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A Final Word

And, because we cannot emphasize this enough … Do not “recycle” someone else’s content, period. What you are writing should never feel, read or seem like a review, overview or regurgitation of the literature that already exists. You need to be writing in your very own words and relying on your original interpretation of the […]

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And, because we cannot emphasize this enough …

Do not “recycle” someone else’s content, period. What you are writing should never feel, read or seem like a review, overview or regurgitation of the literature that already exists. You need to be writing in your very own words and relying on your original interpretation of the information, presenting something that includes a novel or somewhat new approach to the topic. It all boils down to the fact that your work should not look like a modified version of someone else’s material.

Here is a selection of 2022 articles we’re particularly proud of. Pay attention to tone, style, organization and the use of explanatory context.

Conducting high-quality research requires two basic steps. The first is to start with reliable sources, confirming any information you find with at least two sources. The second is to cite these sources appropriately. 

Whenever possible, you want to work from primary sources, such as academic papers written by the authors of original research and interviews with experts. Some resources for finding primary sources include:

Examples of reliable sources:

Examples of sources that are reliable only in some cases:

Examples of sources that are not considered to be reliable:

If you can’t identify the person or agency responsible for a particular work, it is usually not suitable for use.

No-fly list: Please do not use information from these sources in your articles.

Citing Sources

As you take notes and conduct research, create a list of all your sources. You will hyperlink and credit the source directly in the text. The hyperlink should go directly to the fact or thought cited. Other information that requires a hyperlinked citation includes: 

If you find that you are using lots of sourcing language, step back and examine your work. Are the words 100 percent your own and not paraphrased from any source in any way? 

Article originality is one of our primary concerns. For ethical and legal reasons, the company has a zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism. Therefore, fair use and copyright should be, at all times, on your mind. These links have a lot of good, specific data.

Fair Use links:

Copyright links:

Be certain that your articles are 100 percent original. Do not copy from any other source, period. We take this issue very seriously.

While directly quoting a source (with proper attribution) is OK, you should not rely too heavily on this unless you’re writing an article based on an interview you personally conducted. Otherwise, limit the number of quotes you use. Stray facts and a multitude of quotes strung together by the occasional original sentence will make your work read more like a college research paper than a fresh, creative article. 

Similarly, avoid using quotes from interviews other people have conducted. If you think a quote would make the article better, conduct the interview yourself rather than repurposing others’ interviews in your own work.

The nature of the material that we cover can make it difficult for some writers to know when they are hovering precariously close to plagiarism or copyright infringement. We explain how things work. In doing so, we often rely heavily on the work of others to get to the essence of something. In many ways, our main goal is to take an otherwise complex subject and present it colloquially so the reader can fully comprehend the topic at hand. This is the key: presenting this information entirely in your own words in a way that’s both entirely original and easy to understand.

Article Type Length Writing Fee
Quiz Short intro and 10 questions, each with multiple answer options and one sentence about the correct answer $85
Short 500 words or less $125
Medium 600-700 words $150
Regular (no interview) 800-1000 words $200
Regular (with interview) 800-1000 words $250

Please note that these fees and word counts are general guidelines; when emailing you about an assignment, your editor will clarify the article type and fee, as well as any interview expectations. Regardless of article type or length, all submissions are expected to follow the best practices outline in this style guide and must include:

Some additional notes on quizzes:

We use lots of specific conventions to scaffold the voice outlined in the previous section. These conventions are part of HowStuffWorks — they allow us to create articles that are clearly part of the site while retaining some of the flavor of the author’s creativity. 

Background Information

Longer, more in-depth articles often need to build on a framework of background information. For example, an article that explains the concept of iterative evolution needs to establish what evolution and natural selection are. Call attention to exactly why the concept is necessary so the reader doesn’t view it as extraneous. 

It’s also important to present background information in a way that’s fresh and new rather than duplicating the same content in multiple articles. Don’t simply lift a description you’ve found elsewhere, even if it’s a description you wrote for another article.


Sometimes, technical terminology can cause an article to feel dense and more difficult to read. Keep this in check by defining industry jargon on first use and making sure your sentences and paragraphs don’t meander. 

Shorter paragraphs also can be helpful when writing for the web. Because they’re easier for readers than a long block of text, Google also rewards shorter paragraphs when ranking content for organic search. 


Comparing a complex idea to a common, real-world object can make it much easier for a reader to visualize what’s going on. Analogies are common teaching tools because they help people understand difficult subjects. Surprising and inventive analogies also add humor and fun to an article. 

This is true even if you feel like you’ve given a solid, step-by-step explanation of the process you’re describing. In “How Body Armor Works,” for example, the author describes how a Kevlar vest stops a bullet by comparing it to the way a soccer net stops a ball: 

To see how this works, think of a soccer goal. The back of the goal consists of a net formed by many long lengths of tether, interlaced with each other and fastened to the goal frame. When you kick the soccer ball into the goal, the ball has a certain amount of energy in the form of forward inertia. When the ball hits the net, it pushes back on the tether lines at that particular point. Each tether extends from one side of the frame to the other, dispersing the energy from the point of impact over a wide area.

At the same time, be careful not to get lost in extended metaphors that don’t add to the article.

Bulleted Lists

Often, difficult concepts are easier to understand when presented as a step-by-step process or a bulleted list. Turning a paragraph into a bulleted list also can make a page more concise and easier to follow. Multiple bulleted lists on a page, however, can make a reader scan the article rather than read it, so be careful not to overuse them. 

If the bulleted list item is a complete sentence, capitalize it and use end punctuation. Make sure to follow parallel construction for each list item. 


Please do not use transition sentences between sections or pages unless necessary for reader comprehension. Do not direct readers to “see the next page” nor refer to “the image above/below” as templates can change. 


When writing an SEO or target keyword article, refrain from linking on any instances of that exact target keyword throughout the story. Instead, bold the first instance of the target keyword.


Use sidebars for cool facts about the subject matter or interesting information that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the overall angle of the article. You’ll often see these labeled as “Now That’s Interesting” at the end of an article, but you can swap out “Interesting” for a different adjective to mix it up. Sidebars should be no more than one paragraph long. Because of the page layout, quizzes do not have editorial sidebars.

Block Quotes

If there’s a particularly good quote that you’d like to draw attention to and that will run multiple lines, please feel free to use block quote styling. Block quotes can be a good way to break up sections, too. 

Social Embeds

HowStuffWorks’ content management system allows you to embed tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, as well as videos from YouTube and Vimeo. If there’s a contextual reason to include a social embed, please feel free to suggest one. Note that HowStuffWorks would only include embeds to reflect a broader consensus or amplify a point, never to make fun of someone or something. Social embeds can also help to break up lengthy sections.

While individual writers’ voices lend character and spice to HowStuffWorks articles, the site has a voice all its own. This voice is:

HowStuffWorks abides by the AP Stylebook and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. We favor the active voice over passive voice whenever possible; make rare use of exclamation points, ellipses and italics; and minimize repetition.

The following are HSW exceptions to AP Style and M-W:

HSW Textures