Author guidelines for writing short articles for CFCA

Purpose and intended audience

Short articles will highlight issues of relevance to professionals and policy makers who work in the child, family and community services sectors.

Articles may focus on emerging issues pertaining to policy, service delivery, assessment and/or evaluation of program effectiveness. The articles are intended to provide a snapshot of an issue and may contain links to "Further Reading", such as reports and papers that provide more in depth analysis of the subject.

Specific target groups of interest include children (0-12 years), young people (12-18 years), Indigenous Australian families, families from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, rural and remote families and parental issues.

Style

These web-based pieces should be written in a style similar to news articles. The content will need to be topical, providing the reader with an overview of the issue/report/evaluation. The language should be simple and direct. The article will contain limited references that will help the user to explore the topic in more depth, should they so desire. Authors can refer to Writing style for web content below for further guidance.

For examples of article style see our recent short articles on the News and Discussion section of our website.

Practitioner's Corner is a dedicated column for practitioners to discuss work-related issues and new resources, and share their insight and practice wisdom. Please contact us if you would like to contribute an article or develop an article with our help. Read the articles in Practitioner's Corner.

Length

Approximately 500 words, and no longer than 800 words.

Proposal

A 2-3 sentence outline identifying the audience, content and scope of the article is to be submitted for consideration.

Proposals should include names, affiliations, contact details (including email), and copyright authorisation for all authors.

Submission

Contact us to discuss the submission process.

Editing process

All CFCA short articles are subject to an editing and review process. Articles may be copyedited to ensure consistency of style. CFCA researchers will work with authors to incorporate any feedback where applicable. Edited articles are published with approval from the original author/s.

Writing style for web content

The following content guidelines have been adapted from "Writing for the Web - a user experience approach" by 4 syllables, 2011.

Write concisely

Say what you have to say, and then stop Rudolph Flesch, The Art of Readable Writing

Plan before you write so you can be direct and focused

  • Get clear on your main purpose, key messages
  • Work out what your audience needs and wants to know

Don't include content that's unnecessary, irrelevant or trivial

  • Stay focused on the topic
  • Avoid 'happy talk': welcome messages, fluffy introductions and unnecessary explanations of what's on the page
  • Don't waste words on things your audience is likely to know or have little interest in
  • Don't write instructions unless they are really necessary
  • Avoid repetition

Don't use unnecessary words

  • Modifiers (examples: completely finish, actual facts, tentatively suggest)
  • Categories (examples: large in size, pink in colour, state in the country)
  • Pairs (examples: each and every, first and foremost, behave and conduct)
  • Wordy expressions (examples: in order to, is located at, due to the fact that)

Review and edit before you publish

  • Allow some time between writing your draft and reviewing it so you can see it with fresh eyes
  • Refer to your plan, and cut unnecessary paragraphs or sentences
  • Cut unnecessary words, rewrite wordy phrasing

Writing in a readable style

Web content needs to be easy to read because web users are often in a hurry to get an answer to a question or complete a task. They may not read closely or carefully and may find it harder to read from the screen than a printed page.

More readable content will also help users with learning or reading disabilities and people with English as a second language.

Write in the 'standard register'

  • Aim for a style that is neither formal nor informal, but somewhere in between
  • Avoid bureaucratese, academicese, legalese, corporate gobbledygook and other styles that look dense and are hard to understand

Use common, everyday words

  • Use familiar words
  • Avoid non-literal or cultural uses of language such as idioms and slang
  • Never use a long word if a short one will do

Write short sentences

  • Aim for an average sentence length of 14-18 words
  • Edit long sentences to remove unnecessary words, or split into shorter sentences
  • Sentence lengths should vary

Prefer the active voice

  • Write direct, vigorous sentences using the active voice
  • It's fine to use the passive voice when the agent of the action is unknown, unimportant or obvious, or to place emphasis on the receiver or object of the action

Avoid nominalising verbs (turning them into nouns)

  • Write with stronger verbs by avoiding nominalisations

Use personal pronouns

  • Refer to your organisation using 'we' and 'our'
  • Refer to users using 'you' and 'your'
"Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators." - Albert Camus

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