We believe in analyzing and debating policy, which is why we promote guest contributions to The Urbanist. Many of our most interesting articles come from readers like you. If you’re interested in sending us an article to publish, we encourage you to contact our editors to get their feedback before jumping in too deep (see the contact form below). If we think the topic and article is a fit, we will work with you to get it edited and published with your name the byline.
Guidelines For Writing An Article
We have some general guidelines for writing articles. Following them will increase the chances we accept your article for publishing.
- Keep it short. Most articles should be in the range of 400 to 1,200 words. Organize your piece around your main point. Generally speaking, the longer an article is, the less likely people will be to read it. Of course, there are circumstances where a long “deep-dive” article makes sense so feel to make that kind of pitch, too.
- Write in plain English. Stick to short and simple sentences and phrases. Long meandering sentences can confuse readers. Avoid using jargon and abbreviations, but if you must, always explain and define it first. Many people probably know what SDOT (Seattle Department of Transportation) is, but don’t assume they do; write it out and then abbreviate. Choose an active writing style, it will keep your reader glued to the next sentence. We generally follow the AP Stylebook though we’ve tossed some of their sillier conventions. Additionally, Wikipedia has an excellent guide if you’re looking for one to use.
- Don’t stifle dialogue. Our Comment Policy outlines the best ways to share ideas that are positive and inclusive to community discussion.
- Always be truthful. We fact check guest articles to ensure that the information being shared derive from reputable sources. We will not publish something that we believe is false. Occasionally, incorrect information does make it to print unintentionally, and when this occurs, we correct the record. This includes correcting citing your sources. Don’t represent other people’s work as your own.
- Be realistic with a proposal. If you have a proposal in mind to change specific public policies, plans, or services, you ought to make sure that it isn’t completely pie-in-the-sky. If you want the proposal to be taken seriously, you’ll need to do your homework to show that proposal is implementable.
- Stay on topic. Doing this makes it easy to argue your point and gives clarity to readers. If you have a number of related points on a topic, it may be better to consider a series of articles as opposed to trying to fit it all into one.
- Make it new. Original ideas are always the best; they are interesting and give readers something new to think about. Of course, building off of the ideas of others, or re-presenting a current issue or news story is great, too, so long as it is original.
- Consider counter-arguments. No matter how interesting or compelling the argument you intend to make is, you should consider addressing counter-arguments. If you there are glaring arguments that could be made against your case, you are better off addressing them up front than leaving them to the reader to gnaw on and pick at.
- Provide a featured image and short bio. Every article requires a featured or title image. As an author, readers want to know who you are. A short bio of two or three sentence should do.
- Other images. If you have photos in mind, please send them as attachments or provide a link to the photo. We generally only accept photos that are of author origin, in the public domain, or that have a Creative Commons license. Named photos are greatly appreciated over “image2.png”. A caption is recommended.
While we have a general set of formatting techniques, we’re very flexible with how you choose to format your article. We’re happy to take articles through a number of mediums like e-mail text, shared Google Docs, or a Word document.