Potential authors sometimes ask for direction on how to write their articles. Here is my response. For further info, skip down to my “Favorite Resources.”
Golden Rule: Defer to Author’s Style
We appreciate author contributions, without which Cal Lab magazine would exist. Editing should be light and deferential to author material as much as possible—exceptions being basic American grammar, writing standards, and maintaining overall consistency. In some cases, we work with the author on article revisions if the material is not first accepted. We reserve the right to ask an author for a rewrite if we feel the material may be better communicated. Final layout is submitted back to authors for their acceptance before going to print. Cal Lab magazine may hold copyright to the layout of the article, but never the content—original material is the property of the author/contributor.
The Golden Rule supports our primary objectives, which are to 1) provide quality content of value to our readers, and 2) keep the publication viable.
- The author does not need to fuss over general (non-significant) formatting—this is overridden after import into the desktop publishing software (Adobe InDesign).
- The required elements of a contributed paper must include: an introduction, main body of material, and a conclusion.
- Abstracts are encouraged.
- Numbered sections are optional.
- Use citations and reference them in the body of the article with brackets.
- References are optional but highly recommended. A list of resources is recommended if no references are provided. Readers may want to follow up on your article topic.
- Images (figures, graphs, and tables) should be labeled, such as Figure 1, Table 1, etc., whether or not they are referenced.
- Original images, in their own file format, are preferred over just the image that is in the Word document—definition is lost during import. Tables import just fine.
- Equations are rewritten using a plug-in compatible with InDesign. Though I thoroughly double-check each equation, I have to ask authors to closely proof final layout for any discrepancies. Equations built in other programs (Latex, MS Word) cannot be imported without getting corrupted.
- When equations are referenced within the body of the article, equations should be numbered, in parentheses and aligned to the right of the equation. As a general rule, all equations should be numbered, whether or not it’s referred to within the paper. Also, equations should be treated as part of a sentence.
There are several major styles of writing:
- Modern Language Association (MLA)
- Chicago Manual Style (CMS) – Followed by those in the humanities, history, and natural sciences.
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- Council of Science Editors (CSE)
Take a look-see at references in Cal Lab Magazine or NCSLI’s Measure and try to figure out which specific writing style is being followed. Can’t figure it out? I can’t either. One might assume that contributors follow the scientific style, but they come from different backgrounds: physics, mathematics, engineering, business, computer science, electronics, liberal arts, etc. As a result, the writing style we use in Cal Lab Magazine typically defers to the Golden Rule.
When citing in Cal Lab Magazine, we use brackets in both the body of the article [inside the period or comma, like this], as well as in the list of references at the end of the article. Citations follow a general format of: author first initial, last name, referenced paper in quotes, referenced source in italics, the edition or volume number, year of publication, and pages (if applicable). Online sources must include a valid URL, which is double checked before going to print.
When You Weren’t Paying Attention in School
Minimize your use of “this” and “that.” In many cases, these words can be eliminated or you may need to reiterate your subject anyways.
Don’t assume the reader can follow your train of thought; state the obvious in order to bridge your topics.
When in doubt, don’t. If you’re not sure if it’s grammatically correct, there’s always another way of building your sentence.
Be consistent. If you are inconsistent, your reader’s eye will pick up on the inconsistencies and be distracted from the content.
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