Themes for Longform Writers

A sampling of themes for bloggers writing #longreads, authors publishing material, and others who focus on longer articles.

Cropped Image by Kate Ter Haar (CC BY 2.0)

Many of the themes in our Theme Showcase are great for writing and reading longer articles and stories, from our classic default themes — including Twenty Fourteen and Twenty Twelve — to popular personal blogging themes like Ryu and Manifest

Last week, we shared ten of our favorite longreads across WordPress, and we hope you’ve taken some time to sit back and savor these longer pieces. Below, we’ve gathered some themes that work well with longform writing and offer a clean, enjoyable experience for your readers.

Syntax

On Otium, Yale PhD student Sarah Constantin writes about mathematics, cognitive science, philosophy, and more. Aside from a colorful graphic header image, Sarah keeps her blog simple. You can click on the button on the left to open the menu and access her About page, but the site is minimal, which keeps the focus on her prose.

On Syntax, you’ll find large, easy-to-read typography, and some nice touches for writers, like elegant displays of pullquotes:

As you can see on Sarah’s site, Syntax puts your writing in the spotlight.

Book Lite

Daniel Kay Hertz, a Chicago-based writer, discusses public policy and urban studies at City Notes. His site features a wide header image, fonts that are easy on the eyes, and a clutter-free, single-column look. He balances his text with visuals, and creates a pleasing reading experience.

Inspired by old-fashioned typography, Book Lite is clean and sophisticated, no matter how you customize it. Your widgets appear in your footer, keeping all of your extras in one place and allowing your writing to take center stage.

Duet

A notable feature of Duet, a premium theme, is its two-column layout, inspired by traditional print magazines. The design transforms your longer posts into professional pieces, which you can sample on The Squeaky Robot. Here, the Hanoi-based writer and traveler mixes images and text beautifully, seen on posts like “The Great Divide” as well as “A Single Story of Soviet Russia,” an archived favorite.

Another plus about Duet? It’s a solid theme for longform writers who produce as many photographs as they do words — you can set image and gallery post formats as well, which feature photographs proudly, as seen in these festival snapshots in Ba Vì National Park.

Other themes to consider:

  • With Manifest, you’ve got a number of post formats to display different types of content, from status to gallery formats. But its standard post format is as clean as can be — perfect to tell your stories and publish commentaries, with no distractions. See it on blogs like Voiced Over and Idiot Joy Showland.
  • Hemingway Rewritten, launched earlier this year, has quickly become a favorite among WordPress.com bloggers, with its parallax-scrolling header and bold yet sophisticated font choices. See it in action on Blog of the Courtier. The theme’s full-width page template offers even more real estate, in case you’d like to feature your best writing on static pages.
  • A very stylized theme, Esquire might not be appropriate for everyone, but for those who do activate it, it’s often a perfect fit. Esquire‘s out-of-the-box accents — from the red drop cap to the yellow menu box on the left — look great on Jessica Lee’s blog, Road Essays, where she publishes travel nonfiction narrative.

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Cheri Lucas Rowlands

22 Comments

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  1. Isaac Yuen

    I’ve stuck with Twenty-Thirteen for a while. Really like the combination of colour scheme, the single column layout, and the large featured images.

  2. marilyncavicchia

    How about great themes for poets? We have some particular needs, such as single-spacing between lines (many themes have leading that is too large) and for lines to break in the exact way that we want. It helps to find a theme with a very large character width (right term? — the width of the space for text).

    Right now, I’m using Ryu, which has a very clean look and a much wider space for text than my previous theme, which I believe was Pink Touch 2. One pet peeve: If I copy and paste from Word, it goes all crazy with a different font/point size, incorrect line breaks and spacing, etc. It’s not always convenient to either write the poem within WordPress or type it in after writing it in Word.

    I would be glad to hear of any themes that are working well for other poet bloggers. Thanks!

  3. nicole

    What are some great short form themes? Most of my posts are 500 words or less, and I can’t help but feel most themes have too much space for me! Thank you!

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      It’s a good question, but hard to answer, as most of our themes are great for personal blogging. One feature you might want to use as a filter in the Theme Showcase is Post Formats, which will show the themes that offer a variety of formats based on the content (standard post, quote post, image post, etc.) The look offers a nice mix (I love the free McKinley theme, for example).

      The premium Bloggy theme is a nice one as well (from personal experience, as I’m currently using it on one of my blogs).

      I also love the simple, sophisticated look of Suits. Or the simple, minimal Flounder theme.

      And some of the tumblelog themes might work for you, too: Sorbet, Quadra, and Circa.

