External Content Submission Requires Specific Writing Guidelines

Well-defined writing guidelines for use within the association is an important step to protecting the brand, messaging and reputation of the organization, but are they enough if you accept outside submissions?

An average of 75% of content for the International Erosion Control Association’s quarterly publication is submitted by external authors. The editorial submission guidelines include general information such as types of articles accepted with word count for each specified, but they also address issues specific to outside submissions. These issues include format for submission (Microsoft® Word vs. pdf), items to submit (summary, article, captions, references), requirements for images (4×6 at 300 dpi), and copyright assignment. Because the magazine has an international audience, the guidelines also call for international format for dates (day-month-year) and requirement to use both U.S. customary units and metric units based on the Systeme International d’Unites.

The benefit of detailed guidelines for external submissions is a more streamlined editing process to prepare the article for peer review. While not all authors follow the guidelines to a T, the clear instructions make it easier for the editor to go back to the author with requests for changes or additional information.

In “How to Create Writing Guidelines for Your Blog or Biz,” the author offers other tips on what to include:

  • What you publish. Specify what you accept – scientific articles, personal experience stories, event reports, announcements – as well as whether or not you publish online, in print or via social media.
  • Submission procedures. Do you want complete manuscripts or queries? What is the name or title and contact information for the staff person who receives submission?
  • Format and style. What approach do you publish: straightforward information pieces, anecdotal or first person experience stories, documented summaries with solid data and statistics? Is your tone conversational, formal or academic? What style manual do you follow?
  • Length. What is your preferred word count for specific types of pieces?
  • Rights. Which do you offer: first rights, reprint rights, all rights, work for hire?
  • Images. Will you accept submitted graphics to accompany the piece?
  • Payment/other recognition. Do you offer compensation? Can you offer a byline with a link to the contributor’s website or blog?

Even if the majority of your publication’s content is generated internally, external authors – researchers, consultants, industry leaders – can add an additional layer of knowledge and more value for members. A good set of guidelines can streamline the submission, editing and review process so the publications’ staff finds the extra source of content a benefit and not a burden!

(Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series of articles about writing guidelines. The first article appeared in December 2022.)