Write for Just Security

Thank you for your interest in writing for Just Security. Contributors are key to our success. Please send any submissions to: submissions@justsecurity.org. Though we try to reply to all submissions, we sometimes can’t, due to the high volume. Send letters to the editor (which will be considered for publication unless specifically requested otherwise by the author) to: lte@justsecurity.org. We will be in contact with you before publishing.

Please be sure to paste the text of your article into the body of your email, as well as attaching as a Word document. Please include your name(s) (byline) as it (they) should appear on the final post.

If you have already submitted your piece to another outlet, please wait for them to respond, or notify them that you are withdrawing it before submitting to Just Security, so that you avoid awkwardness in case both outlets accept. If you decide to submit elsewhere after submitting to Just Security, please notify us as soon as possible that the piece is no longer available exclusively.

Before writing your piece, please read our writing and style guides below.

Writing

Article Types

Just Security publishes two main types of articles: (1) crisp explanatory and analytic pieces geared toward a broad policy, national/international security, and legal audience; and (2) deep dives that examine the nuances of a particular legal or policy issue.

As you write, please keep in mind that our audience is broader than just lawyers. It includes congressional staff, policymakers, experts, and national security journalists. A large part of Just Security’s mission is educating this broad audience of decision-makers and influencers about all of the important issues we cover, and whenever possible, offering solutions. We receive regular feedback from this group of time-pressed readers that one of the things they value the most about Just Security is our ability to quickly get to the heart of, and explain, complex issues.

The crisp policy pieces (the first category mentioned above) are intelligent and thought-provoking, yet accessible to our broad audience. These articles tend to be our most widely read, and play a huge role in growing our — and your — readership and influence. They should strive to identify an angle about an important topic that is being overlooked in the public debate. They should be written in a snappy manner that makes them enjoyable to read. They don’t need to be terribly long — 800 to 1,500 words is often plenty. Don’t be afraid to have fun with such pieces (or even be a bit strategically flippant). 

Examples of this type of piece:

The second category of articles is also intelligent and thought-provoking, but they are not necessarily as accessible as the first group. They tend to be deep dives into legal and policy matters. They also are the type of article on which we built our name. They tend to be anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 words. 

Examples of these posts:

Author Disclosures

Just Security encourages submissions from authors who have unique perspectives on particular policies, legislation, court cases, and so on. For full transparency, if you are actively involved in an ongoing matter, that should be disclosed directly in the text of the piece, as well as possibly in an editor’s note at the end of the piece and/or in your bio that appears on the Just Security site.

Please also disclose such connections in your submissions email as well.

Writing Style and Structure

All Just Security posts should conform to American English spellings and language conventions, with Merriam-Webster as the reference dictionary. Due to our status as a resource for a broad audience, we follow a modified version of Associated Press (AP) Style. When in doubt, that’s your best source for stylistic guidance (see below for more on style conventions).

Your opening paragraph (or lede) is in many ways the most important. It serves as your advertising and is where you must convince a very busy audience to read your full post. A large majority of readers will leave after the first paragraph, unless you give them a very good reason to stay. As such, your first sentence should be written in simple, snappy prose that interests or excites, and that avoids stating something obvious. Get quickly to your central argument, either in your very first sentence or very soon thereafter, and signal to the reader what to expect in the piece, without giving too much away.

Do this by stating a condensed, lively version of your argument that frames the rest of the post, where you can build supporting evidence and explore your argument in depth. Below is an example of how not to do this. The author’s attempt to frame the discussion fails to explain why a busy reader, unfamiliar with this case should care about it:

In Humpty Dumpty v. The Wall, the Supreme Court explained with respect to the Anti-Egg Terrorism Act of 2002, “we understand Congress’ grant of authority to use force against suspicious communities of eggs in the War Against Egg Terror to include the authority to detain such eggs during the duration of the War, consistent with law of war principles.” In recent weeks, lawyers representing five ornate eggs in Fabergé v. The Wall have asked the administration to release their clients on the grounds that the War Against Egg Terror is both ridiculous and has been brought to an end by the President’s acknowledgment of the end of the conflict. It is worth examining what law of war principles have to say about the eggs’ arguments and when they should be released, given that their detention has arguably been for security reasons.

