems thinker, so I love thinking in a big-picture, editorial way about what we're doing at PolicyMic and how we could do it even better. As a writer myself, I love working with other writers to think through angles and execute fresh perspectives on important topics, especially voices we don't hear as much from in other outlets. 

One thing that is challenging about my job is...well, I was going to say no water cooler, but we just got one so no complaints. 

As for helpful tips for writers, before you pitch or write a story, think about three things: Why is it important now (the news hook)? What's the big idea (thesis)? And, after researching a little about how other writers have approached the subject online, what unique perspective (angle) can you bring to the story?

For more news on how to make the most of your PolicyMic experience, join me on Twitter (#TalkPM) every Wednesday at 12p.m. E.T.