Volume V - 2000

Thirty Notes on Writing for This Journal
by Clyde Coreil

         It is our hope that articles in this Journal represent fresh and original ways of thinking about issues related to the imagination and language learning. Sometimes, these valuable new ideas surface in the work of very well known scholars and practitioners. Sometimes, they occur to persons who are virtually unknown and have never before written for formal publication. It is mainly out of concern with this latter group that I present below a working analysis of our editorial preferences. Many of the points have to do with the policies and values that have evolved in our particular publication, and will be of interest to anyone who wishes to write for us.

Point One: Say Something

Have something substantial to say or suggest about any topic that involves the relationship between the imagination and language learning. Develop at least one nugget of gold--a hypothesis or observation or even a specific hunch that you can support--and everyone will be happy. It should be very well noted that our interests are not limited to the classroom or to English, but extend to the acquisition of any language in any situation.

Point Two: Announce

Tell your readers what the nugget is; i.e., specify the central idea you will develop in the article. Don't simply talk about the narrow area of your interest: say exactly what you have found out or done and why it is important. State it clearly, state it succinctly, and state it early--within the first ten sentences. Set forth the nugget--the core of the central idea--in not more than fifty words. If your argument has several parts, name those parts within the first ten sentences. If, in announcing your hypothesis or observation, you find that you are rambling on--stop. Start again. Please do not attempt to lead your reader to the blinding insight that you will reveal only when you are very near the end of the article. Serious miscalculation.

Point Three: Organize

As you proceed in the written text, overtly point out the relationship between the central idea and each step in your presentation. Difficulty in doing this often indicates a need for reorganization. If you talk about the same thing in several different parts of the piece, then you should force yourself to think about reorganizing.

Point Four: Density

The Journal publishes articles in a wide range of areas, and tries to make them relatively accessible to interested readers who have a general background in language acquisition. It should be kept in mind, however, that what is straightforward terminology for one person can be dense and difficult for another. Accordingly, we ask that you take just a bit more time and briefly explain ideas and terms that are especially relevant to your argument. Another matter entirely: don't use dense jargon because you think it increases the professionalism of your writing--it doesn't.

Point Five: Examples

Examples enrich an article and are usually most welcome. They also constitute an effective measure to counter murkiness and density. If you aren't sure about what constitutes an example of a given principle, then you are not sure about what the principle is. You should not be on this shaky ground.

Point Six: Research

Be certain that you know the status of contemporary thought on your issue. Don't use multi-syllable words from a given field with the hope of establishing your right to dismiss current research as negligible.

Point Seven: Running

Notes We use running notes in which a reference is identified in the text by the author's last name and year of publication, both within parentheses. The alphabetically arranged "References" section should present more information on the publication. Numbered footnotes are used sparingly and are reserved for special, brief messages to the reader. Generally, this is the method endorsed by the Modern Language Association (MLA). Information on variations within that system are widely available in most books that offer basic instruction on academic writing. The systems we do not use are those of the American Psychological Association, The Chicago Manual of Style and the Council of Biology Editors.

Point Eight: References

The term "bibliography" usually refers to any list of sources appearing with or without a text. "Works Cited," on the other hand, is usually limited to works that have been mentioned in a given text. "References," as we use the term in the Journal, refers to works that are mentioned in a particular article or that the author wishes to recommend in the reader's further exploration of the topic. The reference section is the last item and follows the appendix and any other material that -appears after the text.

Point Nine: Old and New Ideas

Identify the part of the old idea that you are replacing or enlarging with the new. For example, you wish to say that the structure of stories is better for organizing certain classes than the principle of expanding from the known to the unknown. In that case, it is crucial to provide the reader with a definition and several clear examples of "the structure of stories" and of "expansion from the known."

Point Ten: Collaboration

New approaches in a discipline such as aesthetics or sociology are often fascinating when applied to language learning. In such cases, however, collaboration between persons knowledgeable in each field is usually essential. If you have difficulty in finding a collaborator, we will be glad to suggest a name or two.

