In June 2005, the world’s first democratic social site was born to two proud startup papas: Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, aka u/kn0thing and u/spez. They named their baby Reddit. Thirteen years and a scandal or two later, Reddit is an edgy teenager in the thick of a growth spurt.
For those who are unfamiliar with the platform, Reddit is a forum-style catalog of social news content with an emphasis on community building and discussion. Engaging with content and other users is as simple as creating an account. An important component to the site is the presence of subreddits, which users can subscribe to depending on their interests. According to metrics released by Reddit at the beginning of this year, there are 1.2 million subreddits (and counting).
The site, which bills itself as “the front page of the internet,” aims to achieve some semblance of neutrality, allowing users to a) upload and post all content; and b) determine the value of content via an upvoting/downvoting system. The more upvotes you get, the higher your karma score will climb.
Alternately, if you happen to receive a downvote, your karma score will reduce. It’s generally a self-governing system, which bodes well for Reddit in this era of Zuckerberg-esque indiscretions. As such, the company’s own data indicates that average monthly active users have jumped from 250 million in November 2017 to 330 million by early April 2018.
The upshot: Ohanian and Huffman are two very rich men.
I avoided getting into Reddit until recently. I have an addictive personality, which renders me glued to Twitter as it is; Reddit just seemed like another rabbit hole I couldn’t afford to fall down.
But, as my husband astutely pointed out to me a few months ago, Reddit is different than other social sites because the emphasis is truly on content, rather than the people posting that content—making it a fairly valuable resource for those in content-dependent professions, such as mine.
Of course, this doesn’t mean Reddit can’t be a dangerous time-suck, but there are ways to use the powers of Reddit for good. The key here is to know where to look and what you’re looking for.
With all of that said, here’s how I make effective use of Reddit as a professional writer.
Whether you have a burning question about semicolons, need help wording an important email, or have a qualm about the word “utilize,” all the answers you need and more can be derived from Reddit. In fact, Redditors take to the site every single day to discuss everything from grammar faux pas, to tense usage, to when to use block quotes.
One attractive attribute of this format is the anonymity aspect. For new writers in particular, asking a rudimentary question under an anonymous username may be preferable to asking peers or superiors. Of course, grammatical advice retrieved from Reddit should always be verified by a secondary source.
Beyond being a place where your “who” versus “whom” dilemma can be put to rest, Reddit provides writers with an avenue to vent about overused words or debate the Oxford comma, and moreover, garner solidarity and support. In other words, you might subscribe for the Q&As, but you’ll come back for the like-minded peeps.
Reddit’s famed “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) prompts allow users unique access to a wide range of public figures, journalists, and authors, where they can ask real-time questions and receive real-time answers. In August 2012, President Obama took to this subreddit for the most high-profile AMA in Reddit history. It was an unprecedented opportunity—a fact that was not lost on Redditors. The event, which yielded the former president’s opinions on topics such as internet freedom, space exploration, the White House beer, and basketball, was so popular, it crashed the site’s servers.
In addition to hosting frequent AMAs with noteworthy people, Reddit is chock-full of fun and not-so-fun facts, ranging from historical, to practical, to just plain obscure. Though some facts may err on the side of bizarro, one thing’s for sure: If you spend enough time on Reddit, you’re bound to learn a thing or two or three.
On a personal note, I’ve always struggled to generate ideas to fuel my writing, and in this regard, I’ve found Reddit to be far more rewarding than other social sites (for instance, Twitter). In my experience, by the time news reaches Twitter, it’s pretty much old news on Reddit.
If you’ve exhausted idea-rich subreddits, and you’re still lacking inspiration or are bogged down by a stubborn case of writer’s block, a good place to head next is the Writing Prompts subreddit.
In addition to providing a steady stream of creative prompts, Redditors are encouraged to contribute short stories directly to the prompt thread, get comments from others, and leave commentary for other people’s works. Moderators also host writing contests from time to time, and finalists and winners are determined by upvotes.
Subreddit to follow:r/WritingPrompts.
In his book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, Stephen King writes, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I can attest to this advice personally, as I’m sure many (if not all) fellow writers can. The public library was my favorite place as a kid, and I even worked there for the bulk of my adolescence. If my nose wasn’t buried in a book, I was likely penning one of my own. Much of my vocabulary was derived from books, as was my affinity for grammar and my self-admitted *passion* for sentence structure.
I’m living in Africa right now, and the public library isn’t as accessible to me, which makes browsing for lesser-known titles tough. Enter: Reddit. Looking for title suggestions? Asked and answered. For titles related to a specific topic and/or for in-depth discussions related to reading, simply type “books” into the Reddit search bar to yield several subreddits geared at, and moderated by, avid readers.
Reddit is home to several threads dedicated to writers helping writers, and this help is hardly limited to proofreading. For resources and advice related to the finer aspects of writing, unapologetically honest feedback, and tips on how to further your professional career, Reddit is the quintessential writers group.
Returning again to the anonymity aspect of Reddit, receiving critiques from someone on the other side of the tinted window that is the internet is an inventive way to strengthen your writing and writing chops within pressure-free confines. Though all proofreading services should be taken with a grain of salt (after all, you get what you pay—or don’t pay—for), I’ve found that notes from an objective eye have the potential to deepen the brevity and clarity of my writing.
Contrary to other social sites, Reddit doesn’t organically lend itself to self-promotion. Unlike Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, personal profiles on Reddit are limited to include things that are Reddit-specific, such as any posted content, karma score, “cake day” (aka birthday), and an avatar. Since there is less potential to carefully curate a personal profile, personal promotion on this platform is a different process entirely.
The key to achieving successful Reddit promotion for your book, article, or company boils down to identifying your target audience and the subreddits that could appeal to them. Once you’ve discerned that information, you can begin cautiously posting—or better yet, if your content can apply to more than one subreddit, cross-posting.
At the end of the day, Reddit can serve as a tool, not just for writers, but across professions. But just like all social media, there’s room for fallacy. My recommendation: Approach all content with a critical eye, exhaust external sourcing, and be receptive to the inspirational powers of Reddit.
Zakiya Kassam is a freelance writer. She has her degree in journalism and her writing has appeared on behalf of Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary, Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, IT Compliance Association, and the University of Calgary Student Radio Society. Her articles have been published in The Globe and Mail, Ryerson Review of Journalism, Toronto Star, and Format Magazine, amongst other publications and blogs. Zakiya is currently situated in the DRC.