The overriding criteria by which all submissions are judged is replicability. In other words, the article must include information that is relevant and valuable to finance officers and that can be put into practice. Good writers put themselves in the position of their readers and think about what the readers want to know about the topic, not just what they as writers want to say about it.
The best source of article ideas is your own experience. Individuals who have devised ways to improve revenue collections or reduce borrowing costs, for example, possess valuable information that their colleagues will read and use. Although authors are encouraged to use examples from their own experiences, articles should not read as a chronology of events. Instead, employ a "how to" or "tips and traps" format that focuses the article on the issues that are of most interest to the readers.
Submissions to Government Finance Review should be approximately 2,500 words in length (or about five single-spaced pages). Manuscripts should be submitted electronically with 1-inch margins on all sides. All body text should be 12-point type in a serif font such as Times New Roman. Headers, footers, and page numbers are discouraged, since they will not be reproduced in the publication. All submissions should include a short (20-30 words or 2-3 sentences) abstract of the article, a biographical sketch of the author, and three or four exhibits (see below). The abstract, which will be used to describe the article in the table of contents, should summarize the central issue or question addressed by the article. The biographical sketch should include the author’s name, current title and employer, previous relevant experience and/or accomplishments, and educational attainments. Authors should also provide contact information (address, telephone number, and e-mail address).
Government Finance Review uses the note system of documentation. Reference lists and bibliographies will not be published and should not be included in submissions. Citations and substantive notes should be presented as endnotes and should be numbered consecutively, beginning with 1. Footnotes are not appropriate. Endnotes in the text should be typed above the line (superscript)—with no parentheses, periods, or slash marks—and should follow all punctuation except the dash. The numbers introducing the endnotes themselves should be typed on the line and followed by a period. Endnotes should include full bibliographic references following The Chicago Manual of Style. Typical citations are provided below for convenience.
- Book, Single Author. R. Gregory Michel, Decision Tools for Budgetary Analysis (Chicago: GFOA, 2001).
- Book, Multiple Authors. M. Madden, R. Miranda, and R. Roque, A Guide to Preparing an RFP for Enterprise Financial Systems (Chicago: GFOA, 2001).
- Book, Edited or Compiled. Rowan A. Miranda, ed., ERP and Financial Management Systems: The Backbone of Digital Government (Chicago: GFOA, 2001).
- Chapter or Other Titled Part of a Book. Girard Miller, "Cash Management," in Local Government Finance: Concepts and Practices, ed. J. Petersen and D. Strachota (Chicago: GFOA, 1991), 241-262.
- Journal and Magazine Articles. Stephen J. Gauthier, "Then and Now: 65 Years of the Blue Book," Government Finance Review 17 (2001): 3, 9-11.
- Newspaper Articles. Janet Kidd Stewart, "Treasury Trick Stuns Traders," Chicago Tribune, Thursday, 1 November 2001, sec. 3, p. 1.
- Personal Interviews. Hal Varian, interview by the author, e-mail, Chicago, Ill., 27 September 2001.
Exhibits not only facilitate understanding of articles, but they also enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of the publication. As such, three or four exhibits should accompany submissions to Government Finance Review. These may include, but are not limited to, data tables, charts, and graphs; flow charts; illustrations; and photographs. The article’s text should refer the reader to each exhibit (appropriately labeled Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2, etc., not Table 1 or Figure 1). Although exhibits may be inserted directly into the manuscript for purposes of illustration, a separate digital file of each exhibit should be provided to ensure the quality of reproduction. This is particularly true of those exhibits created with Microsoft Excel’s Chart Wizard. Exhibits created with Microsoft PowerPoint are discouraged since they do not reproduce well. The preferred file format for photographs is Tag(ged) Image File Format (TIFF). Photographs downloaded from the Internet, which are typically either JPEG or GIF file formats, are generally discouraged.
Government Finance Review follows the style guidelines in The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style. Authors are encouraged to consult these texts to resolve stylistic issues. Some of the more troublesome issues are clarified below for convenience.
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 one spelled-out use), 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).
Spacing. Many authors are accustomed to inserting two spaces after a period. However, most publications, including GFR, insert only one space after a period. Authors are urged to conform.
The editors of Government Finance Review carefully edit all manuscripts to ensure that they conform to the publication’s 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 manuscript submissions to GFR 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 four major components: (1) opening, (2) agenda, (3) body, and (4) 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. The editors of GFR generally prefer the direct approach. In either case, the opening should lay a logical groundwork upon which the author can build the rest of the article.
Agenda. The agenda usually works hand-in-hand with the opening to form the introduction. It should provide a general overview, or map, of the main points to be covered in the article. The agenda gives the reader the structure of the body of the message, enabling the reader to receive the information in a systematic way. Without an overview, the reader has no mental map, resulting in confusing reception and inefficient processing. As a writer, try to write in a no-surprise environment, letting the reader know in advance the general ideas that are coming before they actually arrive. The agenda may consist of a single sentence or an entire paragraph, depending on the article’s content and the author’s preferences.
Body. The body expands on the necessary details of every part of the agenda or overview. It should follow roughly the same organization as the agenda, using appropriate headings to break up text and to provide access to the different sections. Within these 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.
In essence, you should follow the age-old admonition to tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em. It may sound simple, but it’s a process that works.
- 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 five major attributes: (1) unity, (2) development, (3) organization, (4) coherence, and (5) appearance. Each of these attributes is briefly discussed below.
- 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 offended 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. This sequence represents the direct order. This order is preferable to the indirect order—which places the main idea at the end of the paragraph—because it gives the reader an overview at the beginning, thus creating the right mind set for the remaining sentences.
- 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. Good visual appeal can be enhanced by keeping the paragraph height and width relatively short. Because readers react negatively to long, uninterrupted passages of text, avoid paragraphs longer than seven or eight lines. Authors should also generally avoid paragraphs shorter than three sentences.
- 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 seven 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.