This resource is designed to:
- Help AUTHORS prepare their content for submission to the Backpacking Light editorial staff; and
- Help EDITORS maintain style guidelines during the editing process.
- Authors will be assigned a Google Doc file for developing/submitting their story, and this is where editors will do most of their work.
- Editors should edit the document only in Google Docs Suggesting Mode – never alter the original text in Editing mode.
Before you submit: make sure your writing quality and readability are good!
- Your article content should score >60 for technical articles and >70 for non-technical articles on a Flesch readability test.
- Use a grammar checker such as Grammarly to help refine your writing.
- Ask for editing support from a friend or colleague who has trusted writing experience before you submit your draft. A second set of eyes from a qualified person can go a long way towards improving your writing quality!
- Narratives can be written in either past (trip report style) or present (in-the-moment journal style) tense. Be consistent and consider whether you are writing about a past event, or a present action.
- Generally, try to preserve present tense whenever possible in technical writing such as reviews.
- Passive voice should be limited to rare instances when active voice creates a poorly flowing sentence structure.
These guidelines follow the Chicago Manual of Style:
- Introduce the list with a complete sentence (as above) — that is, one that doesn’t need to be completed by the list.
- Be consistent within bulleted lists and strive for consistency as much as possible between the bulleted lists in a document.
- Items in the list should have parallel verb/sentence construction:
- hike three miles
- cross the river
- hike downstream 100 yards to a large eddy
- paddle downstream for seven miles
- Items do not need to be complete sentences.
- In the case of a bulleted list that consists of incomplete sentences, each item starts with a lowercase letter and needs no terminal punctuation (• bears).
- Periods are not required for items in a list unless one item is a complete sentence. Then all items should be treated as complete sentences, beginning with capital letters and ending with periods.
- If a list completes the introductory sentence, items begin with lowercase letters and conclude with a comma or semicolon. The final item in the list concludes with a period.
- Items in numbered lists should begin with a number followed by a period, then a space, then a capital letter (1. Cut fabric on its bias).
Numbers or Bullets?
- Use a numbered list when: your list designates a chronology or sequence, ranking of importance, or reflect an exact number stated in the lead-in statement.
- Use a bulleted list for other lists.
Word and Line Spacing:
- Single spacing only in document.
- Eliminate multiple spaces between words and sentences – only one space!
- One extra line break between paragraphs (e.g., one line space between paragraphs).
- One extra line break between paragraph and beginning of a list.
- Remove all line breaks before and after headings (no line spacing before or after headings).
Image Spacing and Caption Formatting:
- One extra line break before an image (i.e., one blank line between a paragraph and the start of an image).
- Image captions positioned immediately below image, italicized, and left-aligned.
- Remove extra line breaks between an image and its caption (i.e., no extra line space between bottom of image and caption).
- Insert an extra line break between a caption and the next paragraph (but remove extra line breaks if the next paragraph after a caption is a heading)
- All links to internal and external URLs *must* be verified for accuracy (do they go where you expect them to go?) and validity (are they broken or live?)
- All brand/product links should go to the product owner’s website, not a retailer or distributor. No Amazon links.
Numbers and Units of Measure
- A number and its unit should be separated by one space.
- 8.4 oz NOT 8.4oz
- Decimal units with a value of less than 1.0 should have a leading zero:
- 0.5 oz NOT .5 oz
- Please include both Imperial and SI units, with SI units in parentheses:
- In technical or scientific text, physical quantities and units of time are expressed in numerals, whether whole numbers or fractions, almost always followed by an abbreviated form of the unit.
- 50 km (not kilometers)
- 4.5 L (not liters)
- 240 V (not volts)
- 85 g (not grams)
- However, a unit of measurement used without a numeral should always be spelled out, even in scientific contexts.
- “I didn’t know how many kilometers I had left to hike.” (not km)
- Use hyphens sparingly, but wisely. Hyphenate age terms and numbers or measurements when spelled out before a noun.
- A thirty-year-old woman
- A fifty-mile trek
- In technical or scientific text, use the degree symbol and unit name (°F or °C), with a space after the number of measure. Do not use the degree symbol when denoting Kelvin. Examples:
- 32 °F (0 °C)
- 452 K
- For units of monetary measure, do not use cents designation if it’s not needed.
- Use $59 instead of $59.00
- For complex units, use the Unicode dot operator character for separating multiple unit types in either the numerator or denominator of the unit. For example:
Brand Names, Product Models, and Trademarks
- Make sure you are using the correct capitalization and spelling of the brand/model/trademark as used by the original brand/trademark holder. Verify the spelling of all branding for products and technologies at the brand’s website.
- Leave out trademark (TM) and registered trademark (R) designations to improve readability for users.
- When referring to specific products, use the complete brand-and-product name for the first mention of the product below any heading or in any single image caption:
- e.g., use “Arc’teryx Venta Mitten” NOT “Venta Mitten”
- Subsequent mentions of the product below a heading or in a single caption can be abbreviated, e.g., “Venta Mitten”
- All images showing a product should contain a reference to that product in the caption (brand and model) so readers who scan and only view images and read captions have full context.
Note the following guidelines:
- In your Google Doc, assign the Heading 2 as your top-level headings, and then Heading 3 for subheadings. Do not use any lower level (4, 5, 6…) subheadings.
- Try to limit your word count below each heading to 300 words or less. If you have more narrative than this, split the longer content using subheadings as appropriate.