Point Eleven: Reactions

If you are describing a new technique of doing something, then consider providing quotations from the persons involved. We prefer quotes that say something substantive in addition to simply endorsing your technique.

Point Twelve: Economy

Keep the paper lean. Concentrate on your topic and make a determined effort to avoid discussions and quotations that are not clearly and directly related to that topic. Do not mention other papers you have written unless they too are essential.

Point Thirteen: Titles

The title is probably the most important phrase in your paper. Ask yourself if the one you started with is still the best for your article. Generally, a title is not a question, and it contains no more than ten words. Quite acceptable to us are titles structured with a colon--i.e., a topic followed by a colon and a description or comment on that topic. A title containing puns or consisting of other clever plays on language should be replaced by one that makes explicit reference to your article. For example, the following title contains little information: "Sentences that Aren't Sentences: The Rabbit that Got Away." On the other hand, these titles are less pretentious and more effective: "Rock Poetry: The Literature our Students Listen To" and "Junk Mail Catalogs: A Treasure Trove for Language Teachers" and "The Role of Art in Language Learning.

Point Fourteen: Subheads

We think that subheads are extremely important in making certain that the reader knows where you are going, and in breaking up the text so that he or she can follow you easily. A subhead should usually extract one of the main ideas from the section that follows it. Point Fifteen: Paragraph Length Don't write in short paragraphs. A paragraph should normally be between 100 and 200 words long. Otherwise, it's too short or too long. Each sentence should develop one of the ideas that immediately precede it. If you feel that it is natural for you to use short paragraphs, then you should are-examine the whole presentation of your idea in terms of the thirty points presented here.

Point Sixteen: Style

It is the intelligence of your content that impresses the reader, not an ornate style of writing. Stay away from the long, convoluted sentences that often characterize prepared lectures. In spoken discourse, you can lift your eyebrows, roll your eyes, lick your lips, tap your nose, tilt your head, adopt an intonation of irony, pause or rush for effect, and so on. In writing, you have no eyes to roll and no eyebrows to lift--you have only paltry punctuation marks, italics and boldface that cannot approach the expressiveness of the human voice and gesture. So give the reader a break: control your verbal acrobatics. Attempt to limit your sentences to 30 or 35 words--fewer if possible. Use explicit transitions and carefully order ideas so that they form a logical and linear progression with plenty of examples.

Point Seventeen: Conclusion

Don't fail to present a conclusion. By the time you have completed the article, you are often far better able to summarize the potent ideas than when you began. You should, therefore, compare the conclusion to the introduction. If the conclusion states your ideas more concisely and concretely, move them to the introduction. Glorious finales are fine for theatres and fireworks, not journals.

Point Eighteen: Revision

If we return your article and ask for revisions, the changes we normally request pertain to more than one specific item. Unless we say differently, you should examine the whole article in terms of these thirty notes, concentrating on the specific information we mention. It is a mistake to think that a request for revision is an agreement to use the article once several issues have been minimally addressed. If we do need only certain corrections, we will be very pointed.

Point Nineteen: Editing

Articles are generally subject to various degrees of editing. This can mean, for instance, that sentences are cut so that the central idea is presented earlier. Or that various related parts of your piece are brought together and dealt with in one place. Perhaps you have secured supporting material that we asked for, and then we shuffle it around and make deletions. Please do not interpret any of this as negative comments on the quality of your writing. Every editorial change we suggest is based on our firm opinion that the style of the Journal is better served by the alterations. And rest assured that our suggested revisions will be sent for your approval.

Point Twenty: Integrity

One of the differences between popular magazines and journals is that journals usually expect more in terms of precision of reference, and in terms of integrity and responsibility on the part of the writer. If someone has treated the same idea you wish to develop, then you are obliged to state clearly that you are presenting a summary for this or that reason, or to specify what it is that you adding to his or her ideas. To fail to do this is unprofessional, unethical and possibly a violation of copyright law.

