Great writing and factual errors just don’t mix. Here’s how to make sure your articles are error-free, whether you’re working with a magazine’s fact checkers or not.
Most writers wouldn’t dream of turning in a manuscript riddled with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Yet many of us don’t apply the same eagle eye to the facts of the story. Solid facts establish a writer’s credibility. If a source’s name is misspelled, for instance, it casts doubt on the rest of the article.
Publications vary widely in their fact-checking techniques. Some do no checking at all, while many employ several full-time checkers. Fact checkers at The New Yorker have traveled to Nova Scotia and Hawaii to verify a writer’s description. Such extremes aside, many consumer magazines expect writers to turn in reference materials and a list of sources when the finished article is submitted.
As research editor of a national entertainment magazine, I checked hundreds of articles, from record …
Modern poetry owes a debt to William Wordsworth, who’s responsible for much of what we take for granted as writers. Today, we depict ourselves in our writing, using the first person (before Wordsworth, most scholars denounced poetry based upon one’s personal life); we can write about “common” people in verse (most pre-Wordsworth critics thought poems should be based on nobility or important events); and we avoid personified abstractions (no more “O, Truth! how thou hath blessed the soul!”).
Wordsworth mentions the last in his “Preface to Lyrical Ballads,” an important poetic document. But even the master Wordsworth couldn’t always master personification and was taken to task by critics who accused him of not practicing what he preached.
Fact is, bad personification is as easy to spot as wrenched rhyme or clumsy meter. It brands a poet a “beginner” and almost guarantees rejection. However, because many poets avoid personification, or use it poorly, you can impress editors by including it in …
Informational articles are like potatoes. Just as spuds are a staple on every American menu from McDonald’s to the Plaza Hotel, so these articles fill a basic editorial need – and much of the editorial space – in magazines as far apart as Outdoor Life and Modern Maturity. Some magazines, such as Sunset, “The Magazine of Western Living,” are composed completely of informational articles.
The articles come in as many forms as the tubers. Instead of french fries, Tater Tots or Potatoes Anna, magazines serve informational articles in such areas as home and family, leisure activity, health and fitness, money matters, legislation and law, the sciences, research, history and culture. The biggest subcategory of all is “service” – articles that focus on products and services.
Just as you can find your favorite potatoes on somebody’s menu, freelance writers can find a market for an informational piece on almost anything that interests them.
It’s true that all articles, because they are …