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Guide to writing for Liberator
05 July 2004 (11:29:40)

We welcome your written contributions for publication in Liberator, whether they are articles, book reviews or letters. Before submitting any copy for publication, please read the following guidelines. Note that we reserve the right to shorten, alter or omit any material. Liberator is a not-for-profit organisation and we do not pay for articles.

Topicality

Liberator magazine is published six or seven times a year. Your material should be topical in the sense of being about current issues, but bear in mind that there will be at least two or three weeks’ delay between our copy deadline and subscribers receiving and reading the magazine. Do not write anything that is likely to be out-of-date by the time it is published. In particular, note that Liberator is not a news magazine – do not send us any press releases because they will be thrown in the bin. The schedule of forthcoming copy deadlines is here.

Relevance

Our readers are mostly resident in the UK and mostly active members of the Liberal Democrats. Your article should be relevant to this audience. The subject matter should be on broadly political issues but written in lay terms, as for a general press article. Don’t write about subjects of purely parochial interest, or subjects intelligible only to a technical expert. If you are unsure, email us (at collective@liberator.org.uk) before writing your article and ask whether your proposed topic is relevant. If you are unfamiliar with Liberator, look at some of the recent back issues on our website before writing anything.

Copyright

If your article has been published elsewhere or delivered as a speech, please tell us. Make sure that it is not someone else’s copyright material.

Length

A one-page article is no more than 850 words in length. A two-page article is no more than 1,800 words. If there are any accompanying illustrations, the space for text will be reduced accordingly. Please keep within these limits – if you write to an awkward length (say, 1,200 or 2,000 words), we will have to edit your material to fit.

Letters and book reviews

Letters for publication and book reviews should generally be shorter than articles. Do not exceed 250 words for letters, or 500 words for book reviews. We sometimes publish article-length book reviews in article format – please make it clear if that is what you intend.

Copy file format

Please send your file in Microsoft Word or ASCII text format. Type all your copy in normal text; don't add attributes such as heading styles or italics. Email your copy to Liberator (at collective@liberator.org.uk). If you wish to send us any photos for publication, these should be in JPEG file format, with a minimum image width of 1000 pixels. Do not send us any TIF files. Advertisements should also be sent only as JPEG files.

Style

This is not a comprehensive style guide (for this, we recommend you buy one of the published guides, such as the Economist Style Guide or Oxford Style Manual - or go to one of these online guides, E-Editor or the Guardian style guide). However, these guidelines will help you avoid some of the more common mistakes:

  • Your article should have a subject that is obvious from the beginning. You should not meander from subject to subject, and it should not be necessary to read half way through your article to find out what you are talking about. End with a clear conclusion, not in mid-air.
  • Use short sentences and short paragraphs (no more than three sentences in length).
  • Use British English, not American English spelling. Set the language option for your spellchecker to ‘English (UK)’.
  • Avoid technical jargon or acronyms unfamiliar to a lay audience.
  • Do not write footnotes. Liberator is not an academic journal. Include any references in the body of your text.
  • Use commas to separate any sub-clauses from the main part of a sentence.
  • Use upper case letters only at the start of sentences or proper nouns. The words ‘government’ and ‘parliament’ do not start with an upper case letter unless part of a proper noun (e.g. ‘HM Government’ or ‘Houses of Parliament’); likewise ‘president’ but ‘President Obama’.
  • Use quotation marks (double quotes like “this”) only for reported speech, i.e. a direct quotation. Use inverted commas (single quotes like ‘this’) to mark out a word or phrase for any other reason.
  • Avoid lazy abbreviations. Use ‘and’ rather than ‘&’; ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ rather than ‘e.g.’ or ‘etc.’ Abbreviate million to ‘m’ and billion to ‘bn’ only with money, for example ‘£27m’ or ‘$36bn’ but ‘8 million people’ or ‘4.6 billion years’.
  • Use conventional written punctuation, not email punctuation (such as asterisks and slashes).
  • Verbs and pronouns should agree with their subject. In particular, words such as ‘government’, ‘party’ and other individual corporate bodies, such as a company or team, are SINGULAR nouns, not plural. Use ‘it’ not ‘they’; ‘its’ not ‘their’; ‘is’ not ‘are’; ‘has’ not ‘have’.
  • Its or it’s? ‘Its’ is the possessive form of ‘it’. ‘It’s’ is short for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.
  • That or which? ‘That’ describes, ‘which’ informs. ‘That’ defines something, whereas ‘which’ adds new information in a separate clause (usually separated by commas). For example, “He is wearing the rosette that is orange” tells us he is wearing the orange rosette as opposed to any other rosettes, whereas “He is wearing the rosette, which is orange” assumes we already know which rosette he is wearing, and is supplying the colour as incidental information.
  • Compare to or compare with? Use ‘compare to’ when you are comparing things that are similar or equivalent. Use ‘compare with’ when you are contrasting different things.
  • Be careful where you position the words ‘only’, ‘just’, ‘mainly’ and ‘mostly’, because it can change the meaning of what you say. “Fred only delivers leaflets on a Tuesday” implies that the only thing Fred does on a Tuesday is deliver leaflets, whereas “Fred delivers leaflets only a Tuesday” makes it clear that the only day on which Fred delivers leaflets is a Tuesday and leaves open the possibility that he does other things on that day.
  • Avoid tendentious words and phrases, such as ‘of course’, ‘surely’, ‘obviously’ and ‘everybody thinks that...’
  • Avoid weasel words.
  • Use ‘Liberal Democrat(s)’, never ‘Lib Dem(s)’.

See also 20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes.

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