A more effective way to frame a post about the newer fictional case would be much simpler and more direct. Something like: 

We are now more than a decade into the War Against Egg Terror, and a new petition raises serious questions about the U.S. policy of indefinitely detaining eggs. It squarely asks a federal court of appeals, given the president’s statements that the conflict is now at an end (and given how ridiculous the war is), to release their clients from detention.

It’s best to avoid the overused conventions of saying “this post examines” or “this contribution to Just Security will look at…” The following screenshot from The New Yorker sums it up well:

Style-Guide-Example

Avoid complex and jargon-laden sentences. We want to reach policymakers and thought leaders who don’t necessarily have a legal background. The key to our success is explaining nuanced and complex issues in a straightforward manner. 

Try to avoid long paragraphs, and use subheadings to break up the text visually as well as to organize the piece. In the deluge of information flowing onto our screens every day, many readers read by scanning through quickly. Grab their attention with those subheadings and by using the valuable real estate at the beginning of each paragraph wisely (e.g. don’t waste that spot with less important numbers or dates or attribution, unless it’s someone famous).

Please avoid using Latin phrases unless absolutely necessary. While terms like certiorari, habeas corpus, and amicus brief are acceptable, using terms such as inter alia, jus ad bellum, jus in bello, or even amici when common alternatives are available may alienate otherwise important and well-informed policymakers and others you’re trying to reach who aren’t steeped in the jargon. We do not italicize Latin phrases, because we italicize publication names and wish to avoid confusion.

Try to avoid “we” or “our” when referring to the United States or Americans because Just Security has many readers outside the United States, and aspires to gain more. The same is true for “here” in reference to the United States — just write “in the United States.”

Post Titles/Headlines

We work with authors to develop the best possible title/headline. A good one is clear and concise, quickly sums up the gist of your post, and grabs the reader’s attention. It doesn’t always need to explain all the nuance of your piece, but it should contain key words signaling the topic. It says, “Here’s what this is about,” as plainly yet interestingly as possible.

With some exceptions, brevity is important for readability, keeping the site aesthetically clean, and for sharing your post on social media (people are more likely to quickly tweet posts with shorter headlines that won’t be cut off by the 280-character limit on Twitter). 

Some good examples: 

Titles/headlines should be capitalized according to the AP Stylebook guidelines. These rules basically boil down to: Capitalize every word that is longer than 3 letters, as well as all verbs, nouns, and pronouns regardless of length. 

Please avoid italicizing words (including case names) in titles/headlines. When readers attempt to share posts that have italicized words in the title, various bits of HTML code are included in auto-generated tweets.

Style Conventions

As mentioned above, we follow a modified version of Associated Press (AP) Style.

Links, Footnotes, Honorifics, and Italics

Please, no footnotes. Use links instead. We are a digital publication, and links are the standard practice in this domain. They provide readers with a faster, easier route to your reference materials. 

Insert your links directly into the text (hyperlink) instead of having them stand alone in parentheses; we will check them to make sure they work. Try to limit links to three or four words of text or fewer, and generally link to any given source only once in the post. If you need to link to a specific page within a PDF, we can help you do this. If you want to link to documents that you have that aren’t available online, we can often upload the documents to our site and generate a link to them for use in your text.

We use an honorific or title only on first mention. After that, the individual’s last name will suffice. We also spell out titles; think “Senator” instead of “Sen.”

Capitalize a title only if it occurs immediately before a person’s name without a comma. For example, after the first reference to “Chief Justice Earl Warren,” use “Warren” or, if the person to whom you’re referring is absolutely clear, “the chief justice.”

We italicize the titles of news outlets (but not the companies that own them, e.g. NBC News vs. NBC the company) and court cases in our pieces. We use quotation marks around the titles of books, articles, songs, television shows, films, computer games, poems, lectures, speeches, and works of art.

Punctuation, Capitalization, and Symbols

We believe in the Oxford comma and in using semicolons in complex lists. We also place periods and commas inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks.

Please use one space between a period that ends a sentence and the beginning of the following sentence, not two spaces.

Generally don’t put periods between letters in abbreviations, unless otherwise indicated here. So, after a piece introduces the acronym for the International Court of Justice (ICJ), it might say, “U.S. support for the ICJ.” 

