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Writing For Your Club's Newsletter
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John Crilly 10-5-2006
Images courtesy of the Night Sky newsletter, a publication of the Astronomy Club of Akron, Ohio
Like most amateur astronomy organizations, your club probably publishes a newsletter. They are generally used to distribute useful information to the membership, including club news, upcoming events within the club, and upcoming astronomical events. It is more than that, though - it is also a platform for members to contribute their own material for the purposes of entertainment, education, or information. This is the material for which a club newsletter editor is always the most appreciative. It keeps the newsletter from being a dry, one-way communication from the club to the membership.
Each member adds to the value of his or her club in their own way and all these contributions in whatever form are part of what makes the club interesting and worthwhile. Very few members generally choose to contribute in the form of newsletter submissions; my purpose here is to describe the process and to offer some tips in the hope of encouraging folks who haven’t tried it yet to give it a go.
First, I’ll address the “nuts and bolts” aspect. The most commonly preferred form of submission is a document in Word format, sent to the newsletter editor as an attachment to an email. This is usually the most convenient way for the editor to acquire material and to edit it into the newsletter. This is nearly always not a requirement, though. I’m sure that your editor, like most of his ilk, would be glad to accept a submission in any readable format whether electronic or crayon or anything in between. Just don’t neglect the word “readable” in the above statement. If he can’t read it he can’t use it - and if he can read it only with difficulty it’s likely to go to the bottom of the stack until he has sufficient extra time to dedicate to decoding it.
Now for structure. There’s usually no required structure for a newsletter article. In general, this is an informal type of writing so whatever style the writer prefers will work just fine. However, this does not mean that errors in grammar, punctuation, or spelling are acceptable. Please take pity on the editor and either proofread the document yourself before submission or have someone with good language skills proofread it for you before submission. While it is the editor’s job to check the document and to make necessary corrections, it is always preferable for the writer to do so in order that meaning not be lost in the editing process. Your editor will “fix” whatever requires fixing but the easier his job is, the more likely it is that he will continue to undertake this obligation. Also, as with the readability issue, a submission requiring drastic rewrites is likely to remain on the bottom of the pile for an extended period.
For a new writer, I strongly suggest using an outline before commencing the article. Begin by telling the reader what you intend to do. Then do it one piece at a time. This sort of organization encourages an inexperienced to avoid needless repetition or rambling. Headings are optional; I like them but don’t always use them myself unless submitting to an editor who requires them. Shoot for 500 to 1000 words at first - keeping the article short forces a degree of discipline that enhances readability. A photograph or two never hurts, but avoid using too many.
That’s the dull stuff out of the way. Nearly, anyway - one last bit of dullness first. Remember that it is your obligation to ensure that all material submitted is original; plagiarism or “borrowed” photographs are an insult to the club and can not be tolerated. Now let’s discuss content!
Choosing a topic can appear to be the most difficult part of the process but it can and should be very simple. Bear in mind that we generally are most effective at writing about things that interest us. What has your interest right now? Are you in the process of trying out a new piece of gear? Choosing your next eyepiece? Working on an observer list or a new category of observing objects? Been on a field trip? Visited a star party? Want to discuss a recent (or not so recent) scientific discovery? Think the club should take a new direction or adopt a project? If it interests you, folks will probably find the article interesting to them as well.
|SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?|
You have nothing to lose by giving writing a try and your club has everything to gain. You have an opportunity to share your interests and/or knowledge with the members of your club. You may find that you unknowingly share a specific interest with some members you know well. Often, just seeing the article in print provides a kick sufficient to make it all worthwhile.
|p.s. Nearly everything
described above also applies to submissions to Cloudy Nights. I
encourage readers to also consider submitting articles to our online club!|