Writing Style Guide for Geotimes Contributing Authors

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Scientist's Guidelines

Geotimes reports news and trends in the geosciences. Our readers want concise summaries of new developments and the implications of evolving trends in your discipline. Our goal is to publish easy-to-read features that address current topics. We do not have room for in-depth coverage and complex details.

Try to place your research in a larger context if possible. As you’re writing, ask yourself:

·        How does my research affect or contribute to my discipline?

·        How does my research affect people’s lives?

·        What specific features of my research would interest a geoscientist in another discipline?

·        What makes my work unusual?

·        What is current about my work? How does it fit into larger changes occurring in my discipline?

One article won’t answer all of these questions; but even answering one or two of them can place your research in a larger context.

The tone of the article should be informal, as befits a news magazine. First-person narrative and personal experience, perception, observation and anecdotes relating to your topic are welcome. Use simple, lively language and short sentences; rather than long, formal sentences.

Try to write in active voice as much as possible. The verbs are italicized in the following examples:

Passive voice:

The images were taken three times per day by the satellite.

Active voice:

The satellite imaged the island three times per day.

We will edit your work. For many mechanical decisions such as punctuation and spelling, Geotimes follows the Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World Dictionary. For geological usage, you may refer to the U.S. Geological Survey publication Suggestions to Authors, 7th edition. We edit content for clarity, cohesiveness and readability. We aim to enhance your writing, not change the content or your science.

Audience: The important idea to keep in mind while writing is how your intended audience will receive your message. Geotimes caters to professional and academic geoscientists and lay people that possess a good understanding of basic geoscience jargon. At the same time, Geotimes is intended for geoscientists in every discipline, so you should try to explain jargon and concepts that are specific to your discipline. We also want to reach university geoscience students (young geoscientists), so keep them in mind as well. Feel free to contact the managing editor if you have questions as you’re writing.


The more we have to choose from, the better your article will look. Send as many as possible; they will be returned.  Normally do not use figure callouts. We prefer figures that can stand by themselves. If, however, you do need to refer to a figure to substantiate your text, please feel free to include it.

Photographs and slides: Color photographs should have good contrast in case, due to production/format constraints, they must be reproduced in black-and-white. Black-and-white photographs are fine: clear, sharp contrasts will produce the best images.

We can scan slides and photos at Geotimes, and we’ve found that scans made from slides work best.

Digital art: We prefer digital art, as long as it meets the following requirements:

·        Has been scanned in or created at a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (dpi). Large photos that are 72 dpi (the usual resolution of photos posted on Web sites) can be shrunk down to 30 percent their original size; but they have to be very large so that we don’t end up with thumbnail-sized art.

·        Preferably saved in Macintosh format, although it should be saved on a PC-formatted disk so that we can review it in our editorial office (currently, our designer uses Macs and we use PCs).

·        Saved as TIFF or EPS files

·        Created in Illustrator 5.5 or higher, Freehand 5.0 or higher or PhotoShop. A PC format works with Illustrator 7.0.1 or higher or Freehand 5.0 or higher.

·        Saved in CMYK colors (the process colors used by printers for books and magazines), rather than in RGB (the process colors used on computer screens and televisions.

Sending digital art: You can send your art to us on SyQuest or ZIP disks. You can also place them on our ftp site. And we can download art from your ftp site. Contact the managing editor for instructions.

Drawings and maps: These make good illustrations, as long as the lines and lettering are distinct (resolutions of 1,000 to 1,200 dots per inch, or dpi) and the background is white.

Captions: Please include caption information (describing details of the photo such as its location or the significance of specific features) and credit lines for all illustrations submitted.


Length: Feature stories should be 1,800 to 2,200 words long. If your manuscript exceeds this length, please indicate potential areas for cutting.

References: If references are necessary, please work the material into your manuscript in an informal style. For example, "In an article published in the June 4, 1999, issue of Science, Dr. Researcher reported that …”

Additional Reading section: We like to receive about four bibliographic references for readers who want more information on your subject. These references will be listed at the end of the article.

Biography: Please provide two or three short sentences that relate your background, research and interests. Let us know how you got into the topic of the story.

Footnotes: Do not use footnotes.

Abbreviations and acronyms: Do not use abbreviations. Spell out state names, measurement terms, and technical terms. Use acronyms only if the first reference has been spelled out.

Names of persons: Use full names of individuals and include professional affiliation and country if outside the United States.


To meet our production deadlines, we work on Geotimes articles at least two months in

advance of publication. If you will have a problem meeting our deadline, let us know immediately.

