Submitting Articles for Online Publication

Writing for online magazines is somewhat similar to print journalism, particularly the inverted pyramid format. Also, as in print publishing, it is essential that you should be an avid reader of your magazine before becoming one of its writers. Going through recent articles of the magazine can provide you invaluable tips regarding the expectations of the editors and readers. Another way to analyze the readers of a magazine is through its advertisers. Many online magazines contain ads at the top or the sides of their page. The types of ads that are displayed there throw light on the demographics and psychographics of the target audience.

Browsing various sites will eventually make you familiar with the electronic magazines that might be a good choice for your article. In many sites, there is a link ‘About Us’, which gives information about the editorial angle, audience, and article submission requirements. In order to be on safer grounds, it is always beneficial to email the editor to present your idea and to determine the fee (if applicable), deadlines, and other relevant issues.

With regard to style, online articles are written in a more casual style than print publications. Online articles tend to be a mix of different genres and styles and allow more experimentation in word choice compared to print publications. Also, they should contain shorter sentences and paragraphs because of the restrictions of the screen-based interface. To sum it up, electronic articles have an economy of style in addition to attention-grabbing punches, which is not often expected for print publications.

SUBMITTING AN ARTICLE FOR PUBLICATION

SUBMITTING AN ARTICLE FOR PUBLICATION

 

While deciding to submit an article to a magazine for publication, make sure you are familiar with the topics and styles of your chosen magazine. You have a higher chance of having your article accepted if it fits with the ‘culture’ of the magazine. All magazines have details of the editor, so if you cannot find submission guidelines, contact the editor to request them. This is the editor’s job and, besides, most magazines are looking for fresh ideas and new writers. In most cases, you will be required to submit a proposal summarizing your article, and noting its significance and the types of readers it is likely to interest.

In order to familiarize yourself with the stylistic conventions of your chosen magazine, follow these steps:

1. Read carefully each article in recent issues of the magazine. Note the basic question or issue that they deal with and trace the ways that they answer it.

2. Notice the tone of the articles. Is it humorous? Serious? Technical? Chatty? This will give you a hint on what tone to give your own article.

3. Notice the use of research. Have the writers conducted primary research, such as interviewing people, or are most articles based on secondary research, the consultation of written sources? How many quotations do the articles use? How much information is paraphrased, i.e., written in the writer’s own words?

4. Notice the use of pronouns (‘I’, ‘you’, ‘we’, etc.). Are articles written mostly in an impersonal, objective style or do they rely heavily on personal comment? How does the writer refer to him/herself? Does s/he use personal pronouns?

5. Notice the leads and ties. How long and snappy are they? Do the articles rely strongly on leads to ‘bait’ the reader, or are other elements, such as pictures or quotations of famous speakers, more prominent?

6. Underline the first sentence in each paragraph. They should form a step-by-step sequence. Then note the cohesion that the writers have used: the linking words and phrases within paragraphs and the transitions from one paragraph to the next. Often the same words or ideas will be repeated in the last sentence of one paragraph and the first sentence of the next.

7.  Notice how the articles develop their theme. Is the article structured chronologically, developmentally, by alternating examples, point by point? How did the writer build the organizational structure to answer the title’s question?

8.  What techniques does the writer use to make the article both informative and appealing? E.g., does s/he use analogies, anecdotal examples, metaphors, personal stories, rhetorical questions, direct questions to the readers, etc.?

9.  Notice the title. It may have been changed by the editor; nevertheless, how does it reflect the article? Does it tease, quote, state facts? What technique does the writer use to make the reader want to read the article?

10.  Look at para-textual elements, such as visuals, pullquotes, subheads, etc. Although the editor may have produced these, you can still get an idea of the type of ‘framing’ that the magazine requires, and this will give you some tips on what types of information the editors consider important.

Leads, hooks and ties in professional writing

Scientific and business magazines do not develop in a linear fashion like a news report. These articles differ from a news report in that they need not provide background or justify assertions. These articles are subjective and tell describe to the readers what the writer wants to say about a topic.

