Guidelines for contributors

writing-1209121_640This is a set of light-touch guidelines for writing and formatting posts for News from Academic IT Services. It covers these topics:

  • Content
  • Audience
  • Writing
  • Headlines and headings
  • Links
  • Images: attribution, captions
  • Format for IT Learning Centre course announcements
  • Categories and tags
  • Using third-party material
  • Editorial process

Need guidelines on titles of websites, apps, publications etc.: adapt instructions from Uni style guide.

Content

We will consider for publication:

  • announcements of forthcoming events, courses and changes to services;
  • more substantial articles: e.g. project updates, write-ups of events and summaries of the research findings on particular topics. They will add to the reader’s knowledge and understanding of the field, and ideally will be thought-provoking;
  • ‘guest’ posts from outside ACIT, and even from outside Oxford, provided that they can be tied into our services or other activities in some way.

Although most articles will be factual you are welcome to express your personal views. If you do so, please be moderate in your language and include a note to the effect that you are responsible for the opinions expressed (rather than the editorial team, ACIT or IT Services as a whole).

Audience

The audience includes academics, researchers, librarians, comms officers, administrative staff, IT support people and (hopefully) students. Although your article may be directed primarily at a particular subset of readers, please try to make it comprehensible to everyone by using straightforward language (as far as possible) and by explaining any unavoidable specialist terminology. Each article goes through an editorial process before publication, and we’ll get back to you if we spot anything that might cause readers to scratch their heads!

Writing

For general guidance on writing style and University-specific titles and abbreviations, please refer to the documentation provided by PAD (PDFs):

For guidance on writing and formatting articles on a blog platform, consult Rules of blog writing and layout on Steve Eyre and Alun Edwards’ blog Creating a WordPress Site.

For guidance on presenting bulleted lists see these 7 tips for presenting bulleted lists in digital content from the Nielsen-Norman Group.

Headlines and headings

Use sentence-style capitalisation (i.e. like the heading above), but with initial caps (obviously!) for names, titles and proper nouns within the heading.

Break up your text with subheadings in order to make it more readable, and use the Heading 3 style (as above), which is visually more subtle than the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles. Don’t have additional levels of subheading.

Links

Use in-text links where it seems natural to do so. Place any ‘additional information’  links at the end of the post, separated from the main text by a horizontal line and headed ‘Key links’ (level 3). They should appear above any image credits. For an example, see http://blogs.it.ox.ac.uk/acit-news/3086.

Please hide the URL behind a hypertext link (as in the ‘Writing’ section above) rather than giving the full address. A useful set of guidelines on writing hyperlinks is available from the Nielsen Norman Group (a world-leading usability consultancy).

If you have to give a full address use a URL shortener, such as tinyurl, bit.ly and the built-in shorteners provided by WordPress and WebLearn.

Linking to a webpage:

  • Open the link in the same window if you’re linking to another post in the blog.
  • Open the link in a new window if you’re linking to a page on another website (including the IT Services website or an IT Services blog)

Linking to an email address:

  • Use the mailto command in the Link box, which also allows you to specify the subject line. For an example, see the ‘About’ page of this blog. Clicking the link will open up the reader’s default mail client.
  • Consider making the email address the link text in your article so that the reader can see the actual address.

Images

Attribution:
The most important thing to say about images is that if you’re using an image from a third-party source, please make sure you’re using it legitimately. Preferably find an image with a Creative Commons licence, but in any case please attribute it! Include the attribution in a note at the bottom of the article in italics, below a horizontal line (see the bottom of this page) and below any ‘additional information’ or references:

Image credit: [Licence type] [Owner name] via [Name of website, linked to the URL of the source image]

Examples:

Image credit: CC BY-SA Thomas Link via Flickr

Image credit: CC0 (public domain) via pixabay.com

Image credit: by kind permission of Fred Bloggs

Image credits:
Top: CC BY-SA Christian Siedler via Flickr                       
(Indentation is 4 spaces.)
Bottom: CC0 (public domain) via Pixabay

Captions:
Ensure that captions are no more than 15-20 words long or 3 lines (the length of a line depends on the width of the image). If your caption exceeds this limit, consider whether it should form part of the body text instead. And a caption shouldn’t state the obvious (better to have no caption at all). Attribute images at the bottom of the article, not in the caption (see previous paragraph).

Format for IT Learning Centre course announcements

Please observe one of the following formats, depending on whether you want to include an overview of the course in the post:

Course title in bold
Monday 6 March 9:15-17:15
Cost: staff £60, students £30

3-4 lines about the course if you want to entice the reader. For an example, see http://blogs.it.ox.ac.uk/acit-news/3448

Further description | Bookings

or:

Course title in bold
Monday 6 March 14:15-17:15
Cost: staff £60, students £30
Course description | Bookings

‘Further/Course description’ and ‘Bookings’ link to the appropriate pages in Imparando (open in a new tab/window).

Categories and tags

Categories correspond to the core activities of Academic IT, and as such are generalised (e.g. research support, teaching and learning, engagement and outreach, ITLP courses, educational media, community collections). If you are unsure which category to use, you’ll find guidance on the ‘Categories’ page of the dashboard. Please contact the editors before adding, changing or deleting a category.

Tags are used for:

  • specific aspects of our core activities (e.g. research data management, crowdsourcing, OER, events);
  • specific programmes of events (e.g. Engage, OxTALENT);
  • tools (e.g. WebLearn);
  • subdivisions of teaching and learning (e.g. digital experience, plagiarism awareness, mobile devices);
  • individual projects, but only if you’re likely to publish several articles about that project.

We want tags to be informative and to make it easy for readers to find articles of interest; however, we want to avoid tags that relate only to one article each. (In any case, remember that readers can also find articles through simple text searches.) The editors reserve the right to modify or delete any tags that don’t earn their keep in one of the ways listed above.

Every article must be in at least one category, but it doesn’t have to be tagged (e.g. some news items).

Using third-party material

Appropriating text from another source such as an announcement or invitation is acceptable, but…

  • Contextualise it to the Oxford context and connect it directly to the services provided by Academic IT.
  • If necessary, edit it for punctuation, formatting and general style (especially if the style seems too informal or even sloppy).
  • Follow your conscience in deciding whether to attribute the original source.

An example of an announcement from another institution which has been edited is the article The 12 Apps of Christmas. The first two paragraphs make a direct connection to the Oxford context, and most of the rest has been paraphrased, with one quotation from the original.

Editorial process

Please save your post as a draft: do not publish it immediately. 

Each article will be reviewed and edited for grammar, flow etc. Even so, please read your draft carefully to iron out as many glitches as you can. If we’re unsure about any aspect of the content we’ll get back to you for clarification and to agree on suitable wording. We want both the contributor and the editors to be happy with a post, but the editors’ decision will be final 🙂

Notes for editors (private page: administrator or editor access required)


Image credit: CC0 (public domain) via Pixabay

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