Writing for Proceedings

Proceedings magazine is the flagship of the U.S. Naval Institute. It provides an independent forum for discussion and debate (sometimes heated) on professional topics of interest to the Sea Services. The magazine is not an organ of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or any other government organization or institution; however, it is supportive of the Sea Services and their mission.
    Our primary audience is the men and women of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. But over the 143 years since our founding, that audience has swelled to include members of the Army and the Air Force as well as the broader national security community.
    If you have something to say, a suggestion for change, or a story to tell, you can write for Proceedings. We have no editorial point of view beyond our belief in a strong national defense. We encourage constructive debate and will publish articles that take on the conventional wisdom if the argument is well supported. Our only hard and fast rule is no personal attacks.

SUBMISSION INFORMATION
We welcome queries and unsolicited manuscripts, as well as suggestions for ways to illustrate the article. Manuscripts may be submitted as email attachments to [email protected]. Include any illustrations and graphics as separate attachments. Please provide word counts, with and without endnotes, and your full contact information, including home and office phone numbers, return address, and a two-to three-sentence biography. If you mail your submission and would like it returned, please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. If submitting by U.S. mail, send manuscripts to:

Editor-in-Chief, Proceedings
U.S. Naval Institute
291 Wood Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5034

SUBMISSION CATEGORIES & GUIDELINES

Feature articles (2,500-word maximum, not including endnotes) These pieces deal with major issues facing the Sea Services, are instructive, accessible, offer fresh ways of looking at military matters, or describe situations and circumstances of which military professionals should be aware. It is expected that proper citation (either within the text or in an end note) will be given where necessary, to make clear the source of a fact, figure, or assertion included in the article.

Now Hear This/Nobody Asked Me, But…(650-word maximim) Both these columns are commentaries, that is, they express a reader's view on an issue of consequence to the national security community. A "Now Hear This" normally addresses a weighty issue. A "Nobody Asked Me, But..." also takes on an important matter but more often addresses an everday concern and often employs a more informal writing style. Both often challenge conventional thinking.

Comment and Discussion (500-word maximum) The equivalent of letters to the editor, "Comment and Discussion" items are commentaries on articles that have run in Proceedings over the previous few months. This department is where our independent forum gets a workout and, fittingly, it has its own email address, [email protected].

Professional Notes (1,000-word maximum, not including endnotes) This department -- the oldest and among the most popular in the magazine -- is the place for tips, advice, and instruction on shiphandling, small unit tactics, organization, training, or other more technical matters. Think of this as the “how-to” section of Proceedings. It is also the place for identifying and explaining specific problems or issues and, if possible, promoting a solution.

Book Reviews (650-word maximum) All book reviews are commissioned by the editorial staff. If you would like to review books for Proceedings, send a brief email to Book Review Editor Jennifer Pompi ([email protected]) describing your writing experience and the subjects you feel qualified to review.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Submissions are reviewed by the editorial staff of Proceedings and by the Editorial Board, which meets once a month. This peer review process can take up to ten weeks, depending on when in the monthly review cycle an article is received. You can expect further communication from us in that time frame accepting or regretfully rejecting the submission. We endeavor to publish accepted articles in a timely fashion. If we are unable to publish a submission within six months of acceptance, we will gladly revert publishing rights to the author.
     We pay on publication. Fees vary. Nonmembers published in Proceedings receive a complimentary one-year membership in the Naval Institute.

 

TIPS ON WRITING

Even the most professional authors rely on simple techniques such as these to make their writing clean, direct, and accurate.

  • Don't overprove your thesis.
  • Make a production schedule. Block out a daily quota of pages to be written. Start writing by getting something down on paper. It may be rough and unorganized, but you can refine it later. The point is, get started.
  • Check all data, particularly dates, figures, and proper names, against the original documents.
  • Keep your sentences short; one independent and one dependent clause are usually enough.
  • Try to use the active, not passive, mode. This may come hard for those who have drafted a lot of official correspondence.
  • Strive for clarity and vigor in every paragraph. If you bore the reader, he may quit reading.
  • Generally, it is best to use a topic sentence for each paragraph.
  • Assume that the reader is intelligent but knows little of your topic.
  • Avoid naval jargon. Many Proceedings readers are civilians or live in foreign countries. If you must use acronyms, define them parenthetically, e.g., sea line of communication (SLOC). You may safely use SLOC in subsequent paragraphs but not too far apart. If you use dates, include the year, e.g., 12 July 1986. Otherwise, your reader will flounder.
  • Add color and readability to your account by weaving in people's quoted remarks. Personalities spark your reader's interest.
  • Document your evidence with footnotes, if necessary. They also allow your readers to follow up on your findings.
  • If possible, send photos, maps, sketches, graphs, or tables to flesh out your article.
  • Avoid abstract concepts; stay with the concrete.
  • Where convenient, use subheadings about every six paragraphs. They give the reader a set of signposts and prevent the boredom of facing page after page of solid print.
  • Smooth any abrupt transitions between paragraphs. Your story should flow evenly.
  • Read your finished article aloud to pick up repetition or awkwardness.
  • Have a friend read it for comprehension and clarity.
  • Before you finish your final draft, you will have sacrificed paragraphs that you are loath to delete. Accept these deletions as part of the game in writing an article.
  • Submit your manuscript double-spaced, with wide margins and mark it clearly with your address and telephone number.

Finally, all seagoing service professionals who have thought of writing an article should rest assured that the Proceedings editors will assist you. They'll see to it that your piece achieves the editorial refinement that your ideas deserve.

 

TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR PROCEEDINGS WRITERS

By Captain John Byron, U.S. Navy (Retired)
 

  1. Write what you know. Don't waste your reader's time with casual opinion. Stick to subjects in which you have expertise.
  2. Stake out intellectual territory. Put forward a clear, forceful point of view. Leave no doubt of what you think.
  3. Aim your writing at a specific audience. Spanning the interests of the entire Proceedings readership in a single piece is difficult. Focus your writing. Be clear whom you expect to reach with your words.
  4. Learn to write well. Study writing. Find a set of simple writing rules that make sense to you and stick to them. Make the labor of authorship invisible to the reader.
  5. Don't let words mask ideas. Write in a simple style. Avoid cute phrasing that gets between the reader and the point you are making.
  6. Keep it short. Be kind to your readers. Make every word count. When you've made your points, shut up.
  7. Edit ruthlessly. Nobody gets it just right the first time. Keep editing until you can't make the piece better.
  8. Work with your editor. Discuss the piece beforehand. Look at the edited version before it goes to the printer.
  9. Take responsibility for your words. Don't let anyone steer you off what you really believe. Be pleased to have your name on the piece.
  10. Be a purple-suiter. If you can't convince yourself that your writing will be positive for our nation and its security, don't write it.
  11. And one more…Don't be a wimp. If it needs said, say it. The system respects creative thinkers who speak new truths.

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