A magazine article plunges straight into the description of the product or discovery without wasting too much time in building the background.

The scientific and business article, discusses, immediately showing its relevance to the interests or needs of the reader. It then goes on to present different angles of the topic, starting with the most important and continuing in lessening in importance. It may end abruptly, or with one or two sentences with a comment, opinion or evaluative remark to the preceding discussion.

A magazine reader wants to be slowly pulled into reading an article. The lead is the opening statement that should attract the reader to the article. Its job is to relate the main topic to the reader’s general interests and experience.

A hook is similar to a lead, although it is usually more ‘spicy’ or provocative than a lead. A hook is like a bait to tempt the reader to carry on reading. Avoid abstractions and technical jargon.

A good lead starts by stating a fact and then asking a question about this fact from the reader’s point of view. It then goes on to overview the specifics of what the article will discuss and ends with a statement on the purpose of the article.

Sometimes a short narrative is also used as a lead. The rest of the article is a detailed description of the topic to be discussed.

The tie is an optional device at the end of the article with a comment or question summing up the writer’s attitude towards the topic.

Integrating Quotations in Professional Writing

Quotations are key elements in any kind of writing. In formal writing, they may have a secondary function, but, in journalistic writing, facts and ideas revolve around quotations. Journalists aim to report stories, which are of importance and interest to the readers. Quotations lend credibility to their writing, give voice to the people represented, and add color to the facts. In formal writing, a sentence begins in normal tone and ends with a quotation. In journalistic writing, sentence begins with a quotation and ends with a comment on it. There is another notable difference between formal and journalistic writing. In formal writing, the sources (full references) of the quotations are placed either as footnotes (bottom of each page) or at the end of the text as a Reference List. On the other hand, in journalistic writing, the person’s name and affiliation are preferably mentioned in the sentence itself. Each quotation should be followed by its analysis, usually in one or more sentences, explaining why it is interesting and its significance. If the quotation is quite long and complex, it should be followed-up with a brief summary, which explains in what manner it helps your cause. Quotations (when used in a proper way) lend persuasion and strength to your main argument. However, one thing must be kept in mind; quotations can only supplement your argument, they should not be treated as the main argument.

DEVELOPING A FEATURE ARTICLE

A feature article is composed in order to explain how something works or is developed over time, informing the public of something new and/or important, and interpreting complex information in an understandable and appealing way. Basically, you may be doing one or more of the following:

  • describing the parts of your object and their interrelationships,
  • tracing the history of the object and describing its changes,
  • describing the object’s qualities and characteristics, and
  • analysing the object’s value.

To achieve this effectively, use a combination of the following strategies.

(1) Define terms and differentiate them from other similar ones. This is very useful while writing about a large topic with many subdivisions, aspects and categories. By defining it, you are specifying the parameters in which you will explain it. Consider using sentence or paragraph-length definitions for complicated topics, and parenthetical definitions for less complicated ones.

(2) Give an analogy. For example, using the same principle as an overhead projector, an epidiascope projects three-dimensional images onto a screen using a magnified beam of light. This gives the reader the gist of what you are saying and makes complicated terms and processes easier to grasp. In the same light, you can contrast the term to what it is opposite to or different from.

(3) Give examples that illustrate the functions or properties of the topic you are explaining. This helps the reader put the topic in context and thus relate to it better.

(4) Compare the topic with others to show its special features or common attributes. As with analogies, comparisons are useful in helping the reader classify the topic in a category with which s/he is familiar, and/or to understand the innovation or specific nature of the described object.

(5) Describe the properties/qualities of an object or situation and detail how it works or how it occurs and under what circumstances.

(6) Suggest reasons for a situation or development. This is useful when you think the reader is likely to ask the question ‘why’. It justifies a current state of affairs by explaining what caused it to come into being.

(7) Tell a story that illustrates your discussion. This is useful in making conceptual information more concrete by describing a ‘physical’ situation where the ideas you are talking about were at play. Stories are very effective in assisting the reader to visualise and, therefore, to better understand, your description.

