Taming the Wild Editor: How to Get Published in The ASHA Leader

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All around the world, wherever their presence is tolerated, editors are notoriously cranky and unreasonable. Some are so ill-tempered, they’re like wild animals. Can you blame them? They would rather be writers to begin with. Instead, these stunted authors toil in bumpy office chairs, sip stale coffee, and cultivate eye strain and stooped shoulders … while they pore over a seemingly endless pageant of manuscripts. Their profession is based almost exclusively on spotting others’ errors—in short, being insufferable curmudgeons. And this wretched life stamps its mark all over a person’s demeanor.

Right about now, you may be thinking: Thank goodness I’m not an editor. Most reasonable readers would agree and share your relief.

But here’s the bad news: If you’re a prospective author for The ASHA Leader, editors not unlike the ones we described above will decide whether your carefully crafted proposal is accepted or rejected. Like hungry (and angry) lions locked in a cage too long without Starbucks coffee, these ferocious editors seek out any signs of weakness in your proposal … and pounce. Call it instinct.

On the other hand, nothing is as soothing to these savage editorial beasts—nothing shines so bright a ray of light into their cluttered lives—as a well-crafted, compelling story proposal. Editors feel satisfied when they find an error, but finding a storyteller fills them with joy. It’s like catnip for editor lions.

So how can a prospective author brighten a downtrodden editor’s life? How can you find a path to safety—and publication—through the famished, circling lions? We’re about to arm you with the chair, whip and confidence you’ll need to tame a pack of wild editors.

In the Leader’s general guidelines, we ask prospective writers to submit a proposal form before they spend time completing an entire manuscript. This is designed to save everyone some time, rather than writing an entire story that may not be suitable for the Leader, or for its upcoming content. And the proposal form includes a checkbox for authors to affirm that they’ve read the Leader’s writer’s guidelines.

The catch, however, is that reading the guidelines typically isn’t sufficient. The Leader’s editors look for proposals that exemplify the guidelines: lively, entertaining stories that provide practical advice or enlightening information about communication sciences and disorders. Every story needs a “hook” to draw the reader in, and should be conversational enough to keep them reading. Write sentences in an active voice. Avoid technical terms, jargon and overuse of acronyms. And per the Associated Press Stylebook, don’t include parenthetical citations in the text.

In short, if an author checks the box affirming he or she has read our writer’s guidelines, we expect the proposal to demonstrate the guidelines. If it doesn’t, the author’s chances of being invited to submit a manuscript are greatly diminished.

Some have wondered whether the Leader is still a science magazine. It absolutely is. But it is not a scholarly journal. As far back as April 1962, James Jerger declared in Asha Magazine his belief that scientific writing can be readable—that it can inspire and inform while appealing to a wide audience. (The full article [PDF] is worth a read.) The Leader’s editors share Jerger’s belief. Instead of presenting concepts only to fellow clinicians, using specialized language and tangled verbiage, we see the redesigned Leader as a vehicle for clinicians to show the public and other professionals (those in CSDs’ many and varied areas) what they do—in language most readers can understand.

So what are the most important things you can do to ensure your proposal’s best chance for acceptance? The first four come straight from Jerger’s article:

  • Write short sentences. Use a new sentence for each new thought.
  • Avoid artificiality and pompous embellishment. Write it the way you would say it.
  • Use active verb construction whenever possible. Avoid the passive voice.
  • Use personal pronouns when it is natural to do so.

Most important, craft your proposal so its inspiring, informative qualities jump off the page. Use a hook. Include sample content that whets the appetite for more. Make the Leader’s editors sit up, take notice and demand to know where your story is going. At the very least, take pains to follow the writer’s guidelines in your proposal.

After all, when you’re fending off wild animals it’s usually best to throw them a bone.

Matthew Cutter is a writer/editor for The ASHA Leader.

Writing an Article for Special Interest Group Perspectives

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(photo credit)

You’ve never contemplated writing a research article since you left college, right? Perhaps writing in your field was something someone else did? No time, interest, or motivation to pursue such a professional endeavor? If you have a passion for your work, you can write that article if you simply approach it in steps. Start with your topic and what would you like to share with colleagues. It could be a therapy approach, new information about a specific population, or facilitating your documentation. Start compiling information through your search engines such as Google Scholar and ASHA’s research databases. Start bookmarking abstracts and articles on your topic. You’ll discover there are many facets that you never considered–bookmark those too. As you gather information, you’ll learn more about your subject.

The next step is to paste your facts or paraphrase them from your abstracts and articles including your article’s bibliography into a Word document. You’ll notice there are sometimes two, three, or more authors on a specific facet to your topic. This document will be your working template and will give you a basic framework for your article. Your next step is to review and revise your template into a readable paper. As you edit your paper, you’ll find yourself moving portions of your research from beginning to end, omitting data, and going back to your search engine to pursue that one piece of information you’d like to add.

Once your paper is assembled, ask a colleague to read it to see how the paper flows in form and style. Read it again and revise it again. Now it’s ready to be sent to your Perspectives Editor (find the editor for any Perspectives publication under the heading, “Information for Authors.” Example: SIG 15′s Information for Authors.).

My first article I sent off came back with so many revisions and corrections that I felt like I was back in English 101. I felt deflated and intimidated. My issues included simple grammatical errors, citation omissions, spelling and sentence fragments. The only way I was going to get this information out was to fix my mistakes and improve my first draft. You will feel like giving up. I would recommend that you avoid working on it when you encounter a difficult section, but keep chipping away at it. You will ultimately be rewarded for your efforts, learn a great deal about your topic and professional writing, and have the satisfaction to know you’ve written your first article.

My editor taught me a lot about professional writing and surviving the process of editing and revision. I kept my first draft with revisions to document my growth as a writer and researcher.

Once your revisions are completed, read it again, and ask your colleague to read it again. You’re almost done. You now need to write your article’s abstract and submit five questions about your article’s content for continuing education credits for other SLPs. You can do this!

I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge my colleagues who encouraged me to attempt my first article: Ann Kulichik, owner at AK Speech, past SIG 15 Associate Coordinator who inspired me to write; Joanne Wisely, Vice President, Regulatory Administration & Compliance for Genesis Rehab Services, who reviewed my articles and encouraged me to keep writing; Grace Burke, Senior Director of Adult Day Services at Life Senior Services, who was the previous editor of Perspectives and guided me through my first article with patience and professionalism and Anna Feezor, Senior Clinical Specialist at Genesis Rehab Services and present Associate Editor for SIG 15 Perspectives. Thank you!

George A. Voyzey, M. Ed., CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist for Genesis Rehab Services at Maine General Rehab and Nursing Care at Glenridge in Augusta, Maine, a 125 bed skilled long-term care facility specializing in Alzheimer’s and other dementia care. Mr. Voyzey also serves as a Master Clinician in the area of dementia, a clinical instructor and mentor. He recently had his fourth article published for ASHA’s Special Interest Division 15 (Gerontology) on-line publication, Perspectives, and serves as a coordinating committee member for SIG 15. Mr. Voyzey received his Master’s degree in Communication Disorders from Pennsylvania State University in 1983.