Guidelines for Authors Guidelines

Tips for writing for to age-well.org?

These guidelines aim to assist you when writing for age-well.org. If there are any areas that I haven’t covered or you need some guidance with a specific issue, please do not hesitate to contact us.

General Information

Please use word if you have it on your computer and send it to me at this address.

Articles should be between 550 – 650 words, definitely not more than 700 (including headline and sub- titles). Some of the earlier articles which have been included are a little longer, but they don’t look that good.

If there is too much information to limit it to the above word-count, make a new page covering another aspect of the subject.

Initially, my policy was to use British English. However, as most of our readers are American, and the system I use to build and manage my site is Canadian, I am using North American English (Canadian) to facilitate the task. British English will be accepted – however, please be consistent throughout the article.

Type one space only after any punctuation.

Use a heading and several sub-titles to break up the text.

Use bullets for lists. For those who know html, you can include the html code.

The K.I.S.S. Principle

Try and keep sentences fairly short and write in a way that is easily understandable to a reasonably well-educated audience. I was taught to write in simple language and that using words which were not commonly recognized/understood was literary bad manners and I prefer to follow this as our readers are not always English mother-tongue.

However, as we are writing about medical subjects it is sometimes hard to avoid using technical terms.

If in doubt, I usually use the medical term with a short explanation. I figure if I can understand the subject enough to rewrite it in my own words then anyone should be able to understand my simplified version.

Turn a Scanner Into a Reader

I've touched on these points somewhat above, but found that authors often missed the point, so I'm gong into more detail here.

A good article, needs the following, especially when writing for the web:

Strong Opening
You need a strong opening that will introduce your subject and make your reader want to continue. But a strong headline will also act as a hook to draw your reader in.

Short, Punchy Header
A short, punchy header that will fit into one line - look at the size of the text we are using for headlines to get an idea of what will or won't fit (no more than 34 characters, including spaces. You can also include a second header, if wished, of no more than 42 characters, including spaces.

Make Your Article Visually Appealing
Most people who read articles on the net tend to scan the article to see if it is of interest. What catches their eye, therefore, is photos and graphs, bullet points and captivating headlines.

Compelling subject matter of interest to the reader, delivered well, will make your reader eager to learn more. However, large blocks of text, without visuals to break up the monotony, and without lists or subheading to break the text into easily assimilated chunks, are not going to keep your reader's attention for long. That is, unless he is studying for an exam and your information is so good he doesn't think he will find anything better elsewhere.

Unfortunately, with so much available on the net, you must keep your writing easy to read (see next paragraph) and break up the text, to facilitate the journey for your reader.

Use Bullet Points and Lists
Emphasize key points with the use of bullets and numbered lists, when the subject matter allows for this.

But the main way you can make your text more readable is to break it up with punchy, attention-holding subheads at transitional points in your article.

Sell Your Story
With subheads, you’re actually “selling” the article to the reader, by telling him "this is interesting, please continue!".

Try to write thought-provoking, eye-catching, and cleverly-worded headlines to hook the reader's attention. Sub-heads that will either keep your reader guessing, but wanting to know more, or in no doubt of what type of information the next paragraph or section contains, are needed. Sub-heads should also be short and punchy, if possible (rarely more than 50 characters, including spacing). Shorter is better.

Wrap it Up
Conclusions are usually the most difficult part of an article and, when they miss a deadline, authors often tell me they have written the main text, but are struggling with the ending. Bear in mind that the conclusion is often what a reader remembers about your article so it needs to be strong and well written, answering the question - "so what?".

Remember that the conclusions needs to emphasize the importance of the subject you are writing about, give the article a sense of completeness (that is why we call it "wrapping up"), and leave a lasting impression on the reader. A good strategy is to leave the reader with some way of applying the advice in your article to his own life or that of a loved one.

Keywords, etc.
Writing for the web is a profession somewhat apart from writing for other media. There are certain additional things one needs to be aware of, such as the use of keywords, which act as hooks for the search engines and will ensure that your article is widely read and found in search queries. Tips on Writing Pages that Get the Click.

I'm hoping that all this information won't scare our writers, but in view of the questions I'm constantly being asked, I thought it was helpful putting these two pages on-line, so that I can refer writers to them.

Use of ACRONYMS

The first time you use an acronym or term which has one, write the words in full with the acronym in brackets (in parentheses) after the text version. Thereafter, use the acronym or the full text if you wish for variation.

Copywrite and Giving Credit

We need to paraphrase when quoting directly or rewrite and summarize in our own words, but should give credit for articles/websites we have used as resource materials in between brackets at the bottom of the page i.e. (Source: xxxxxxxxxxxxx).

Links to the site in question can be included if it adds to the readers’ experience - if the material is too technical then probably not. However, if one particular site has been used or if much of the material you used comes from any particular page or site(s), I tend to include a link. Don't paraphrase too much in your article though, google is very strict about this. It is better to rewrite in your own words, using only very few direct quotations.

If you wish to include copyright text, you will need to apply for permission.

Humorous or Pertinent Quotation

I usually try to include a humorous quote that fits in with the page. If you know of any that fit well, or don't mind searching for something, please include one. Otherwise, I’ll add them when I find something that works.

Photographs

I usually try and add pictures both to give the site added interest and to help with page rank.

