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Contributor Guidelines

At The New Tropic, we love our contributors. So very much. You are our voice, and whether you’ve been with us since the beginning, or just have a single story you want to share, we trust you to come with us on this crazy journey to create a new model for sustainable local journalism.

Part of that trust means being able to depend on you for awesome content. Here’s what we expect from our contributors.

Content

For all you aspiring The New Tropic writers, please submit your pitches using this handy form. We’ll get back to you, promise! If you haven’t heard back from us in a minimum of two weeks, or if you’ve got an especially timely story that requires an immediate response or we’ll miss the whole thing, please email the editor.

Once we think you’re awesome enough to be a new contributor, we’ll be sending you along to our Freelancer Portal to fill out all your paperwork. It’s password protected, but we’ll send you the secret word along with your intro email.

Submission requirements

Now that you’ve pitched a story to us and we’ve agreed to a price and a deadline, what do we expect?

  • Submissions should be between 700–1,600 words
  • All articles should be submitted as Word docs or Google docs
  • A minimum of  three quality images, including at least one high-resolution 16:9 photo for the header (see more about images below)
  • At least three quoted sources, with proper attribution (exceptions depending on the piece and for Q&As)
  • All facts and figures should be properly attributed, with an embedded hyperlink whenever possible

We fact check all content and also conduct regular checks for plagiarism. Part of our fact checking, either before or after publication, sometimes requires verifying quotes. We prefer all interviews be recorded, with a request for permission from the interview subject included at the start of the recording. Email interviews are considered an absolute last resort and such quotes need to be clearly attributed as emailed statements.

Previously published materials, PR releases, and fact sheets all need to be clearly attributed when quoted directly, with direct links to the quoted material when possible. Lifting text from other sources verbatim without quote marks and proper attribution will be considered plagiarism and is grounds for being banned from writing for The New Tropic.

Revisions

Please be prepared to complete a maximum of three revisions, and keep in mind that we have the right to edit stories as needed, including rewriting text to improve clarity and tone or to correct factual errors. You may or may not be asked to review the final version. In the exceptionally uncommon event that even after multiple revisions a story still doesn’t meet our needs, we reserve the right to cancel the piece with a 30% kill fee. Trust us, this is incredibly rare.

Content Reuse

Unless previous arrangements have been made, content produced for us is wholly owned by The New Tropic; however, we extend to you reuse rights to use the material for your own business purposes, so long as its use carries our branding and name. If other organizations want to publish content you have created for us, you must ask us for permission. We almost always say yes.

Deadlines!

Since we publish daily content, deadlines are incredibly important to us. If you find yourself unable to hit a deadline, you must give your editor as much notice as possible. If a story is more than a week late, we reserve the right to assign the story to somebody else, even if you’re the one who originally pitched it. Sorry. Deadlines are serious business.

Tone

At The New Tropic, we’re all about exploring Miami with curiosity. That doesn’t mean we can’t be critical, or that we can’t explore challenging issues and question the status quo, especially when it comes to letting our readers know what they can do to make things better. We’re a journalism organization, and we act accordingly. It just means we eliminate the cynicism.

We talk up to our readers, not down. Assume they’re smart, assume they care, and always assume they’re curious. Funny is good, people like funny, but humor should never be used as a replacement for good storytelling and in-depth research. We’d rather help someone discover something new than make them laugh, but if we can do both, BONUS!

Unless a piece is one of our Your View op-ed pieces, or in specific cases of personal narrative work, we don’t want to include unsubstantiated opinions by writers. However, if the opinion is stated by somebody else, that’s fine. For example, don’t write: Miami is so lame. But do write: According to Debbie Downer, “Miami is so lame.”

Whenever possible, include information that lets readers know how they can take action, get involved, or experience things for themselves. Include the details for that commission meeting, the address for that restaurant, or the next date an event is happening. And if the information is available online, include an embedded hyperlink.

Image requirements

First and foremost, we cannot under any circumstances accept images we do not have written permission for. This is especially true of images that have been taken by professional photographers and photojournalists for other publications. It is your responsibility to secure images and permissions, but we don’t expect you to pay for it. Often, interview subjects will already have images we can use, and always make sure to ask for permission to snag a few pictures from their social media accounts as well. Other great free image sources include Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Commons. However, we require high-resolution, wide-format images (think of those Retina displays, y’all), so please be attentive to the image quality. Low-resolution images will not be accepted.

