Guiding Words for Writers
Embracing your style and understanding ours
Here, before us, we have great power. We have the power to reach thousands of people and tell them about the world. The inner. The outer. The Platform was created for people who have something to say, for a message that needs projecting, and for stories which can’t go unsaid.
There are no rules to writing (what a sad world that would be). There are, however, a few dos and don’ts that would be good to keep in mind.
1. Pop in and say hello.
Virtually for now. You’re welcome to send us a full article for submission, but it might be nice to discuss your idea before you write it. So feel free to email us and we’ll aim to reply within three days. Eventually your article will be checked by two learned members of the editorial team and we will offer you as much time and feedback (and love) as you need.
2. Wordcounts and stuff.
We publish an array of written treasures including in-depth analysis, shorter features and round-ups, and occasionally, poetry and photo galleries. The wordcount is assessed on a case-by-case basis, but as a rule of thumb, 800-1200 words works well for heavier analysis, and 600-900 words works well for shorter reviews and light-hearted commentary.
3. Get friendly with your audience.
Our target audience is chiefly British, but slowly seeping into global nations too, and often includes students and young professionals. Don’t assume readers will understand all your niche references and make your piece as accessible as possible.
4. Fiery hearts, fiery topics.
It’s important to write about the right things, at the right time, and back it up well. We live at a time where news moves faster than you can read it, and if you’re writing what everyone else is writing, you run the risk of getting lost in the fold. Choose a topic that lights up your fire. Mix it up a little. Give us the unusual, the unfamiliar, and convince us that it’s an idea we simply have to say “yes” to. We love hearing stories from individuals and grassroots organisations with undeniable flair and passion.
Please note: Don’t turn your piece into an advert. Unravel the issue and showcase the goal, but bring in your organisation subtly where relevant.
5. Love your thesaurus.
You don’t have to adopt a sesquipedalian lifestyle in order to use more interesting words. Try to avoid saying the same word twice in one sentence, and don’t be afraid to stretch your legs when it comes to connecting words – there are only so many “howevers” that can be used in one piece without sounding like GCSE English coursework. But be careful, a dictionary should not be a prerequisite for your readers.
6. Give your piece some bones.
Everything needs a structure. Even water has a structure (life without hydrogen bonds would be unbearable). Be acutely mindful of where you are leading your readers and how you are developing your point to them. Avoid the mistake of skirting around small details without coming to some kind of conclusion. If you’re going to be poetic, then be clear as well. Your readers (and your editors) can’t read your mind, only your words.
7. The tone of objective subjectivity.
It’s up to you whether you want to take a more personal first-person approach or a more formal detached approach. But take care to use both tones to build, logically, towards your argument.
8. Don’t fight with your brain.
No matter how hard you stare at the screen, sometimes the words won’t come, and if you force them, you’ll just be wearing out the delete button. Put the laptop away, do some exercise, go shopping, go to sleep – do absolutely anything else to give your head some space. Then come back and write when you feel inspiration returning. Read your article twice before submitting. This will give you a clue as to how ready it is.
9. Carry the tools of your trade.
Sentences without commas will make your readers breathless and the misuse of semi-colons can only lead to apoplexy. Here are some of our specific rules and standardisations:
Academic referencing: Don’t fill your piece with authors and footnotes. Be selective with your references and use them in the body of the article in a ‘smooth’ way. For example, “Edward Said writes in his book…”.
Hyperlinks: Hyperlink to reliable news sources. Don’t use Wikipedia. Use databases like IMDB if relevant.
Sentence length: A good acid test for the length of your sentences is to read them out loud. Short sentences can have great impact, whilst longer ones are great for developing ideas.
Spellings: While we do feel that the letter ‘z’ is generally underrepresented in society, please avoid Americanisms (see what we did right there?). Use British preferences where possible.
Punctuation: Readers don’t want to feel that they are being screamed at by a 13 year-old girl talking about Justin Bieber. One exclamation is all that is ever needed! Use brackets tactfully and don’t overuse. This goes for semi-colons too.
Capitalisation: We often favour the lowercase. Names of roles like president, presidency and vice president can all remain lower case, unless they form part of a title, such as President Barack Obama.
West versus west: Compass directions are all in lower case, such as the north, the far east and western Europe. Again, specific places are capitalised, such as the West End, the Orient, the Middle East and North America.
Italics: Book and film names are italicised. Quotes, organisations and common foreign words don’t need to be italicised. Follow “the big and little trick”. Big things and things that can stand on their own, like a song album, are italicised. Little things that are dependent or that come as part of a group, like chapters and song names, are put into single quotation marks.
Quotation marks: Use double quotation marks for all direct speech and quotes. Use single quotation marks for title names and in headlines. Be consistent.
Numbers: Use words for single-digit numbers and numerals for multi-digit numbers. Our standard for percentages is “per cent” rather than the symbol (%). If the number is starting the sentence, write it in words. With large numbers, keep it simple. Round numbers work better spelled out (for example, one million, 13 million), but more specific, complex numbers are better with numerals.
Abbreviations and acronyms: Spell out at first mention and put the shortened form in brackets. Then continue to use shortened form.
10. Read more books and less tweets.
With further reading and explorations, your style will develop.
Finally, enjoy, enjoy.
“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” Emily Dickinson