Point Twenty-One: The Appendix

Lists of addresses, long examples, or other material that you consider important but that would interrupt the manicured presentation of the central argument should be placed in the appendix.

Point Twenty-Two: Copyright

Publishers are legally bound to secure permission to print any material that is copyrighted. Exceptions to this are made for re-printing parts of poems, lyrics, novels and the like for scholarly purposes. If your submission includes material such as a copyrighted cartoon or complete poem, we ask that you secure the appropriate permission. Send a letter to the copyright holder describing briefly your use of the material in an article to be submitted for publication in our Journal. Included with the letter should be a photocopy of the cover of the Journal, the title page, and the publication information on the inside front cover. A copy of the notice of permission should accompany the article when you send it to us.

Point Twenty-Three: Studio-made, Professional Photos

If we do use your article, we will print a photo of each author followed by a maximum 50-word biographical sketch. Submission of this photo is not required until we inform you that we \have shortlisted your piece. We prefer that this be a sharp, high contrast, black-and-white professional photograph made in a studio within the past five years by a professional photographer who understands the needs of printing. We most definitely do not like to receive color snapshots made by friends using disposable cameras with tiny flashes. We have prepared a one-page guide to photographs in which we mention the kind of action photos we like to use in the article itself. Obviously, we take this business seriously and feel that quality photographs contribute to the overall design of the Journal. If there is a substantial reason involved in your not going to a studio, please write us.

Point Twenty-Four: Graphics in General

We definitely like to use tables, figures, charts, graphs, photographs, drawings, or any other graphics that add clarity to an article. When necessary, we will advise you or ask the assistance of our book designer. Do not submit photocopies of photographs, rough sketches, indistinct doodling, or crude lettering.

Point Twenty-Five: Form of Submission

Unless you are writing in a part of the world with limited access to computers, we ask that you send along two of the very best hard copies you can make, and that you submit one Macintosh or PC disk with a contemporary word processing application. Abbreviate the title of the article and your name, and write the complete name of the software application on the disk itself--such as "Microsoft Works: 3.0." A hard copy that is not of high quality will not be usable should we need to scan it. If you do not have access to a computer, then you are most welcome to send us the text produced on a typewriter.

Point Twenty-Six: Jury

If there is question as to the value of an article, it is sent out to one or more readers. Therefore, we ask that you send us not one but two hard copies " of each article you submit. One copy will stay in our master file, and one copy can be sent to reviewers. If you submit different articles, put each set in a different envelope.

Point Twenty-Seven: Pages

Make certain that your name, address, the main words in the title of your paper, and the page number appear on each page of the manuscript. Abbreviate and use initials where necessary. Double-space and leave margins of at least one inch. Use a typeface no smaller than 10 points-("elite" on typewriters).

Point Twenty-Eight: Postcard Acknowledging Receipt

We ask that each separate envelope you send to us contain a self-addressed, stamped postcard with a list of the items you have enclosed. Such a postcard is the best way for us to inform you of what we have received. If you are writing from another country, don't worry about the stamp,but do send the otherwise completed postcard.

Point Twenty-Nine: Early Submissions

We encourage you to begin correspondence with us and to submit your completed article as early as possible. That will give us time to suggest revisions and other changes before we present the letter-perfect manuscript to the book designer at the end of June. Authors of articles that seem to us in very good shape are informed that they have been "shortlisted." However, the final decision on whether or not to print the article in a given year is usually not made until May or early June.

Point Thirty: A Little Help from A Friend

Before you drop it in the mail, consider giving your finished text and these 30 notes to a trusted friend. He or she should be encouraged to ask questions about any and all things presented in the paper that are not clear or that are not in accordance with these guidelines. This is particularly relevant if you have limited experience in publishing formal articles.

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