(8) Describe a process. This is a way to show how something is done, a protocol or procedure. Describing processes also comes into play when giving instructions on how to conduct a task.

(9) Describe applications. This emphasises the practical aspects of research, by showing how inventions and discoveries can be used in everyday life.

(10) Use visual aids, such as a diagram or photograph. If you choose this strategy, make sure you explain in your text what the visual is intended to show and how it fits in your written explanation. To avoid digressing from your text to explain a diagram, consider using side-bars that contain visuals and text, and provide self-sufficient information that complements the information presented in the body of the article.

Journalistic Style: Language and Techniques

Business and technology journalistic writing make the reader familiar with unknown concepts and happenings. They achieve it by presenting the information that is relevant to the readers in a creative way. This involves a lot of analyzing and synthesizing of information on the part of the writer. The writer must keep the following techniques in mind:

  • Factual: The writer must try to give as much factual information as possible. The 5Ws (What, When, Where, Why, Who) and 1H (How) help in achieving this.
  • Rational: Readers are always on the lookout for evaluative judgment, which can be found only in rational approaches.
  • Specific: The writer must give specific details with examples, wherever possible. People like reading about others: so, quotes, success stories and testimonials can be included. In some cases, experimental evidence can be provided in support of the statements.
  • Technical: Uninformed readers find the usage of technical jargon to be very tedious. In case jargons are used, they should be relevant to the context and easily identifiable. The writer should present the information by acting as someone who knows the inside story of the industry as if he is someone who is experiencing the same as others. That will help the readers to identify with the topic.

PARAGRAPHING

Paragraphing helps in dividing the material into separate interlinked units, which the readers readily cope with and assimilate into their understanding. The main aim of paragraphs and sections is to divide and prioritise the information into meaningful chunks. This, in turn, helps to highlight the points and issues, encouraging a sense of sequence and development. Therefore, for researcher/writer, paragraphing offers a powerful tool for articulating and critiquing their ideas. While, for a communicator, it helps in keeping their reader focused on the topic and line of logic.

Magazine article paragraphs are usually short, comprising two or three sentences only. Even one-sentence paragraphs are acceptable in articles, as long as they do not run in succession. Like short sentences, short paragraphs have a more intense effect than the longer ones as they concentrate meaning into a few words, which stand out from the rest of the text. For this reason, one-sentence paragraphs in magazine articles are often placed at strategic places to provide a striking effect.

In most cases, magazines are read in leisure time. Writers, therefore, realise that readers will not likely invest their time and attention required to absorb a complex document. Accordingly, the writer presents the information succinctly and directly without elaboration and in-depth analysis. Besides, the tone should have a conversational impact rather than conceptual density. Moreover, magazine articles also compete for attention. As opposed to a formally commissioned report, which assumes that the reader has a vested interest in reading it closely, a magazine article often needs to capture the reader’s attention. In this situation, having long paragraphs would be daunting, as well as discouraging. Hence, the articles should be preferably short, precise and to the point.

Business and Technology Journalism

Types of Articles

Feature Articles

Features are an elaboration of topics that were published in newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, newsletters, television broadcasts and other mass media. They focus on particular people, places and events. They cover topics the in-depth, explaining the most interesting and important elements of an event. Feature writers have the freedom and time to fill in details of the circumstances and atmosphere.

News Stories

News stories focus on local, regional, national, and international events of importance. For describing the facts, they follow the 5Ws and 1H approach. They should be unbiased and accurate. New articles should contain pertinent information arranged in an inverted pyramid style. To apply the concept to news, the most important details are considered as the widest layer of the pyramid, its base. The least important details are placed at the top. People just skim through the news, so the most important facts and details should be placed at the beginning.

Editorials

Editorials are opinion articles. They comment on a certain issue, topic, subject matter or news event. They build on an argument and try to sway the readers to think the same way as they do. Editorials are meant to influence public opinion and sometimes cause people to take action on a particular issue.

