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In this course, author Tom Geller explores the process of writing articles and publications for businesses large and small. The course begins with a look at the preparation you'll need to do, best ways to find assignments, and smart strategies for determining your article approach. Next, the course dives into techniques you can use to brainstorm angles, research, interview experts, finish a piece, and build your portfolio.
- Adopting technical tools
- Gathering reference materials
- Defining an article
- Finding assignments
- Determining your approach
- Conducting interviews
- Managing revisions
- Following up
Skill Level Appropriate for all
It's such a relief to finish a first draft, but before you send it off to the editor to celebrate, reviewing some technical points will make your article more professional and editor-friendly. I have marked up the example article for this video to demonstrate these points. First, revisit the contract or assignment letter. Did you fulfill all its requirements. Is your article the right length? Generally speaking, your word count should be between 90 and 120% of the target. More is not necessarily better.
Are you supposed to turn in anything besides the main text? Editors might ask for graphics, captions, sidebar text, footnotes, links for further reading, an the author bio, or even a brief summary of the article. Did the contract say what program the text should be in? Some publications prefer a Microsoft Word document, while others want text simply pasted into the body of an email. By the way, don't trust your word processor's formatting to survive when you cut and paste text. Give indicators for bold and italics using plain text, and describe your system in a note to the editor.
Unless they tell you to, don't use angled brackets or HTML to indicate formatting. It might disappear when it passes through the publisher's content management system. And while you're at it, label the inline elements--the title, sub headlines, captions, and so on--and then finish it off with three pound signs. That's a traditional signal for the end of an article. If your editors don't say otherwise, reduce all 8-bit characters, such as curly quotes and em dashes, to 7-bit ones.
8-bit characters usually show up when you press the Alt+Ctrl or Option keys while typing. Also, Microsoft Word's default settings will change straight quotes into curly quotes and double dashes to em dashes. Now, this is a problem because curly quotes and em dashes and similar characters often get messed up when sent through email or moved from one type of computer to another. The same is true for Unicode characters, which most often appear as non-Roman type such as Chinese or Arabic. Now the set of 7-bit characters--now, these are the ones you want--includes only letters, numbers, and simple punctuation.
You can read more about this in the Wikipedia article on ASCII--that's A-S-C-I-I-- especially the section on ASCII's variants. Finally, there are two more things to do before sending it off. If you quote people in an interview, send them the portion of the article that contains their quotes, just to make sure you got them right, and especially if you had to reword them, as is often the case. Second, check people's titles and the spelling of all proper names. In particular, watch out for capitals and spaces in the middle of company names.
Editors can tell when writers check the draft before sending it in, because the flaws in an unchecked draft are so obvious. So taking the time to polish your draft can really make you stand out in a positive way. Now you're ready to send it off. The first time I work with an editor I include the sentence "Please confirm receipt." when I email my draft. Then I put something in my calendar reminding me to write or call a few days later if they don't. But assuming they receive everything okay, the article then moves on to the editing and revision stage.