Writing Guidelines

Our goal is to take a critical look at the stories we review, thoughtfully analyzing their themes, strengths and weaknesses, historical and contemporary context, and their context within the magazine or collection at hand. We aim to write in a clear, uncluttered style that may be easily understood by all of our readers, who read English with varying degrees of comfort. To that end, please structure your reviews keeping the following guidelines in mind.

For periodicals, each review should be titled in this format: [Publication Name], [#[number], may include year/season/month]. Example: On Spec #14, 2010. Collection reviews should be titled with the same name as the collection in question. Bureau heads and coordinators writing overviews and event reports can title their articles however they see fit (although we recommend that event reports mention the event name in the title).

The first paragraph in your review should be about 400-600 words, giving a sense of the whole magazine or anthology and if possible its context in the marketplace in which it was introduced, as well as describing the stories in it. If you are reviewing an anthology, please list the publisher and year of publication at the bottom of your article. Please do not list the stories in the issue or collection at hand at the beginning of your review; include them within the text as they come up.

After your opening paragraph, please insert a cut in the entry. Do this by hitting ALT+Shift+T or clicking the button to the left of the spell-check button in the “Visual” view of the WordPress editor. A line will appear with a tab on its lower right hand edge labeled “More” to let you know you have successfully inserted a cut.

Although we must give our readers a sense of stories’ plot, our primary role is to provide analysis. Please avoid unnecessary synopsis, or discussion of stories that is limited to synopsis. Do not provide spoilers. Discuss what makes each story work and what its weaknesses are. Although you may feel free to express your personal style as appropriate to the matter at hand, keep your tone professional and respectful. Overly positive reviews that do not explain the reasons for the reviewer’s enthusiasm do not inform our readers, and neither do overly negative ones in which the reviewer does not explain the story’s technical or thematic weaknesses.

If there is a potential conflict of interest, say so. For example, if you are reviewing a story written or published by a friend or a fellow Portal staff member, state this in your review.

Don’t make casual interjections as you might do when speaking, like “so what?” We would like to see a professional tone in all of our articles.

Please avoid meta-comments like “and here’s my review”. Also, there’s no need to mention the name of the magazine or collection in question in the first paragraph, since the title of your review is right there and it should be the title of the magazine or collection in question.

You don’t need to introduce magazines you review unless you’re reviewing their first published issue. Introducing collections is fine.

Avoid hyperbole. Don’t talk about something being “one of the strongest X in the field” or “a groundbreaking X” unless you follow up with an argument for why you think this.

Devote at least one 300-500 word paragraph to each story in the magazine or anthology. Remember — titles of magazines and anthologies are always italicized, while story titles are in quotes (“Story Title”). The first time you mention an author’s name in your review (besides the beginning list), please boldface the name.

If you wish to apply tags to your article (the editors are happy to handle this), please use [Current issue month] [Year] first, then “magazine” or “collection” if either is applicable, then the magazine name for periodicals or publisher for collections, and finally language and country.

Please obtain an image of the cover (if applicable) of each publication or collection you review. Resize it so that it is no more than 150 pixels wide and send it to the editors with a note indicating with which review it is associated.

Each review should be submitted using your WordPress login and password unless otherwise arranged. Please email the editors (when possible) after you have made your submission so they know that it is available for review on the website. A login link is available at the bottom of every page on the site. When submitting your review, please save it as a “Draft”. After you have applied edits after receiving feedback from the editors, only then save it as “Pending Review”. This assists us in preparing articles for publication.

If you use emdashes or other special characters in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, please use the Preview button to check that they will display correctly when posted. If they will not, convert them to the relevant HTML entities; consult this page for a list:
http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp. We regret that this WordPress installation cannot yet display Cyrillic, so send a PDF of any story which uses that alphabet to one of the editors, who will create images (an ugly hack, but what we must resort to for the moment).

Thank you for your writing.

26 Responses to Writing Guidelines

  1. Pingback: Editors’ Note, January 2011 |

  2. Pingback: Editors’ Note, February 2011 |

  3. Pingback: Editors’ Note, March 2011 | The Portal

  4. David Lemire says:

    Do you have a paper mail address?

  5. Brian Reed says:

    These guidelines are too long. I can’t stand to look at them for more than a moment. But a comment I read on this site, sffportal.net, shows how well chosen the content is for viewers of my background. I’ll enter this comment, but it will be the travesty of time that will prevent my making many contacts here regardless of the fine context you use.

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  7. Pingback: Editors’ Note, May and June 2011 « The World SF Blog

  8. Pingback: Editors’ Note, April 2011 « The World SF Blog

  9. Pingback: Editors’ Note, March 2011 « The World SF Blog

  10. Pingback: Editors’ Note, February 2011 « The World SF Blog

  11. Pingback: Editors’ Note, January 2011 « The World SF Blog

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