THE HOMETOWN PUBLISHING STYLE GUIDE FOR CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Welcome. We are honored to have you join us as a contributor. The Mountain Enterprise has been serving the Mountain Communities for 44 years because you and your neighbors keep it lively and informative with your contributions. Please print out this Writer’s Guide and keep it for reference. It is divided into two parts: I. Format and Content Guidelines and II. Stylebook Summary.
Publishers give "stylebook" guides to writers because it is easier for readers to focus on the meaning of what they are reading when the newspaper is consistent in matters of punctuation, spelling, grammar and diction. Please use this guide in your writing. It will help you get your story to the public in a quick, crisp and accurate manner. Have fun. We look forward to seeing your stories.
I. FORMAT AND CONTENT GUIDELINES
A) LENGTH: Keep your article to 200-250 words if it is a meeting announcement. Letters to the editor average 150 words. If you send a 2000-word dissertation without prior arrangement with the editor you may wait for a very long time to see it printed. Our news stories and opinion pieces are about 400 words.
B) EDIT: Avoid repetition. Say something well, and say it once—not multiple times in the same piece. Do not send us your first draft. Look at the story again, check your spelling and tighten up the writing. Do a second draft.
C) LEAD: Start your story with a "news lead." The news lead is the aspect of the event that the general public will find most interesting and timely. More people will read the story if you have a compelling lead sentence.
D) CONTENT: Your story should be interesting and informative to the general public—not just your club. As a newspaper, we are different from your newsletter. Strip out the jargon. Translate your sentences from "insider-speak" to interesting and energetic standard English. Re-read your story. Will someone who has never heard of your organization understand the story?
On another note, sometimes we receive angry screeds from people wishing to bring harm to others. Please remember that your statements must pass editorial and journalistic standards. We will not print unsupported or libelous statements about others. Facts are powerful. Use facts rather than invective or innuendo.
E) FACT CHECK: Please review your own writing to be sure the names are spelled correctly. Are the dates and times accurate? Did you get the facts straight? Review each fact twice and double-check it with an independent source. If the newspaper editor finds factual errors, your story is likely to go to the bottom of the week’s priority list because it represents extra work for our staff, and we may not have time to re-research your story.
F) PROOFREAD YOUR OWN SUBMISSION: Ask someone else to read your write-up prior to sending it to us. Correct errors. Help us help you to present the most crisp and professional appearance to the public.
G) ALWAYS INCLUDE A TELEPHONE NUMBER: All submissions to our newspapers must include telephone numbers (hopefully two, along with an email address) where you can be quickly reached should we come upon a question. We do not publish the number unless it is part of your story. The contact information is for the editor’s use only.
H) YOUR BYLINE: Please also include your title with the organization you are writing about, and your place of residence on the mountain (i.e. Lake of the Woods, Frazier Park, Lebec, Gorman, Pine Mountain, Neenach, Cuyama, etc.). If you send photos, be sure to tell us who took them and what is happening in them.
I) DEADLINE: Editorial submissions to The Mountain Enterpries (news and feature reports) are due on Thursday by noon to be considered for the following week’s newspaper.
THE HOMETOWN PUBLISHING STYLE GUIDE FOR CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
II. STYLEBOOK GUIDELINES SUMMARY
1) STANDARD NOTATION OF TIME: 10 a.m., 10:15 a.m. [not 10 AM or 10am or 10:00 AM]
2) DATES ARE SIMPLE DATES, NO EMBELLISHMENT: April 27 [not 27th]. When a day of the week is spelled out, the month is abbreviated: “Friday, Jan. 13 was an eventful day for El Tejon School.”
3) USE WORD WRAP, NOT CARRIAGE RETURNS: Use word wrap in your email and word processor. If you make carriage returns at the end of each line of text it can add 20 extra minutes of handling by the editor and proofreaders as carriage returns are plucked out. It may make the difference between your submission being used or put aside because of lack of time.
4) ONE SPACE AFTER PERIOD: At the end of each sentence use only one space, not two. As above, more than one space after a period causes extra proofreading and correction time.
5) THE DASH AS PUNCTUATION: If you use a dash in your punctuation—do not put a space on either side—just a dash with no space. Or—as above—your press release risks costing us extra time, effort, and unwelcome errors in our paper. Use the “em” dash (option+shift+hyphen on a Mac).
6) NO CAPITAL LETTERS FOR EMPHASIS: Capitals are occasionally used as category titles, as employed in this list, but we do not print words spelled in capital letters as a form of emphasis within stories. We do use italics for emphasis. Please do not send us stories or letters with whole or partial sentences in capital letters.
7) EXCLAMATION MARKS: Similarly, we don’t publish strings of exclamation marks for emphasis. In general, exclamation marks are very rarely used. If you absolutely must, our slogan is "one to a customer." A letter to the editor or a report about community news has one primary point of emphasis and gets, at most, a single exclamation. Strings of exclamation marks risk looking like a note passed between grammar school gigglers (He is so CUTE!!!!!), so we curb our enthusiasm.
8) QUOTATION MARKS: Think of the quotation marks as the slices of bread wrapped around the meaning of your sentence sandwich. In American English, quotation marks go on the outside of the other punctuation. "Oh, wait," he suddenly said, "did we put the periods, commas and question marks inside the quotation marks?"
9) SPELLING: Please check your spelling before sending your release or news report. "There" vs "their" is a frequent error. “It’s” (contraction of ‘it is’) for “its” (possessive of pronoun ‘it’) is another. The plural form of bus is buses (not busses–which means a nuzzling kiss) and we use gas, gases, not gasses.
10) ABBREVIATIONS: Don’t. This is Frazier Mountain, not Frazier Mtn. This is The Mountain Enterprise. The first time you write about a bureaucratic organization such as Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (VCAPCD), please spell it out all the way and put the acronym in parentheses. After that, you may use the acronym only. It is the Frazier Mountain High School (FMHS) and Lake of the Woods (LOW). Similarly, phrases such as "miles per hour" are spelled out the first time in your story, and may be abbreviated to mph in the second reference.
11) USE ACTIVE VERBS: Lively language injects energy into your stories and recruits readers.
12) NUMBERS: We spell out numerals one to nine: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13–999. There are exceptions: in sports reporting, in which you are speaking of statistics and scores, ages of people, animals, objects and measurements (7-year-old boy; 3-year-old house; three years ago; 1 percent; third grade; size 9; 6-by-8-foot rug; 5 ounces; 68,000-square-foot facility, 5 acres, 6-foot white rabbit….
13) PINE MOUNTAIN is the place people live. Pine Mountain Club is the PMCPOA organization. Pine Mountain Village is the commercial center. We make these distinctions to avoid confusion for our readers.
Observing these guidelines will help The Mountain Enterprise and The Mountain Pioneer serve you better—which is exactly what we want to do. Welcome aboard. Thank you for helping to keep our community informed about all the fun and exciting events of mountain life.
Patric Hedlund, Managing EditorRevised 2/2/10
This is part of the February 28, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.