A brief guide for contributors to Counterfire
A: General principles
1Write for a general audience. Counterfire is aimed at a non-specialist audience and articles ought to be written in an accessible style. Avoid academic jargon. Do not use obscure words or phrases merely for the sake of it. We are looking for thoughtful, intelligent and well-informed content that is communicated with clarity and precision.
2Be partisan. We are activists who take sides in political and social struggles. What we publish is geared towards the needs of the left and of the movements we support. This does not mean that every article has to be about an immediate priority issue, but our activist commitment and our political partisanship should be reflected in the spirit and content of what we publish.
3Get the facts right. Partisanship does not mean that factual rigour is any less important. If a reader spots even one small error, how can they trust that the rest of the article is correct? Only when the facts are credible and supported by evidence will readers take a writer’s opinions and conclusions seriously.
B: Our policies
Anonymity. If there is a strong reason why you wish to publish anonymously, please make this clear when you submit the article and suggest a pseudonym. However, we strongly encourage articles being credited to real names unless there is a good reason not to do this.
Libel. Be aware of potential libel. Any sensitive claims should have a hyperlink to a credible media source that you are citing. If this is not possible, please flag up with our editorial team that it needs to be checked on legal grounds.
Cross-posting. If you are intending to have the article published anywhere else, you must tell us. This might affect whether or not we choose to publish it.
C: Categories and word counts
News reports, arts reviews and explainers should be in the 400-1000 words range. News reports are factual pieces either about a general news item or an event, e.g. demonstration, picket line, you have attended. Explainers are brief introductions to topics.
Opinion articles should be in the 600-1200 words range. These are responses to current events/developments that put across a particular perspective or argument.
Analysis articles, history articles and book reviews should be in the 1000-2500 words range. Analysis articles examine a topic in some depth.
Theory articles are flexible in length, but will tend to be longer, in-depth articles.
D: Formatting of articles
- We encourage writers to include a suggested headline. If you do, it should be 6-12 words and – where possible – indicate roughly the argument you’re making. Example: ‘Ten reasons Roosevelt’s New Deal was more myth than reality’ works better than, say, ‘Roosevelt, the New Deal and American capitalism in the 1930s’ (even though the latter accurately captures the topic).
- If you include a suggested stand first (the brief introductory summary beneath the headline), it needs to be 15-21 words and aims to summarise the article. It can end with the words ‘writes (author’s name)’ or ‘explains’ or ‘argues’.
- Keep paragraphs short. Each paragraph should be between 2 sentences and 6 sentences in length. This helps with ease of reading online. If you include a lengthy quote (two sentences or more), please make it a separate paragraph (a ‘block quote’).
- It can be useful to add section headings to divide up the text. These appear after every few paragraphs and should give some flavour of what the following few paragraphs will be saying.
- Please include hyperlinks to relevant material that supports a point you are making. Be selective about using these. You should use the hyperlink function in your document but if you can't then paste the link in immediately after the words that need hyperlinking, then the uploader will make sure it is added.
- Italicise titles of books, films etc.
- Only have a single space after a full stop.
- Acronyms: Use all capitals if it is pronounced as the individual letters (e.g. BBC, EU, GMB, NEU, US), but if it is pronounced as a word spell it out with only the initial letter capitalised (e.g. Unison, Nato, Unite, Covid).
- Do not include references or footnotes unless it is a theory article or you have agreed this with site editors in advance, as this is a format we rarely use.
E: Checklist for writers
- Make sure you are absolutely certain of any facts contained in the article. If there is anything you are not sure of, check it out.
- You do not need to submit a picture to accompany the article but you may wish to do this. If you are writing a news report, for example of a strike or demonstration, it can be useful to provide at least one suitable photo.
- Include the main facts in the opening two paragraphs: key What, Where, When and Who facts need to be shared up front.
- Think carefully about your main argument and ensure it is threaded through your article. A common difficulty with article submissions is a lack of focus (going on tangents, trying to cover too much etc).
- Structure your article logically so that each paragraph is saying something new or developing the argument. Consider the points you want to make and structure the article around those.
- Check spelling, punctuation and grammar very carefully before submitting. We wish to avoid such errors as much as we wish to avoid factual errors.
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