Writing Guidelines

The following are guidelines our editorial team uses when preparing pieces for publication. The more your piece adheres to these, the more likely we are to accept it for publication.

  1. Write in “standard register,” neither formal nor informal. Stay in between.
  2. Use the active voice over the passive.
    • Active: “The Ottomans led the last Islamic caliphate.”
    • Passive: “The last Islamic caliphate was led by the Ottomans.” 
  3. Avoid repetition; concision is key.
  4. Make sure that any jargon or colloquialism you use is relevant to your writing. Anything unnecessary hinders your audience’s ability to understand you.
  5. Invest in making your prose beautiful, but comprehensible.
  6. Explain technical terms on first use. If the term is Arabic, refer to the additional guidelines below for how to properly format it.
  7. Be consistent in your tone; is your piece an analysis or a personal reflection?
  8. Make sure it’s clear who each pronoun (he, she, they, which, who, this, etc.) refers to.
  9. Be consistent in your tense throughout the piece; don’t switch randomly between present, past, and future.
  10. Vary the length and structure of your sentences and make sure each sentence makes sense on its own.
  11. Avoid filler phrases like “in this piece, I will,” “there are,” “actually,” “due to the fact that,” etc. 
    • BAD: “One notable example of this is how the Ottomans …”
    • GOOD: “The Ottomans exemplified this by …”
      • Notice how it took fewer words to make the same point in an active way.
    • BAD: “It can be difficult to assess whether the reforms were good because…”
    • GOOD: “Assessing the merit of the reforms is difficult because…”
      • Notice: Fewer words and firmer position. Don’t equivocate about things; usually things aren’t that complicated. Take the position and defend it; that’s why you’re writing. Rule of thumb: you’re either pregnant or not pregnant. Not much gray area just as there shouldn’t be in your writing.
  12. LESS IS MORE. As an exercise, try to see how many words you can cut out of your piece, without changing the overall meaning of the piece. Then submit that draft.