Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

I published my first New Leaf Journal article on May 2, 2020. Today, on December 6, 2021, I publish my 417th. In addition to writing articles, I also format all New Leaf Journal posts and edit those by other authors. Taken together, it is likely the case that I have spent more time writing and formatting content for a WordPress site in the last year than most WordPress users. Since WordPress is the world’s most-used platform for self-hosted blogs, I thought that it would be interesting to share some notes about my WordPress workflow – including how I reproduce poetry in light of the limitations of WordPress’s default editor in that area.

Drafting Content

I use the default Gutenberg editor on WordPress. However, I do not actually draft content in the WordPress editor. Instead, I draft all of my articles in my favorite desktop markdown editor, Ghostwriter.

Moving Content From Ghostwriter to WordPress

I am under the impression that WordPress’s Gutenberg editor is subject to mixed reviews – having many fans and detractors. I like it well enough on the whole. However, one of Gutenberg’s unfortunate limitations is that it does not support markdown syntax without plugins. Thus, if I copied a document from Ghostwriter to the WordPress editor – it would not be amenable to publication. I generally try to avoid unnecessary plugins, especially since changing the site in certain ways can cause issues with plugins that were already in use.

However, if you copy a WordPress document from a .docx or .odt file, it generally formats correctly. Most notably, if the .docx or .odt file includes a multi-level header structure, those headers are reflected in the WordPress editor.

Thus, my solution to WordPress’s lack of native markdown support is:

  • Draft article in markdown in Ghostwriter;
  • Use Pandoc to convert markdown document into .docx or .odt; and
  • Copy .docx or .odt document into WordPress.

I discussed how to use Pandoc with Ghostwriter in a section of my Ghostwriter review.

Things I Do In WordPress’s Editor

After I copy my document from a .docx or .odt file into WordPress, I first check to make sure that everything remains formatted correctly. When that is done, I upload images into my article and add captions and descriptions for them. After the images are complete, I run a final check of the text before performing other clerical tasks related to SEO fields (I use Yoast at the time of this writing) and the featured image for the article.

Special Case: Poetry in the Gutenberg Editor

The New Leaf Journal is host to a number of poetry articles, most of which are re-printed from old books and magazines. WordPress’s Gutenberg editor does not handle poetry particularly well, but I developed a work-around its limitations.

Firstly, anyone who is familiar with working in WordPress’s Gutenberg editor is familiar with content “blocks.” For those who are not in the know, Gutenberg allows users to organize different types of content in a single article. Nearly all New Leaf Journal articles make use of the Header, Paragraph, and Photo blocks.

One of Gutenberg’s specialty blocks is the “Verse” block. The Verse block respects the user’s formatting choices – making it the best default option for handling poems and song lyrics. However, the verse block does not allow for tab-indents. To get around this limitation, I start lines of poems that have a regular indent with six spaces, and I use three spaces in poems that distinguish indent sizes for short indents. I made use of all of the poetry-reproduction techniques that I came up with to faithfully reproduce more than 30 poems by Charlotte Becker, an early twentieth century poet from Buffalo.

Conclusion

Screenshot of a draft of a New Leaf Journal article about an optimal WordPress workflow in the WordPress editor.
You can re-read the article with this screenshot of it in the WordPress editor.

This concludes my brief article on my personal WordPress workflow. If you have thoughts or questions, feel free to send them via our Contact Form.