When you submit your manuscript, include your phone and fax numbers and your street address. We need one clear hard copy of your manuscript no later than your deadline, plus a diskette or e-mail copy of the file. The hard copy is needed to show us any special formatting you require (e.g., bold or italic fonts, superscripts or subscripts, special characters, etc.). This is our insurance policy because special characters are frequently lost via e-mail and, occasionally, a disk can become corrupted.

You may send the hard copy by fax, but, if possible, please send your manuscript via e-mail to <> as an ASCII, Rich Text Format, Word Perfect or Microsoft Word file attachment. Otherwise, send a diskette (overnight mail, if necessary) to meet your deadline (you can use AGI’s FedEx billing number. Contact the managing editor). Identify the hardware and software used (e.g., PC-DOS/Windows; WordPerfect 6.0). We work in both WordPerfect and Microsoft Word programs on PC platforms. Please do not send Macintosh-formatted disks. We have to send them to a service bureau to be converted and that costs time and money.

We copyedit articles six-to-eight weeks before publication (for example: feature articles for the August issue are copyedited from June 1-4). During that time, our staff will be in frequent contact with you and will provide the edited manuscript for your review. It is very important that we have contact information for you during that time: if you will be traveling, we need alternative phone and fax numbers and an e-mail address.


We will send you a copy of the edited manuscript for review. Correct us if we have changed your meaning or the facts, or if we have sacrificed technical accuracy. Please contact us quickly with your final changes. Then we can set type and go to press.

Thanks for writing!


Freelance Science Writer's Guidelines

Thanks for your interest in writing a Web Extra or News Note article for Geotimes! We're happy that you are working with us and hope you have fun while doing so. We have room on a one-page news note for about 900 words, but we like to run a picture and a caption to accompany the article, so that reduces the space for text down to about 600 to 800 words. For Web Extras an article can be shorter, about 500 words. When reporting, please remember to ask the scientists for images. (Details below.) Also when you are done go ahead and have the main scientist look over the first draft of your story. Saying in your email message something to the effect of:

Below is a draft copy of the article I've written for Geotimes magazine. The article is currently under embargo until publication, so please do not share this with anyone. I'm requesting you take a couple minutes however to make sure I've accurately quoted you and have not misrepresented you or your colleagues in any way.

Please follow these guiding structural tips when writing a News Note:

This is the introduction that will grab the reader and interest them into reading about the news you are going to report. Good ledes are short and to the point. The idea is to show how well-written, thought-provoking and intriguing your article is going to be and lead them to the next section. For the most part, keep the first sentence punchy and the details such as the names of the journal or conference where the news is coming from can follow.

It's good to follow up on the lede with a quote from a scientist either involved in the work or familiar with its significance.

This is what the reader can expect to find in the story and the different points you will bring up that will be of interest. This is the time to explain why this news is so intriguing and relevant to earth scientists.

In order to understand why this news is important it may be necessary to place it in context with other research or recent political decisions.

This is where you get to the meat of the story. Explain how the science was done, what the researchers learned and what it means for the field. It is critical to include voices here from other scientists not directly involved in the research. If others disagree explain why. Avoid point-counterpoint by providing greater context.

The reader should walk away thinking about your article and wanting to discuss it with friends and colleagues. Here you can give them that extra line of research this news may impact or killer quote that drives home the importance of this news. Alternatively you can relate it back to the beginning, thus completing the circle.

General style points:
Try to anticipate what questions your reader is asking at every point in the story and satisfy them with an answer. Sometimes your answer may surprise them.

When writing quotes the name of the scientist generally follows: "The actual magnitude of concentrations really blew me away," says Louis Codispoti of Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, Md.

For a second reference in a later paragraph place the word 'says' after the last name: "We found 533 nanomoles of nitrous oxide in the Arabian Sea when the record before was 173 off Peru," Codispoti says.

Report the news without getting too personal, that is refrain from using words such as "you," "our" and "we."
When referring to the planet, it's Earth not the Earth. But when referring to a course of science, it's earth sciences.

Spell out kilometers and meters.

Digital art must have a resolution of at least 300dpi and be at least 4x6 inches large. We prefer TIFF or JPEG files sent as email attachments. If they have files too large to send by email and they have an ftp site we can download it from their ftp site as long as they supply a user name and password. Please ask the scientists to supply suggestions for captions and credits.

Alternatively the scientists can send us slides or photos by FedEx.

Geotimes Art
American Geological Institute
4220 King Street
Arlington, VA 22302

Thanks for writing for Geotimes! We hope this style guide will help to keep the writing and editing fun for everyone.

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