OLC Writing Guidelines & Submission Tips

Writing for the OLC can be a great opportunity for you to share your experience and knowledge, while gaining a great portfolio piece.

So what WIL you write about? It’s really up to you, but we do have a few general tips and suggestions:

General Tips

•Posts should be academic, work, volunteer or WIL related. Our audience consists of SFU students and alumni, as well as staff and employers
•Writing should be focused, informative, and while we encourage you to use a conversational tone, keep it professional
•This isn’t a term paper – feel free to use your own point of view and put your own voice in your work
•Show your passion. People like to read blogs from other people, not robots
•Make connections with the reader – why should they care, and what actions can they take?
•Relate the topic to personal experiences whenever possible (especially in blog posts)
•Open with an engaging paragraph that invites readers to keep reading
•Don’t make readers guess what your point is. Put your main points in the first paragraph and expand
•Aim for posts that are 500 – 900 words. If you have more to share, consider a series
•Before proofreading put your post aside – have a snack or sleep on it, then come back fresh. You’ll find mistakes you’d have missed otherwise
•Remember the OLC mission: To support students with networking, learning and information sharing related to personal, academic and professional skill development

Story and Blog Types

Event Recaps or Promos

If you have an SFU related event coming up, you’re welcome to submit a short story to promote it on the site. Be clear on who the event is targeted at, and why people should attend. Better yet, if you’ve recently attended an event, share your experience: Was it what you expected? What did you learn? Would you attend similar events in the future or recommend them to friends?

Examples: Working in the Not-for-Profit sector, Reflections from the BIG Fair

•Include the Who, What, Where, When, and most importantly, Why of your event

•If you’re submitting a promo, make sure the relevant event organizers are aware of what you’re submitting

•If you’re writing a recap, try to include how often the event is held, or any similar ones coming up


If you have a great story to tell, don’t feel restricted by word count. Break up your story into a few sections and we’ll run it over several pages.

Examples: Postcards from Botswana, Working With Grace

•Come up with a title for your series, i.e. Postcards from Botswana

•Include an introduction and conclusion in each article to help transition between posts

Personal Reflections

These articles usually don’t involve much research, just honest reflections on your experience. People like reading about other people, so make it personal, and share your own opinions.

Examples: Sidestepping The Plan: My Co-op Reflection, Kyle’s Experience in China: An Adventure of a Lifetime

•Use first-person perspective (“I realized climbing this mountain could be harder than I thought.”)

•Avoid passive voice (i.e. Not: “It was recommended that no one climb this mountain.”)

Interview Q&A

If writing isn’t your strong suit, consider a simple Q&A article. Check out some of the questions we have for co-op students and recent alumni, or make up your own.

Examples: YWiB Philanthropy: My Interview with Lucia Pecnikova, SFU Nightline Volunteer Interview

You can either interview yourself or someone else. Either way, include a short paragraph to introduce them to the reader

•If you are interviewing someone, make sure you have their permission to publish it online

Educational / Informational

Do you consider yourself particuarly knowledgeable on a specific topic? Even if you’re not exactly an expert quite yet, if you’re interested in a topic do some research and share your newfound knowledge with our readers.

Examples: Interview Types Series, How to Ask, Pick, and Prepare Your Referenes

•You don’t need to academically cite every source you use, but do link back to anything you quote, paraphrased or found particularly useful

Top Tip Lists

These articles provide advice on a specific topics in an easy-to-read list form. Not only are they popular with readers, they provide an easy way to organize your thoughts ona topic.

Examples: Top 10 Ways to Make a Great Impression, Top 10 Tips for Getting the Most out of Career Fairs.

•Include an introduction that tells readers what you're writing about, and why it's important

•Number your bullets and include the number of tips in the article title

•Think about a logical order for tips


This is the perfect format to use if you’d like to write about something you’re currently experiencing. Much like personal reflections, use a first-person point of view, and feel free to share your own opinions and personality.

Examples: Natalie’s Co-op Job Search, Diary of a Marketing Co-op

•Come up with series title, i.e. Diary of a Marketing Co-op

•Frame each post within either a certain time or theme. This helps keep your thoughts organized and helps readers decide which posts to read


Formatting Tips

•Use headings, subheads and bulleted lists whenever necessary to increase readability
•Include links to relevant resources, companies, clubs or content

Submission Tips

•Use this Word doc to submit your article
•When you submit your article, submit a short teaser (100 – 300 characters), this is your chance to sell the piece to potential readers, so be informative, but intriguing
•Include any photos you’d like to use, including a lead image of at least 600 x 290 px
•Make sure you have permission to use the photo, and include any applicable credit
•If your article has already been published anywhere else, please let us know and include any additional links

Other Tips For Online Writing

•Yahoo Style Guide: Writing for the Web
•Mashable: 5 Rules for Better Web Writing
•How-To: Write Like a Professional

Ready to submit your article? Download this Word doc, follow the instructions and email it, with attached images to sfuolc@sfu.ca.

We're looking forward to reading your submissions!