All feature articles should be preceded by a query to the editor, briefly outlining the subject and a statement about why it should be included in the newsletter, the article’s anticipated length, and suggestions for illustration (in descending order of importance). (NB: Queries are not necessary for columns after the first is accepted, though the editor reserves the right to accept or reject any columns.) First-time authors should include a paragraph briefly detailing their experience in writing on this or other subjects, including links to any of their articles on line or one or two clips that may either be mailed or faxed to the editor.
The editor prefers all submissions for Action to be in electronic form. We edit with Microsoft Word and would appreciate writers to submit their articles or columns in Word or similar format, preferably as an attachment to an e-mail (sent to email@example.com). Cutting and pasting your document into the e-mail message area is also acceptable. Electronic submissions do not have to be accompanied by hard copy.
Please give your document a name reflecting its content, either with the author’s name or a one- to three-word title having something to do with the subject matter so that it can be easily identified and searched for. (Please do NOT call your document anything like “ACTION” or “Action article.”)
Be sure your name appears with your article as you want it to on the by-line. Please also be sure to include a brief (one sentence) bio—just your name, title, and/or place of residence will do.
If you cannot send your article in electronic form, you may send hard copy to Chris Pierson, Managing Editor, United Spinal Association, 75-20 Astoria Boulevard, Jackson Heights, NY 11370-1177. Hard copy submissions should be typed clearly, with margins that are at least one-inch on all sides. Type should be no smaller than 10 pt. If you are sending your submission as hard copy, you must let the editor know ahead of time. Hard copy submissions will be accepted only in the event that a writer whose query has been approved has no other means of writing or submitting an article.
A Word about Style
Our targeted audience is our membership and includes people of all educational backgrounds. We are, therefore, looking for articles written in plain, nontechnical language, as jargon-free as possible. Please be careful, when writing on technical subjects, to define your terms, spelling out acronyms and abbreviations on first use. For subjects where technical language is unavoidable, such as those on medical research or legislation, you may want to enclose a glossary that can be run as a sidebar. Avoid using footnotes. If you want to refer readers to sources with more technical information, please include that material in a brief sidebar.
For general style questions, please refer to The Chicago Manual of Style (preferably) or to the AP Stylebook.
Key Style Points
On first mention, spell out United Spinal Association. For every mention thereafter, refer to it as United Spinal (not USA).
Refer to spinal cord injury or disorder, unless you wish to refer specifically to injury as opposed to disorder. Spell out on first mention, then use the abbreviation SCI/D, SCI or SCD thereafter.
Multiple sclerosis is not capitalized, but MS is.
Put people first. Say people with disabilities or person with a disability; people or person with MS; person using a wheelchair. You can also, of course, substitute more specific words for “people,” e.g., travelers who use wheelchairs, Americans with disabilities, veterans with MS, etc.
Avoid negative expressions like “wheelchair-bound,” “suffering or afflicted with MS.” Avoid jargony expressions like “physically challenged” or “differently abled.”
For specific questions about style, please feel free to query the editor within the manuscript in [brackets].
Writing Feature Articles
The bimonthly news magazine of the United Spinal Association is a benefit to members of the organization: people with spinal cord injury or dysfunction, as well as caregivers, parents and some spinal cord injury/dysfunction professionals. All articles should reflect this common interest of the audience. Assume that your audience is better educated in the subject of spinal cord medicine than average, but be careful not to be too technical.
Within these seemingly narrow confines, however, a wide variety of subjects are possible. Articles that feature members or programs of United Spinal are preferred, but any article that deals with issues of living with SCI will be considered.
Feature articles should be written in a lively, accessible style for a general audience. Articles that tell stories, even when on subjects that would seem to require straight exposition, almost always work best. When in doubt about how to approach a subject, please consult with the editor before submitting the article.
Aim for a word count between 750 and 1,200 words—1,500 words maximum. Exceptions will be made for longer articles on worthy subjects that may be split into two or more parts, but any article longer than 1,200 words must be approved by the editor before being submitted.
Aim for a word count of about 350 to 500 words—750 words maximum. If a single column is longer than 750 words, it can be made into a multipart series.
What distinguishes a feature from a column? Primarily length: features are longer. Features also appear in the forward section of each issue, columns in the middle and back. But a more important distinction is that columns are brief, general essays illuminating one aspect of a larger subject. They can be more personal, the author more central a personality. And they can be serial, continuing a topic over several issues.
Any illustration is helpful to readers in understanding a story. If your article is a profile of a United Spinal member, please be sure to include one or two photographs of your subject, preferably a candid and a portrait. High resolution digital photographs (at least 300 dpi) can be e-mailed with your script. Please be sure to include captions identifying each person in your photos.
For your article to be considered for our cover story, it is absolutely essential for you to include at least one high-quality, high-resolution photograph If you are unable to provide illustrations, please confer with the editor and we will make arrangements to get illustrations for you. If including copyrighted photographs, please be certain to obtain permission from the photographer and include a credit line as the photographer wishes it to appear.
You may also want to send scans or copies of art (graphs, charts, etc.) from other sources that we can adapt or seek permission to reproduce.