Volunteer writers: some notes on Culture24 house style

| 01 January 2009

Guidelines For Volunteer Writers includes reference to some points regarding our house style. Beyond these we are guided by the Guardian Style Guide and the Economist Style Guide.

Click here to access the Guardian Style Guide online.

Click here to access the Economist Style Guide online.

Here are some tips on what we expect from our writers including reference to our house style.

1. Target readers are not experts in gallery or museum culture – so don’t use jargon, or any terms that non-specialists would misunderstand.

2. As with all writing for the web, keep sentences and paragraphs short. News stories should be 300-400 words in length, features 500 - 700 words and exhibition stories 500-750 words.

3. Images are vital for our stories. Phone a relevant press office concerned with your story and ask them to send digital images to your contact at Culture24 or to: newsdesk@culture24.org.uk. The images should be JPEG files and should not be too large to email (the optimum quality for web use is '72dpi'). Most press offices should know what you mean when you ask for this. Make sure that you also ask for captions, which should include who to credit for the use of the pictures. Don’t leave it too late to get pics!

4. Structure: in simple news or exhibition stories, in the first two paragraphs keep to the usual Who, What, Where, When, Why and How formula.

5. All our stories are archived so it is really important to include exhibition dates (beginning and end), venues and titles at the top of your piece.

6. If filing a news story, after the first two to four paragraphs get in a quote. Make it simple and direct. This brings the story alive. Make your first quote count.

7. Keep it informal and friendly. Don’t be afraid to use humour, if appropriate.

8. When you think you are finished – double-check all your spellings and the facts in the story.

9. Go through the copy and cut out all unnecessary floppy language – don’t say ‘several’, tell us how many exactly. Don’t say ‘the actual bus used by the cup winning team’, say ‘the bus used by the cup winning team.’

10. Don’t write the date like this – ‘April the 17th 2009.’ Write it like this – ‘April 17 2009’. Always include the year - your article may be read for many years to come and in the online world you have to be explicit and succinct.

11. Don’t describe anyone as ‘the’ painter David Hockney – call him ‘painter’ David Hockney.

12. Submit your copy as a Word file attachment and in the body of the email - just in case we can’t read your files.

13. Always ask experts in the museums and galleries to explain to you things you don’t understand – and tell them you are doing the story for a general audience – it’ll help!

14. Always ring the venue for an exhibition in a gallery or museum and tell them you are covering their event for Culture24 – you should be able to get free entry by arrangement with their press officer.

15. All stories submitted that are agreed ahead with the editor get published – so you get a chance to build up a great online portfolio!

16. We put up several new exhibition and news stories everyday and schedule up to a month in advance. So if you have agreed a deadline please try to stick to it, especially if you have been sent to a press view as we like to be first with the story. If for any reason you can’t make an event or deadline then let us know as far in advance as possible so that we can reschedule.

17. We were all NCTJ trainees here, so we know how you are feeling when you phone up with a story. Don’t be nervous, we’re here to get content, and we need your ideas and writing. We’ll help you actively to get some work up on the web.

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