If you simply can’t find a thing and think only stock images will do, you must let your editor know far in advance of your deadline. And if you’re a photojournalist or photographer who wants to submit a photo essay or work with a writer to illustrate their story, we are more than happy to consider your submissions. We just need to agree on a rate first.

We accept JPG, PNG, TIFF, and PDF formats. All image submissions should include caption and photo credit information as part of the name, including organization or website information when appropriate. Please don’t submit images with titles like IMG_666 because we will have to kick them back to you.

The proper way to name a file would be:

  • caption_courtesy name-organization.jpg
  • Batman caught kissing Catwoman_Courtesy Peter Parker-The Daily Bugle.png
  • A comet is coming straight for us_Courtesy NASA.jpg
  • The truth is out there_Courtesy Fox Mulder-FBI.pdf
  • Miami looking fine_Courtesy PitbullLover – Wikimedia Commons.jpg

Style Guide

We follow a modified AP style, with a strict adherence to the Oxford comma, the only comma that matters.

apostrophe ( ’ )

Use for possessive words (except its) and contractions (two words shortened into one, like didn’t or couldn’t). In contractions, the apostrophe should appear where letters have been dropped (don’t has an apostrophe where the o was dropped out of not). Always use curved ( ’ ) not straight ( ‘ ) quotes.

For a possessive word ending in “s” or the “s” sound, sometimes you should use an apostrophe only (with no “s” after the apostrophe), and sometimes you should use an apostrophe followed by an “s.”

Use only the apostrophe (with no “s” after it):

  • Plural nouns formed by adding an “s” to the end of the singular version (aunts’, sons’)
  • Use only an apostrophe for possession when a word ends in s: Achilles’ heel.

Use an apostrophe with individual letters in a phrase like minding your p’s and q’s but not with letters that are in groupings, like ABCs or VIPs.

brackets ( [ ] )

Use brackets inside a direct quote to add or alter the text of the quote for clarification purposes. Added or altered text should be placed within brackets.

board of directors, department names, etc.

Terms like board of directors should not be capitalized, but department names should be capitalized (Marketing Department) if it’s the actual official name of a department.

capitalization

Excessive capitalization should be avoided whenever possible. Don’t capitalize words or phrases like “Award Winning” or “the Company” unless they are proper nouns or proper names.

colon ( : )

Use to introduce a list of items that are separated by bullets or commas, when writing the time of day, to introduce a phrase or incomplete sentence for emphasis and to introduce a full sentence.

If the phrase after the colon is a complete sentence in itself, capitalize the first word just like you would if that sentence stood alone. If the phrase after the colon is not a complete sentence in itself, do not capitalize the first word after the colon. An exception to this would be titles, where the the first word in the phrase after the colon is always capitalized.

comma ( , )

Always use the Oxford comma (a comma before the words and/or at the end of a list). If any of the items in the list include a comma, use a semicolon ( ; ) instead, including a semicolon before and/or. If the list becomes too ungainly or complicated to understand, break up the list and rewrite the sentence.

When several adjectives are used with one noun, determine whether the adjectives could still make sense if separated by the word and or if one or more of the adjectives could be considered part of the noun.

After introductory or single-word prepositions (Today, Currently, In the 1800s), use a comma.

When two complete sentences are joined by a conjunction (and, or), use a comma at the end of the first sentence and before the conjunction. Example: John smoked a cigarette, and he pondered death. (But: John smoked a cigarette and pondered death.)

Use when attributing a quote, whether the attribution is placed before or after the quote.

Examples:

  • Lisa said, “I’m gonna save the world.”
  • “I’m gonna save the world,” said Lisa.

Commas love hanging out inside quotation marks.

company names

In general, a company name should be written exactly as the company writes it on official documents or as it appears on the company’s website. Only use the ampersand if the company uses it in the name, as in AT&T, which uses its initials and the ampersand (&) as its company name.

It is acceptable to drop the words Incorporated or Limited. Otherwise, the company name should be spelled out in full. Never drop or abbreviate the word Company when it appears in the name of a theatrical, music, or dance group.

dates

In text, months should be abbreviated if they are longer than four letters, as in Dec., Apr., Nov., but not May, June, July.

directions

East, west, north, south, etc., when used in a general sense, use lowercase letters (the sun sets in the west, head east on that highway, the north end of the mall).

Capitalize when using as part of a proper name or name of a specific region (South Beach, the West End of London, the Midwest).