Black Americans — Capitalize “Black,” per June 11, 2020 statement from the National Association of Black Journalists: “The organization believes it is important to capitalize “Black” when referring to (and out of respect for) the Black diaspora.” Capitalize “White” and “Brown” in similar usage, e.g. Black and Brown Americans, also per the NABJ: “NABJ also recommends that whenever a color is used to appropriately describe race then it should be capitalized, including White and Brown.” Lowercase “white” in describing an ideology, e.g. white supremacist, white supremacy.

Don’t capitalize non-proper nouns or adjectives such as “administration” or “congressional” unless they are the first word in a sentence.

When using em dashes — like this — please place spaces on either side of each dash. Do the same for ellipses, placing spaces before and after ellipses but no spaces between the periods (e.g., “James said, ‘I will go … to the store today.’”).

Specific Words and Abbreviations

For individuals whose names have been translated from a non-Latin alphabet, we generally conform to the most widely used spelling or, if known, the spelling preferred by the individual. Other words that are commonly found on Just Security (and our conventions for them) include:

  • “adviser” in all cases except “national security advisor”
  • al-Qaeda
  • al-Shabaab
  • anti-corruption
  • Anwar al-Aulaqi
  • backdoor (e.g., “backdoor search”)
  • CIA
  • counterterror, counterterrorism (lowercase, no hyphen)
  • Executive Order 12333
  • FBI
  • Gambia (no article)
  • GPS
  • Guantánamo
  • internet (lowercase)
  • NATO
  • Nongovernmental
  • OK
  • policymaker(s)
  • protester (vs protestor)
  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy
  • whistleblower

For the abbreviated names of statutes and bills, we do not capitalize every letter. For example, we write “the USA Freedom Act” and “the Patriot Act.” This is done for readability (and so that it doesn’t appear as if we’re yelling on the Internet; no one likes that guy).

Use Representative or Senator for lawmaker titles. Follow AP style for the format of their state and party affiliations, but with U.S. postal abbreviations rather than the longer AP abbreviations. For example: (D-MA), (R-ME), and (I-VT). 

Spell out months when alone or only with the year; abbreviate months when referring to a specific date, e.g. “October” or “October 2018” vs. “Oct. 10, 2018,” or just “Oct. 10” if the year is clear/obvious.

If referring to the “Islamic State” using that particular phrase, preface it on the first reference with “self-styled” and follow it with “militant group,” and spell out the term throughout the piece. Authors may also use “ISIS,” “ISIL,” or “Daesh” if they prefer. 

Governments, Government Agencies, and Committees

For countries with longer formal names, use their common names instead. For example, use “North Korea” instead of “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” “Iran” instead of “Islamic Republic of Iran,” and “Syria” instead of “Syrian Arab Republic.”

Spell out “United States” when used as a noun, but abbreviate with periods (“U.S.”) when used as an adjective. 

Abbreviate United Kingdom to “U.K.” on first reference and subsequent references, regardless of whether used as a noun or an adjective.

Spell out “United Nations” on the first reference, then abbreviate to “U.N.” on second reference, regardless of whether used as a noun or an adjective.

Use “State Department” (rather than Department of State) and include an indication to which the department belongs (“U.S. State Department”) unless it’s absolutely clear from the context. On first reference, either “Department of Justice” or “Justice Department” is fine. Same for “Department of Defense” or “Defense Department.” After that, abbreviate as DOJ or DOD (all letters uppercase). There is no need to define the acronym. Maybe use “Justice Department” on second reference if the first reference is too far away. “At Justice” is ok if the meaning is clear. If it’s “the department,” lowercase it.

When referring to a branch of government, lowercase both words in all instances — e.g. “executive branch,” “legislative branch,” “judicial branch.”

FBI and CIA can stand alone as acronyms, but use National Security Agency on first reference, then NSA on second reference.

Capitalize the I and C in “Intelligence Community” on first reference when discussing the official 17-member U.S. Intelligence Community. After that, you can abbreviate as IC.

Congressional committees, U.N. bodies, and other official organizations can have long and convoluted titles. It’s okay and encouraged to condense these titles. For example, you can write, “the Senate Intelligence Committee” and include an abbreviation in parentheses after the first reference that reads something like “(known by its acronym, SSCI).” The same is true for organizations like the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (House Intelligence Committee) or the U.N. Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (the U.N. Group of Experts on Information Technology and Security, or even the U.N. Group of Experts on Cybersecurity). Often U.N. groups or special rapporteurs have already adopted a shortened version of their longer titles, so you might look that up.

 

Last updated: June 16, 2020