Opinions

Opinion articles provide a personal, often speculative, viewpoint or hypothesis on a topic of current interest. They may be regarding recent publications or discuss any current hot issues from the author’s point of view.

Reviews

Review articles are critical reviews of a topical and significant area of research. They should aim to provide an in-depth discussion of the current progress and problems, and should not consist of an account of every paper on that topic. They do not contain any original research. They aim to compare their analysis with others in the same field, showing its advantages and disadvantages.

Interviews

These articles are in a questionnaire form. They focus on the contribution of an individual to a particular topic.

Transitional Words, Phrases and Sentences

Transitional words, phrases and sentences regulate the flow of paragraphs and sections. Besides, transitional sentences, as well as, in longer documents, transitional paragraphs can be used between one section and another.

Two common forms of transition are described below.

1)  Using a short sentence to state briefly your intended meaning in the next paragraph. For example, you might say, So far we have been discussing unemployment. Now we consider inflation. This could occur at the end of one paragraph or at the beginning of the next, depending on the paragraphs length and its desired effect. However, the new paragraph would begin more intensely, if its topic had already been introduced in the previous paragraph.

2)  Repeating a keyword or phrase, in order to echo the point made in a previous paragraph. In fact, synonyms can also be used for this purpose. For example, observe the following extract, from an article on evolution, for how this technique has been used. Besides, I have italicized the transitional sentences and the cohesive devices in the following paragraph:

Understanding the shape of the tree of life and the details of its branches are more than a quaint sideline of biology, even though the science of this quest, known as systematic, has come to be regarded by many biologists as dowdy and old fashioned, little more than stamp collecting. But, such an understanding is probably the best foundation for a larger appreciation of life, including evolution, ecology and behaviour. As Colin Patterson, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum of London, said: To retrieve the history of life, to reconstruct the evolutionary tree, is still the aim of evolutionary biology. Getting it right is therefore important.

COHESION

Cohesion words or phrases define the association between one sentence and the next. These words or phrases link a sentence with its pervious or next sentence, thus, helping readers to relate the sentences and the authors intended meaning. The writer can use but, however, in spite of, or some other similar linking word or phrase; however, one should take care of correct grammatical structure.

Let us take the examples of some cohesion words and the relationship they express.

  • Enumerative cohesion words/phrases introduces the order in which points will be made. Examples: first, second; one, two; a, b; next, then, subsequently, finally, in the end
  • Additive words reinforce or confirm what was said. Examples: again, then again, also, moreover, furthermore, in addition, what is more

These words also highlight similarity. Examples: equally, likewise, similarly, correspondingly, in the same way

  • Explanatory words introduce examples. Examples: for example, for instance
  • Illustrative words note alternatives. Examples: alternatively, or again, or rather, but then, on the other hand

Other cohesion words include synonyms, referential pronouns, parallel structure, etc.

Synonyms:

These are words with closely related meanings and help in addressing excessive repetition. If you used approach in one sentence and want to repeat the same idea, then you can use its synonym method in the next sentence. Similarly, for skill, you can use ability, and so no.

However, one should make sure not to overuse them as its excessive usage can make your document confusing and unclear.

Referential pronouns:

If two sentences begin with the same subject, then you can use a personal or referential pronoun in the second sentence instead of the word itself (I, he, she, it, we, they, this, that, these). However, if the use of a pronoun makes the sentence confusing, then you should repeat the noun.

Parallel structures:

Parallelism refers to similar grammatical structures of headings and sentences used within a paragraph, and it adds clarity to your paragraph.

Not parallel: These books are not primarily for reading, but they are used for reference.

Parallel: These books are not primarily for reading but for reference.

Not parallel: Not only is he conscientious worker, but also he is very competent.

Parallel: Not only is he conscientious but also competent.

Parallelism is also important in instructions.

A. Setting up the printer, maintenance, and what to do if something goes wrong are easy with ABC’s step-by-step user guide.

B. Setting up the printer, maintaining it and troubleshooting are easy with ABC’s step-by-step user guide.