Editorial Stylebook and Submission Guidelines

Updated May 2015 

Please also review our Frequently Asked Questions  for more information.

This stylebook outlines the editorial policy and submission guidelines for contributing writers. Please review before submitting an article to PA TIMES, print or online. 

PA TIMES, a publication of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), is published quarterly and distributed to ASPA members and institutional subscribers. ASPA members and PA TIMES subscribers are public servants in federal, state and local government, public administration faculty and students, university libraries and institutions and state libraries.

PA TIMES Online is published twice-weekly and sent electronically to approximately 10,000 subscribers.

Editorial Policy:
On a daily basis, editorial policy is guided by the PA TIMES editor and the ASPA executive director, who serves as editor-in-chief. 

PA TIMES is dedicated to full and fair coverage of public service.  We report without bias, favor, intimidation or callous disregard of the impact of said reporting and articles. This publication provides a forum for the views of the oppressed as well as the favored, minorities as well as the majority.

PA TIMES encourages submissions from and about all under-served communities and will not discriminate on the basis of race, creed or gender.

PA TIMES will not borrow someone else’s words without attribution and expects submitting authors to follow this rule.

Letters to the Editor:
PA TIMES accepts letters to the editor with the understanding that the editor may edit or reject letters. We do not publish anonymous letters. All published letters must have a name and current contact information.

Publication of submitted articles:
PA TIMES is under no obligation to print submitted articles, solicited or not, ASPA member or not. Authors are not to assume their article is to be published unless explicitly told so by the PA TIMES Editor.

It is understood that the views expressed in PA TIMES articles are those of the writer and are not necessarily the views of the PA TIMES, ASPA or the organization they represent.

Types of Articles Published in PA TIMES Print and Online

Special Section Topics:
Special section topics address the thematic topics published on the editorial calendar.

Management issues:
These focus on topics of broad interest. Topics could include downsizing of agencies; reinventing government; recruitment and retention; ensuring that computers succeed in improving productivity and upgrading training.

PA TIMES invites reader opinions regarding the issues discussed in the paper or public management issues in general.

Public Servant Profiles:
Some articles are organized around certain professions within public service.

A series of short news items, 150-450 words each.

Letters to the Editor:
PA TIMES accepts letters to the editor with the understanding that the editor may edit or reject letters.  We do not publish anonymous letters. All published letters must have a name and current contact information.

Editorial Guidelines

Word Length:
Word length requirements vary depending on the edition, online or print, for which you would like to be considered. Articles for the print edition should be between 800-950 words. Articles for the online edition should be between 750-850 words.

PA TIMES does not print references, bibliographies or footnotes. Citations should be made within the article when quoting or paraphrasing text.  All book/article references must list author first and last name. When quoting or paraphrasing the spoken word please cite speaker first and last name, title and affiliation. Please use the following examples as a guide:
  • “I like the noise of democracy,” said James Buchanan, U.S. president.
  • “Legal principles tell individuals the right way to act in order to live with one another, whereas ethical principles,” according to Ralph Clark Chandler, in a 1998 International Journal of Public Affairs article titled "Conclusion: Exploring the Heart of Civic Darkness,” “tell individuals the right way to act in order to live with their own consciences.”
  • John Rohr, as stated in his book Ethics for Bureaucrats: An Essay on Law and Values, believes that the answer to the pressure to distort ethics does not lie in always doing the right thing.
Publication and Article Titles:
Newspaper, book, magazine and journal titles are to be italicized. Article titles are to be in quotes.

Cutting Text from Articles:
PA TIMES reserves the right to cut text, while retaining article intent and meaning to accommodate publication space constraints.

Ethnic Descriptions:  
PA TIMES does not use ethnic descriptions unless it is relevant to an article’s topic. Hyphenate and capitalize African-American. Capitalize Latino, Chinese, American, etc. when referring to a proper noun. Lowercase any other reference.

Author Guidelines

All articles must be submitted via e-mail and should include a short bio and picture. Authors should indicate if the article should be considered for the print or online edition. Before submitting your article, please note:
  • Article length:  Articles for the print or online edition vary. Articles to be considered for the print edition should be between 800-950 words, for the online edition should be 750-850 words, unless otherwise advised by editor. Articles grossly violating the length limit will be returned for revision.
  • Spacing: Many authors are accustomed to inserting two spaces after a period. However, most publications, including PA TIMES, insert only one space after a period. Authors are urged to conform.
  • Inverted Pyramid:  We prefer the inverted pyramid style of writing. Get key points and facts in the first few paragraphs, with less important details following, for ease of editing. 
  • Associated Press (AP) Style:  We use AP style in all but noted instances. 
  • Art memo: Your graphics submissions may include portraits of your major sources, other photographs, cartoons, illustrations, graphs and charts. In some cases, the editor may select relevant graphics and images. Please include photo captions and credit, where applicable.
  • Author bio: At the end of the story, please include your title and affiliation along with an email address for publication so that readers may contact you for more information.
  • Rewriting: We may ask for a second draft of a story, particularly if you have not written for us before.
  • Accuracy checks: We expect the author to check all names, titles, dates and facts for accuracy before the story is submitted. 
  • Copyright: PA TIMES holds all rights for publication (including publication online) and all reprint rights. 