Abbreviate when it’s part of a street address and the directional term is part of the street name, but spell it out when it is the street name itself, as in 123 S. Fake St. or 123 South St.

ellipsis ( … )

The ellipsis is used to represent an omission, a lapse of time, or a pause. An ellipsis should be three periods — no more, no less. If it follows a complete sentence, end the sentence with a period and then ellipses with a space on both sides.

Examples:

  • We went to the beach. … And now we’re so hungover.
  • If the part that’s deleted was part of the same sentence … no extra period is needed.
  • When a complete sentence ends, ellipses have spaces on both sides. … However, when a sentence trails off… There is a space before the ellipse only on the side of the next sentence.

em dash ( — )

The em dash is much longer than a hyphen and a little longer than an en dash. Remember that an m (em) is wider than an n (en).

Use an em dash for an interruption or suspension of thought or speech or a sudden change in construction. Use spaces around em dashes.

Try not to use too many em dashes — it gets choppy!

When you set off a phrase inside a sentence, make sure you have an em dash at the beginning of the phrase and one at the end, unless the phrase it at the end of the sentence.

en dash ( – )

The en dash is a little longer than a hyphen, but shorter than an em dash. Remember that an m (em) is wider than an n (en). The en dash is used to represent the word to between figures or words.

headlines

Should be sentence case and do not always need to be complete sentences. They should never have periods, but can have quotes or question marks.

Examples:

  • Miami declared the most awesome
  • Mayor says, “Everything’s cool”
  • Are we all gonna drown?

names

All names need to be triple checked for accuracy. On first reference in an article, and in all photo captions, the full first and last name needs to be used. On second reference, we use last names. The only exception would be when we are writing about a family where people all have the same last name, or if two or more people mentioned in an article, related or otherwise, have the same last name. In that case, we would use either first and last names every time, or just first names.

We always go by the personal preferences of what people want to be called. We shouldn’t mention former names unless it’s incredibly pertinent to the story. If somebody prefers to be called by their stage name or pen name, that’s the name we would use throughout.

numbers

When to use figures:

  • For numerals 10 and up
  • For ages
  • For times of day
  • For votes and scores
  • For percentages (42%)
  • For measurements
  • With abbreviations and symbols ($300, 3 in.)
  • When numbers are used as numbers, not quantities (in the shape of an 8)

When to use words:

  • For numerals up to nine
  • To begin a sentence (Twenty people said, not 20 people said)

No. 1, number one

We use No. 1 rather than number one or number-one. When used as an adjective before a noun, it is still written as No. 1, without a hyphen (Radiohead’s No. 1 hit).

percentages

Always use numerals and the ( % ) sign.

period ( . )

Use at the end of a sentence and after most abbreviations.

Only use ONE space after a period, not two. Seriously, that’s so freaking annoying. Don’t do that.

question mark ( ? )

Use with a direct question. The question mark goes inside the quotation marks if the quote is a question.

Examples:

  • “Where is he?” she asked.
  • Can you believe he actually said “The experience was Kafkaesque”?

subheads

Should be kept as short as possible and always use sentence case. Subheads should not have periods, but questions marks when needed are appropriate. They don’t need to be complete sentences, and can be no longer than one sentence at the longest.

Articles longer than 900 words usually require subheads to break up the text.

time of day

Write the time of day using numeric figures, not words. Don’t use the colon and zeros with an exact hour, but do use them in all other instances, for example, 10 a.m. but 10:15 p.m. Use a.m. for morning and p.m. for afternoon/evening/night. Use midnight and noon rather than 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.

titles held by people

In general, professional titles, formal titles, nobility titles, and past and future titles held by people should be lowercase (John Constantine, exorcist). However, a title should be capitalized when it immediately precedes the name (Exorcist John Constantine) or is used instead of a proper name (Your logical is impeccable, Captain.)

Titles of people before a name should be abbreviated (Capt. Jean Luc Picard, Adm. Ackbar, Det. Renee Montoya) but titles after a name or used in place of a proper name should always be spelled out completely.

titles of works

We use sentence case for our headlines and subheads, but titles of works should use title case. The word at the start of the title should always be capitalized, as should every word except for “a,” “an,” “and,” “at,” “but,” “by,” “for,” “in,” “nor,” “of,” “on,” “or,” “so,” “the,” “to,” “up,” “with,” and “yet.” For hyphenated words, both words should be capitalized.

We capitalize the titles of newspapers, TV networks, and book series. We use quotations for articles, episodes, parts of books, essays, unpublished manuscripts, and songs. We use italics for magazines, movies, TV series, books, comics, plays, albums, works of art, ships, airplanes, spacecraft, trains, and submarines.