- Few, if any people, will read your article all the way through at first – they will scan and skim and scroll. So, if you have engaging headings that make sense and entice the reader, they will be more likely to read your article. Practice writing headings. Here are some guidelines / suggestions:
- No adjectives or adverbs.
- No superlatives or hyperbole.
- Use clear, concise descriptions of the content.
- Frame your headline as a question.
- Don’t use headings comprised of more than 7 words.
- Start your article with a level 2 Heading section titled “Introduction” or “Overview”.
- End your article with a level 2 Heading section titled “Conclusion” or “Summary”.
- Place punctuation inside quotes, as a general rule.
- Use a comma in compound sentences (two nouns and two verbs).
- Use “space dash space” between words, rather than an em or en dash (standard in internet publishing).
- Do not make gear possessive.
- “McHale Subpop pack,” NOT “McHale’s Subpop pack”
- Do not pluralize model names.
- “Arc’teryx Venta Mittens” NOT “Arc’teryx Ventas”
- Do not use apostrophes with plural numbers unless the number is actually a possessive.
- OK: In the 1990s
- OK: The 1990’s growth
- Do not type two spaces after a period! One space only, please. We no longer use typewriters!
You may use acronyms, but be sure that the first instance of the acronym in an article uses the full term with the acronym in parentheses:
- polyurethane (PU)
After that first definition, you may use the acronym in future instances.
Please make all efforts to use nomenclature in a style and manner consistent with Backpacking Light.
|AM (time)||downproof||fry pan||ml||Polarguard Delta||single wall||underquilt|
|air flow||drawcord||Gore-Tex||MontBell||poncho/tarp||snowshoe||waistbelt (use hipbelt)|
|axe||Dryloft||Graupel (snow pellets)||no-frills||pot stand||softshell||water resistance rated|
|backcountry||durable water-repellent finish (in text)||guyline||no-see-um||PrimaLoft||spring, summer, fall, winter (not capitalized)||waterproof|
|backpanel||DWR (in specs)||guyout||non-breathable||rain shell||storm flap||waterproof/breathable (in text)|
|base weight||e.g.||hipbelt||north, south, east, west (not capitalized)||rainfly||three-layer||WPB (in specs)|
|bushwhacking||Epic (rather than EPIC)||i.e.||PM (time)||ripstop||three-season||watertight|
|cookpot||field testing||LED||pack weight||set up (v)||thru-hiker||watts (in text)|
|30 denier (in text)||fly fishing||lightweight (adj.)||packbag||set-up (n)||tieout||W (in specs)|
|30d (in specs)||framesheet||men’s M (in specs||piezoelectric||sidehill||two-piece||windscreen|
|downhill||freestanding||men’s medium (in text)||Polarguard 3D||silicone-impregnated||ultralight||windshirt|
Photos comprise a significant and increasing proportion of Backpacking Light editorial content. They are frequently the most important part of a given article or feature and are extremely important for reviews, DIY articles, and many technical inquiries. Photographs are also of incalculable value in conveying the beauty of places we visit and the excitement of our various adventures. Along with increasing the skills of our readers, we must always be mindful that we’re ambassadors for our sport and are key to attracting new backpackers. To that end, please keep in mind the following:
- Take and submit more shots than you think you need to give the editors a choice. Provide sufficient notes to assure we correctly identify and caption every place, thing, and person.
- If submitting illustrations or maps, they must be publication-ready, and you may be asked to edit them further after review.
- Think about the story you are trying to tell with each photo and ensure that the resulting photos look as though they belong together.
- Please set your camera to its highest resolution and quality settings.
Images should be at least 1,600 pixels on their longest side and uploaded as uncompressed JPG’s. When you insert them into your article, please insert them into their own line. We may change that layout as your article goes into production, but this method is essential so we can understand how you want your story to flow. Add captions to images that include an image description if it’s not clear from the story, and/or a photo credit if the image credit does not belong to the article author.
Editing your photos: Here’s a great photography basics guide from Lifehacker.
Tables, illustrations, and other elements – instructions are provided in your assigned Google Doc. Your assigned editor will provide further instructions as needed.
Photo File Naming
Before embedding your photos in your Google Doc, please rename the files.
Your photo filenames should contain, at minimum, your last name and one or two notable keywords related to the story that they are accompanying, suffixed with an index number (“-1”, “-2”, etc.) to help identify its order of appearance in the story.
Caption Formatting and Image Credits
- Captions should be italicized and place immediately below the photo.
- Captions should describe the photo as a standalone piece of editorial content. Don’t rely on other text to describe the basic meaning of the photo.
- Photo credits should be given if the photo or illustration rights are not owned by the author, and placed at the end of the caption, i.e.:
- Photo: Bobby Lighterhiker
- All copyrighted photos used from sources other than the author or Backpacking Light must be cleared for use by the author and noted accordingly with a permission statement granted by (rights holder) in the caption.
- The word “caption” should not be in the caption.
Send a copy of your audio file to your editor via email, and reference the filename at the appropriate place in your text.
- Format: .mp3
- Minimum Bit Rate: 64 kbps (can be lower for call-in audio due to quality).
- File Size: unimportant.
Upload video to Youtube or Vimeo, and insert the direct link (not the embed code) into your article on its own line where you want the video to appear.
- Format: Youtube or Vimeo only, 1080p HD minimum