Guide for Contributors: Accessible Language

CoLab Radio is more interested in your passion for a topic than your writing skills, but having an intentional post structure and clear language will make your ideas more accessible to CoLab Radio’s diverse community. These twelve tips should help you make posts that everyone can enjoy.

1 Avoid using dense academic language or local jargon. Someone who has never been to your region or studied your topic should be able to understand and interact with your post.

2 Generally, written posts should be between 500 and 1000 words. Paragraphs should be brief; dense blocks of text are hard on readers’ eyes. Keep sentences short and simple, too. Avoid confusing sentence structures such as “Not only _____, but also _____.”

3 A good title accurately informs a reader on what she is about to read. The post title The Colombian Presidential Elections is boring and uninformative. Conversely, the post title Santos or Mockus: Colombia’s Presidential Candidates Are Not as Polar as Portrayed is an honest and engaging description of the post.

4 Framing a post as a question is a good way to engage readers and inspire discussion on a topic that’s important to you. Stefanie Ritoper’s post, What Makes People Listen?, generated a discussion that advanced all participants’ understanding of this question.

5 When developing a series for CoLab Radio, think about the order of your posts. Pay special attention to your first and last post. The first post should introduce your series and your last post should be some kind of conclusion.

– First Post Introduction: Who’s on Newbury? by Alexa Mills

– Last Post Conclusion: Who’s on Broad? by Aditi Mehta

6 Your feed can be personal reflection, photos, audio, videos, maps, drawings, journalistic reporting, other media forms, or any combination of these.

7 CoLab Radio loves series with multiple contributors.

8 CoLab Radio loves posts translated into two or more languages.

9 Always give some information about yourself in your posts. Why do you have certain opinions and what experiences do you have that are relevant to the subject material? People can connect to posts when they know more about the author and can see that the author is speaking from knowledge.

10 Use hyperlinks throughout your writing to explain concepts and refer to other relevant information.

11 Poor grammar can, albeit unintentionally, mask the truth.* Don’t hide great information behind clumsy language. Avoid the following common errors:

……..a Semicolons separate two independent clauses (see rule number 5) or items in a series.

……..b Do not use sentence fragments or run-on sentences.

……..c The passive voice obscures the truth of who takes what actions in communities. Don’t use it.

……..d Don’t change verb tenses often. Changing verb tenses can confuse the truth of what happened when.

* Some ideas are best expressed in colloquial language specific to a particular region, movement, or group. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz is a great example of language that is both colloquial and accessible. Translations are welcome, too.

12 CoLab Radio Style Guide:

……..a MA is a postal code, not a word. Use the word Massachusetts.

……..b Spell out numbers under 100, such as seventy-eight.

……..c Avoid using dashes and parentheses as part of your sentence structure.

……..d Spell out what an acronym stands for the first time you use it in any post.