15 November 2015

Advice to Authors

Wayne Shepheard, editor of RELATIVELY SPEAKING, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society, published an editorial with some basic tips for aspiring contributors to guide them through the process of telling their stories and save time in reviewing, editing and proofreading. You may find them helpful, bearing in mind that articles in RELATIVELY SPEAKING tend to be quite short.

1. Focus on one subject or story – Pick and write about just one topic of interest to you in a single article. For example, don’t try to give the history of your entire family, describe multiple events or do an exhaustive summary of many different methods of research.
2. Keep the message simple – Get to the point quickly. Don’t include too much ancillary data about a myriad of people, places, activities or dates. Stay on topic throughout.
3. Create a structure for the article – Start with a brief introduction of the subject – even listing basic conclusions at the beginning so the reader knows where you going. Keep the main body of the text, including any subsection on topic. Write a summary at the end bringing together all the results of the story/project or any problem that was solved. is applies no matter how short or long an article is. It is important to get the readers’ attention from the start. Do not wait until the end of a piece to let them
know what the story was all about. Very simply, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.” By the way, this methodology works very well for verbal presentations, too.
4. Set out the article in point form to start with – Before you get to the actual writing, organize your thoughts by listing them in point form. It is then easier to rearrange material to follow a logical framework. Individual points can be expanded and linked once a basic outline of what you want to say has been established.
5. When writing about family members, stick with one family or one individual – It’s ok to briefly mention family or one individual  direct family relationships but avoid writing a wholesection about a spouse’s family history, distant cousins, children of siblings, uncles, aunts or the parents of brothers-in-law, as examples.
6. Use proper English – Some tips: avoid long sentences; use one subject per sentence and one subject per paragraph; check spelling; use similar word structures when listing items or phrases; don’t mix tenses; avoid repeating words and phrases; make sure adjectives and adverbs are placed near the words they are supposed to modify; make sure any pronouns and relative pronouns are properly placed and which nouns they are replacing is clearly evident; don’t mix singular and plural expressions.
7. Headings and subheadings – Use headings or subheadings within the text where necessary to separate information or guide the reader through the article. If several major points are to be emphasized break them into sections with titles.
8. Precision and clarity  – Use language that is easy to understand. Avoid the use of colloquial expressions and jargon. Every word and phrase that is written should mean exactly what it is intended to mean. Reading material aloud, to yourself or someone else, sometimes helps in determining whether the writing is clear and unambiguous.
9. Citations and references  – Always clearly state the sources of information used, within the text where appropriate and in a list at the end of an article. A reference section at the end of an article should have full details on books and articles, and the URLs of any websites from which information was downloaded. Use quotations marks around material published elsewhere and note the source of same.
10. Assistance in writing – For those authors who would like help in constructing their articles, use Internet help sources or contact the publication editor. Most editors will be willing to help review drafts and make suggestions as to style and content.

For BIFHSGO there's a pdf Guide to Authors at http://goo.gl/aTIihY

Thanks to Wayne for permission to publish the extract.

Other contents of the November 2015 issue of RELATIVELY SPEAKING are:

Sowing Winter Wheat: Introducing genealogy and family history to children and youth, by John Althouse
Family Adhesive: The value of family history for children, by Janet Hovorka
Th e Search for Captain Roy Brown, by John J. N. Chalmers
Visiting Alberta’s Past: What was it like when you were my age? by John Althouse
Is Family History for Children and Youth? by Helen Gwilliam
Mystery, by Anne Baines
Immigrants to Canada: A family history project in grade 5 Social Studies, by Marion Rex
Our Acker Family’s Journey to Canada, by Colin Acker & Allison Martens
Escape from Czechoslovakia: The Bouz Journey, by Leah Kinahan & John Bouz
Isley Family Descendants, by Andrew Kennedy
Let Th em Contribute: How today’s youth are engaging in the genealogy space, by Amanda Terry & Devin Ashby


Brian Glenn said...

Those are good tips for a presentation as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saving me from either confusing or boring my audience of cousins. This is a great reminder.