As mentioned above this can also break up long monotonous pages of text that can be daunting to the casual and committed visitor alike.

The very best scenario is that you can supply photographs that you have taken yourself or which have been taken by family or friends (credit will be given).

Otherwise, i usually look for royalty free photos. I often use a website called 123rf.com and search through their free photos – as all photos on the site start off as free for a certain number of days. They are also royalty free. There are already some pictures on the age-well.org site that will have to be changed, as their origin is not clear. Another way of finding free photos is to do a search for the subject matter including the term "public domain image" together with your search words.

If you find photos that you want to use please note the source. If you have and know how to use Photoshop please crop and resize the image and prepare it for use on the web, if not I can do this.

I suggest that you sign up to 123rf.com –(http://www.123rf.com/browsefreeimages.php) .If you have the time, you can browse the free images and download any that you feel would fit into the theme of healthy aging. If you have an account, you can build up a light box that you can share with me, so we can discuss which photos would be appropriate and where. If you know of any other free sources of photos, please let me know.

Highlighting Text

If you wish to include boxed text, to add interest, emphasize information, give added value in some way that is fine. You can add the html code (if you know how to do this). Otherwise, let me know which text you think should be in a box and I will add this to the page design.

Tables

Tables are impossible to transcribe from word to html. Better to include a jpeg or other graphic.

Try to find a graphic on the internet which can illustrate your point. Otherwise, try making your graphic in a very small point size and keep the whole table small and then save your document as an html page and then open it in a browser - (in firefox you go to file, open file) and see how it looks. Make sure it will fit into the space required (look at the age-well site).

I will look into this further and then come back here with clearer instructions when I have found the best way to do this.

References and further reading lists

Please follow this order of entries for published books:

a) Title of article which has been quoted, if usedb) Author’s name – Surname, initials or Christian namec) Year published, Book title and subtitle in italic.

Gender Neutral Language

Where possible, please aim for gender-neutral pronouns, as the following examples:

‘They’ used as a singular pronoun is specified in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, and is now in common use e.g. ‘The student checks their own answers’.

The COD also allows ‘themself’ – and even ‘themselves’ – in the singular form, but these are rather awkward and best avoided.

‘He or she’/‘she or he’ may be used very sparingly, as overuse can be awkward. I prefer s/he.

Pluralize – e.g. ‘students check their own answers’.

Or Eliminate the pronoun – e.g. ‘answers are self-checked by the student’.

I tend to do this automatically as I am writing – not many people like or use the s/he, but I picked this up from one of my sisters and cannot understand why it has not become general usage.

I also use Ms and don’t understand why this has not replaced Miss or Mrs, but is now included as another option.

Credits, Bylines and Bios

Your byline will appear discreetly in italics between the title and body of your story.

If you wish a short sentence explaining who you are, giving a link to your website can also appear at the foot of the article.

If you have a website with further resources pertaining to the article which you'd like to share, please add a paragraph with the title further resources, where you can link to information which will add value to the readers' experience. In general only one link will appear to your website from each article written. Further references to pages on your site will appear as URLs but not links.

There is also a separate page which features authors who write regularly for age-well.org. If you would like to write regular articles for age-well.org, please supply me with a short bio (maximum words) and a head and shoulders photo for illustration.

You can see how the bio should look on our Meet Our Writers Page.

Although this has not yet been included, for all authors who appear in the Meet Our Writers Page, myself excepted, I intend to link the byline in each article to the author's bio and possibly include a list of all articles written by each author) after his or her bio.

Read Through Your Text

When you have finished re-read your text to make sure it is understandable. Some writers prefer to print out the text in order to see better what they have written, away from the dreaded screen.

Read it out loud if necessary and you might find you need to add more punctuation to facilitate understanding.

Put yourself in your readers' shoes. Have you answered all the questions an active, intelligent mind is going to bring up when reading your prose? If you are talking about a forthcoming meeting, for example, remember to tell your reader where this meeting will be held - or where it was held, if reporting after the fact. It is surprising how many writers miss out essential information, such as this.

In news items try to answer the questions, what? why? where? when? and, possibly, how? Could be good advice for feature articles too.

Make sure all acronyms have been spelled out in full - don't leave your reader guessing.

If you are using Word, I suggest you spell-check it before sending, just in case.

Further Information

These Guidelines are to assist, rather than complicate. If in doubt, know that i will edit if necessary, although i will only change your work if I absolutely have to.

Please inform me if there are any areas which have not been addressed and where you feel you need guidance.

Please keep the document on your hard drive until the page is on-line, just in case there is a problem.

SBI Authors

If you are an SBIer, please optimize the page to pass SiteBuildit Page Analyzer.

For all other authors, please follow these 'Guidelines for Passing Page Analyzer'which I have already included above, under the title "Writing Pages that Gets the Click".

You might also wish to follow these 'Guidelines for Page Optimization' (link will be added later).

How Not To Do It!

This article is like a lesson in how not to do it, when you think of page length, no photos or graphics, but at least I have broken it up with sub-heads.

You need to read this information to learn what you need to bear in mind when writing for age-well.org. However, would you have read to the end, had you just been browsing for similar information? If you did make it to the end, that is. My guess is that you would have looked for something shorter, and more visually appealing!

Your visitors will feel the same, so we need to keep the articles as short as possible and follow the other guidelines as far as possible.

But, remember, they are just guidelines.


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