Guidelines for would-be contributors:
  • PA TIMES does not publish articles that seem to be aimed at promoting the fortunes of any individual, product or program.  Those providing services or programs of interest to our audiences, should consider an advertorial (see media kit).
  • PA TIMES welcomes queries about possible assignments in the form of an email. Indicate the proposed subject, short description of article and, if applicable, the sources you will interview.  Please send article ideas/queries to the PA TIMES Editor
  • Completed manuscripts are not returned due to deadline pressure. 

Editorial Information

Editorial goals include: 
  • Covering news and trends about the organization and management of the federal, state and local government as well as trends and innovations in public administration academia
  • Helping public servants improve the quality of their agencies’ services by reporting on management innovations
  • Explaining government problems and failures in ways that offer lessons about pitfalls to avoid
  • Creating a greater sense of community among the elite corps of public servants to whom the paper circulates
  • Improving the image of the public service by reporting on the successes and learning experiences, as well as innovations in the field of public service


PA TIMES will follow Associated Press (AP) style. Please refer to the clarifications and exceptions listed below:
  • Capitalization: When in doubt, do not capitalize. The words "city" and "county" are only capitalized when they are an integral part of a proper name (e.g., City of Chicago, Cook County), not when they stand alone in subsequent references. Similarly, titles are only capitalized when they directly precede an individual’s name (e.g., Mayor Richard Daley). Acronyms should appear in all capital letters (after being spelled out the first time), while article titles and section headings should appear in title case (each word capitalized).
  • Numbers: As a general rule, numbers from one to nine should be spelled out and numbers from 10 to the thousands should be written as figures. Numbers in the millions and above should use a combination of figures and the appropriate word. Dollar amounts are always written as figures following the $ sign (e.g., $500). Likewise, figures are always used in expressing percentages (e.g., 5 percent).
  • Academic degrees: PA TIMES does not list academic degrees following or preceding an individual’s name.
  • Courtesy titles: As a general rule, PA TIMES does not use courtesy titles, however we do use professional titles, ex. vice president of students or professor of public administration. The title is not capitalized unless it immediately precedes an individual’s name. 
  • ASPA National Governing Bodies: Capitalize and use numerals.
  • Chapter and Section: Capitalized in reference to ASPA affiliates.
  • ASPA Committees: Lowercase (ex. conference marketing committee).  When referring to ASPA voting districts, capitalize and use Roman numerals.
  • First Names: When writing about adults, last names only are preferred after first reference.
  • September 11, 2001: Use full listing on first reference, use Sept. 11 on all following references.
  • George H.W. Bush:  Father, 41st president, former president, first Bush administration
  • George W. Bush: son, 43rd president, president, second Bush administration
  • U.S.: abbreviate when used as an adjective, spell out when used as noun
  • U.N.: abbreviate when used as an adjective, spell out when used as noun
  • Other specific words: nonprofit, email, website, Internet, vitae
  • Federal: when used as an adjective
  • States: Use postal abbreviations except when referring to a specific state (ex. state of Washington)
  • Cities: List state abbreviation following a city name except for the following (From AP Stylebook). U.S. Cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, Hollywood. Foreign Cities: Beijing, Berlin, Djibouti, Geneva, Gibraltar, Guatemala City, Havana, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Kuwait, London, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico City, Monaco, Montreal, Moscow, Ottawa, Paris, Quebec, Rome, San Marino, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto, Vatican City.
  • Graduate Programs: MPA, DPA and Ph.D. 
  • Acronyms: Spell out first reference, followed by the acronym in parenthesis.  Each reference thereafter use acronym.  Acronyms may also be used in headlines.