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Utlimately, though — remember that you can use and transform any theme to fit your needs. I don’t want to make it seem like X theme is only for X, and Y for Y, and so on. :)

  4. Jordan135 Gaming

    Hey, I would have tried one of the themes out but they have no sidebar. If you look at my blog, it would be good if you had a theme just like the Skeptical theme. Could you make more themes just like Skeptical theme? That will make me very happy. Thanks. :)

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Hi there — you’re right, for the most part, the themes featured in this post are sidebar-free, which allows the writing to be the focus, with no distractions.

      If you’re interested in other themes with right sidebars like Skeptical, check this list: http://theme.wordpress.com/themes/features/right-sidebar/ (You can also narrow down that search even more, using the filters there in the Theme Showcase.)

      Are there other features specific to Skeptical that you really like? And what’s missing from the theme that you’re looking for?

  5. Steve

    Cheri, are there any navigation tools within or that you can add to these or other WordPress themes like the one I use (Dynamic News) to help people quickly move to different sections in these longer articles? I saw a great example of a navigation tool here (http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2014/07/tuesday-tidbits-android.html#) I’d like to use with my longer pieces. If not available through a theme, is it possible to do this with CSS? Thanks.

  6. glitterbunnies

    Thank you for this! I am currently switching themes and needed some direction, great post :)

  7. Brida Anderson

    One additional comment on Hemingway Rewritten: You link to Blog of the Courtier as an example. But one feature that I like isn’t visible there: You can give each page (even each blogpost, if you like) their OWN unique header image. Just define it in “Featured Image”.

    If it stays the same (like with Blog of the Courtier), readers often assume that the page they clicked didn’t load because the header fills so much of the screen.

    After they pointed that out to me, I started using unique images. One nice side-effect is that you can give a landing page a header that works for your product (Urban Fantasy books, in my case).

  8. thewalkahead.com

    I have been using booklite for thewalkahead.com for the past two years and am pleased with the clean look of the page and wide margins, that in my opinion makes booklite easy to read. I would, however, welcome a minimalist side bar or widget that when clicked would open a ‘table of contents’ page or column. As it is now, if a reader stumbles on a post, they may not scroll all the way down to discover other posts, especially is some of the posts are longer. One suggestion would be to add a ‘listing of posts’ or table of contents tab to sit alongside the ‘about’ and ‘home’ buttons.

  9. elizabeth

    I’ve been using Koi for years, it’s an oldie but goodie. :-)

  10. thesciencegeek

    An interesting post. I am currently using the chateau theme for my blog and having read this I am considering switching to Syntax which I think looks really goodo, crisp and easy to read on Sarah Constantin’s blog.

    The Science Geek

  11. Mary Ann Barton

    Thanks, Cheri! I’m using Everyday for my blog but have been thinking about switching to a look that combines lots of white space with beautiful type. The Syntax theme is very tempting!

    However, I’m wondering if my readers would feel a sense of loss if I change the style so dramatically. I often write about illness, loss, and the end of life (though also about joyful subjects like art, music, and my new topic, sex and aging). I think of my readers as needing comfort when they visit my blog, and I’m reluctant to introduce something completely new.

    Do you have any advice for me on managing a transition to a new theme?

    • Cheri Lucas Rowlands

      Hi there — that’s a good, thoughtful question that considers the experience of your readers. Personally, I think a theme/design change is refreshing, especially if you’ve never changed your theme before. And if you’re aiming to create an even more pleasing, easy reading experience for your visitors, there’s no harm in that.

      One thing you could consider is creating a poll in a post and asking readers their advice and feedback: What existing things do they love about your blog? Are they open and supportive of a design change? What new things might they want to see? Etc.

      Here’s some info on how to add a poll in the Edit Post Screen in your dashboard:

      http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/polls/
      http://en.support.wordpress.com/polls/

      I think, regardless of the nature of your content, any blog design change can feel drastic. But I think that dissipates after a few visits, as visitors get comfortable with your site again.

  12. Napo Martin

    Interesting, thank you for sharing some relevant examples. I am using the Kelly Theme, for which I do not like the header so much but has big fonts and a great adaptability to different resolutions/browsers sizes.

  13. Anuj Saraswat

    Do I use this theme — my posts are generally around 300-400 words? I mostly write about social media, inspiration, and tech. Will this theme be good for my posts?

  14. Bryan Hemming

    I use Ascetica for Pedersen´s Last Dream, as nearly all my stories on that blog fit into the longform category. My main reason being it allows me to list my work on the home page with an introductory sentence or two.

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