Writing for Context

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The following are some general guidelines drawn up to help with writing for Context

  • Context is interested in articles on all aspects of theory and practice, on new approaches, strategies and techniques, specific problems and particular settings, case-studies, family therapy history or the work of a particular past or present pioneer (including interviews), training and supervision, as just a few examples – in fact, anything in which AFT members and other readers in the field might be interested. We also encourage articles on research but remember, you are not writing for other researchers or for academics but primarily for practitioners who may be interested in your outcomes but do not necessarily need or want to have too much detail about the methods you used (they can email you if they do). Context has less rigorous formal requirements than peer-reviewed academic journals. We are not seeking high academic standards of presentation together with comprehensive literature reviews, although we will look for a good, clear writing-style, academic integrity in matters such as acknowledging sources, the origins of ideas and not "re-inventing the wheel", etc. (At the end of this handout you will find some notes outlining our system for referencing). One problem authors often struggle with, if writing articles based on a masters thesis, is changing it from an academic style of writing to a more simple communicative, conversational style of writing, with as few references as necessary.
  • A contribution should be well structured and have a clear focus, like good therapy. Be clear about the points you want to put across and use a simple communicative, conversational, personal style of writing that can be readily understood. Use a mode of expression you feel comfortable with that suits the content and secures your aim whether your approach is serious, gentle, forceful, ironic, challenging or humorous. We prefer articles written in the first person rather than the third person. We also do not use honorifics. Please do not use footnotes: incorporate what you would want to say in them into the body of your article. We are interested in a range of lengths of article from 1,000 (sometimes less), mostly around 2,000-3,000 and occasionally up to 5,000 words. If an article is too long, you might be asked to shorten it. Ultimately, the issue editor and the general editor reserve the right to edit articles.
  • The general editor, deputy editor and the individual issue editors are available to help and guide those with ideas but for whom writing is a new and perhaps a daunting prospect (our contact details are below). Whilst we can’t write it for you, we are more than happy to do what we can to help you develop your idea(s). It can often be useful to have a colleague read through what you have written – sometimes a friend or family member who knows little about family therapy will be better placed to comment on how clearly you have expressed yourself.
  • Although AFT produces Context primarily for its members, it is also taken by, or read by, many other professionals and therefore widely disseminated. Contributions are also often invited and accepted from a wide range of people and places. So, try to avoid using “in-language” or therapy jargon and please, please, do not use too many unnecessary acronyms (they are likely to be edited out). When writers use acronyms, they tend to pepper their manuscripts with them, sometimes several times in one short paragraph, when they would be far less likely constantly to refer to the approach or diagnosis, project or agency if using the full name each time. Use the full name at a few irregular intervals throughout a text where it is necessary for clarity; then use words such as, "the (or this) approach", "this focus", "it", "we", "our agency", etc. Often, neither the full name nor the acronym is necessary in that it is perfectly obvious from the context what is being talked about. However, there are some that have become used so often in our field they have become words – CAMHS, CBT, AFT, UKCP, for example. With those, we just grit our teeth. Write to be understood by a wide spread of readers.
  • Also, could you send with your completed article, a photograph of yourself or yourselves together with brief biographical statements and preferred contact email addresses? It is also good to receive one or two extra photographs or illustrations of relevance to your topic to insert into the text, if that is possible. All photographs would need to be high-resolution pictures taken with a digital camera at its highest setting. It should ideally be 300 dots per inch – the file size should be a minimum of 1.5 MB (but preferably larger, particularly if of a group). People often send small file-size pictures (about 200kb) that look fine in an email but, when converted for printing, become about one centimetre by one centimetre in size. If taking pictures with a mobile phone or any other device, check it is capable of, and set for, producing large, high-resolution files. When emailing photographs, check that your email program is set to send them at actual size (for example, with Apple Mail, it can be set to send at small, medium, large or actual size). Also, if you send any extra pictures or illustrations, it is important to be clear about any copyright limitations that could exist. Louise can suggest other sources of photographs and we have artists and cartoonists ever on hand.
  • Finally, think “plain language“ and remember George Orwell’s six elementary rules of good writing ('Politics and the English Language', 1946)
    • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.
    • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    • If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.
    • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (or if you are doing so deliberately to make a particular point or to be ironic – Ed).

Referencing

Guidelines to referencing when writing for Context may be downloaded here (word document)

Editorial Team

General Editor: Brian Cade
Email: bcade@talktalk.net  
Tel: 01285 239402

Deputy Editor: Ged Smith
Email: ged59@hotmail.com  
Tel: 07973 560 188

Publications Co-ordinator: Louise Norris
Email: L.Norris@aft.org.uk  
Tel: 01457 872722

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