General Writing Tips

PA TIMES editors edit all manuscripts for style, tone and quality requirements. Poor writing can undermine the best of ideas, so authors should take great care in preparing their manuscripts. The tips below will assist authors in this regard:
  • Organization: Articles should be carefully organized to facilitate readability. One of the most common deficiencies of submissions to PA TIMES is poor organization. As such, before you sit down to write, take a moment to clarify exactly what the article must do in order to be successful. You may even want to compose a written objective statement. An objective statement will help you stay on track as you write and will give you a specific benchmark for evaluating your document after it is written. Written documents typically consist of the following major components: opening, body and closing. Each of these elements is briefly discussed below.
    • Opening: The opening should establish a connecting point between author and reader. This can be accomplished either directly or indirectly–by either diving straight into the heart of the matter or by easing into it through a short anecdote or other literary device. PA TIMES generally prefers the direct approach. In either case, the opening should lay a logical groundwork upon which the author can build the rest of the article.
    • Body: The body expands on the necessary details of the article. If applicable, it should use appropriate headings to break up text and to provide access to different sections. Paragraphs and sentences should be written effectively so as to promote coherence, conciseness and clarity throughout the article. Paragraphs and sentences are discussed in the following sections.
    • Closing: After you have provided all of the necessary information, conclude the message. The concluding section may consist of a summary of the message’s key points, a reaffirmation of the main thrust of the message, reasoned judgments based on the information presented or recommendations for action. The closing should consist of at least one paragraph, but usually two or more.
  • Paragraphs: Paragraphs break text into shorter chunks that appear more readable. The effective use of paragraphs can significantly improve the quality and aesthetic appeal of your article. Paragraph quality can be evaluated on the basis of these major attributes: unity, development, organization, coherence and appearance. 
    • Unity: All sentences in a paragraph should relate to the same topic. Therefore, when you have said all you want to say about a particular topic, start a new paragraph. Otherwise, readers will assume that you are still writing about the same subject matter and will be confused when they discover that you are not. Extremely lengthy paragraphs (more than 13 or 14 lines) should be broken up, even if all of the sentences relate to a single topic. However, the break should be made at the most logical point, not at the exact midpoint. 
    • Development: A sentence contains a basic idea. A paragraph can be used to develop that idea more fully. As the writer, you have the responsibility to determine how much you develop an idea. This decision must be based on your analysis of each situation (i.e., how much information you want to convey and how much the reader needs or wants to know).
    • Organization: Most paragraphs can, and should, be organized with a topic sentence at the beginning. 
    • Coherence: Words show relationships among the different content elements and explain how the text is organized. As a writer, you have the obligation to provide the appropriate text, as well as to clearly reveal how all the text fits together. Without effective coherence, your writing will be nothing more than a list of ideas requiring the reader to figure out how they are organized and how they relate to each other.
    • Appearance: Paragraphs should be visually appealing. Keeping the paragraph height and width relatively short can enhance good visual appeal. Because readers react negatively to long, uninterrupted passages of text, avoid paragraphs longer than seven or eight lines.
  • Sentences: Use the active voice except where passive voice is more effective (i.e., when the action or the recipient of the action is more important than the actor). Consider the following examples of active vs. passive voice:
    • Not: Sometime during the next month a recommendation will be generated by the planning committee. (Passive) But: The planning committee will recommend a new site next month. (Active)
    • Not: I have hired Samantha Jackson to fill the vacancy. (Active)But: Samantha Jackson has been hired to fill the vacancy. (Passive: Samantha is more important than the person who hired her.)
  • Sentences should flow logically from one to the next. Avoid choppy writing. Also avoid excessive words and phrases and long, complex sentences. Break complex sentences into two or more sentences. Variety in sentence length is important, but the average sentence should be relatively short. In the end, the most important consideration is the clarity of the message. No one likes to have to read something twice to get the message. Although there is no single right way to express any thought, writers should try to achieve the following qualities in each sentence that they write:
    • Select effective words.
    • Keep sentences concise and simple. Omit unnecessary or weak words. Avoid complicated arrangements of words, phrases and clauses.
    • Maintain clear and consistent relationships among sentence parts. Make sure subjects and verbs agree in number, gender and person. Avoid ambiguous references and unclear modifiers.
    • Maintain parallelism. Make sure parallel ideas follow the same grammatical construction.
    • Maintain a consistent point of view concerning person and tense.
    • Make sentences forceful. Use active, rather than passive, writing.
    • Follow accepted standards of punctuation and number usage.

Writing for the Web

In addition to the above listed writing tips, authors who wish to contribute articles to PA TIMES Online are encouraged to review the following:
  • Put one idea per paragraph: Studies have shown that most people reading on the web only SCAN text. To help the reader grasp your idea quickly, get straight to the point and do so using concise, short sentences and paragraphs. Keep one idea to each paragraph. Having short, meaty paragraphs is better than long rambling ones.
  • Use action words: Avoid the passive voice. Using active voice and action words help keep the flow of your pages moving.
  • Use lists instead of paragraphs: Lists are easier to scan than paragraphs, especially if you keep them short.
  • Limit list items to seven words: Studies have shown that people can only reliably remember seven to 10 things at a time. By keeping your list items short, it helps your readers remember them.
  • Write short sentences: Sentences should be as concise as you can make them. Use only the words you need to get the essential information across.
  • Include internal sub-headings: Sub-headings make the text more easily readable.  This allows for better white space between texts and allows readers to follow the organization of your piece much better. It helps keep the flow and readers’ attention. Sub-headings provide internal cues for readers that make it easier for them to absorb your content.
  • Make your links part of the copy: Links are another way Web readers scan pages. Do not use in-text citations; rather, hyperlink to studies or other articles that relate to your topic or issue. This makes the reading easier. 
Web writing tips adapted from http://webdesign.about.com/od/writing/a/aa031405.htm