Writers’ Guidelines

Providence is happy to accept unsolicited manuscripts. Writers should familiarize themselves with the magazine and website, noting our commitment to rigorous analysis delivered in widely accessible prose aimed at a thoughtful readership, as well as our willingness to be edgy, witty, and to pick a fight and be polemical—all while motivated and seasoned by charity.

Topics

Providence publishes widely on matters intersecting Christian faith and theology with national security, foreign policy, international relations, political theory, defense, war, terrorism, global economy, energy, etc. Operating generally from within a Christian realist perspective, we have a strong focus on presenting the classic just war tradition as an alternative to pacifist idealism; on presenting moral claims as real claims as an alternative to cynical realism and therefore on expanding the definition of national interest to include more than security and economic, cultural, or political well-being; on presenting responsibility as an alternative to isolationism even as we also provision prudential limits to intervention; on standing against knee-jerk, indiscriminate anti-Israelism. That said, Christian realism is a wide tradition, and we are open to publishing views from across the political spectrum so long as they help address or advance our focal concerns.

Readership

Writers should presume an intelligent but non-specialist readership. In other words, the average reader has probably been to or graduated from college, but may not have studied foreign policy, international relations, or Christian ethics. When specialist ideas and words are mentioned, they should be explained or defined briefly.

Style and Exceptions

Unless otherwise noted, Providence uses The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), seventeenth edition.

For quick reference, below are some CMOS rules that some writers may not be accustomed to:

  • For definitions and spellings, follow Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (2.54).
  • Use the Serial (Oxford) Comma (6.19).
  • Use hyphens sparingly (7.89).
  • Professional and other titles should generally be lowercase unless used before a name (8.19-26). For instance, the president; George Washington, the first president of the United States; President George Washington.
  • Official names of national and international organization, alliances, and political movements and parties are capitalized (e.g., the Republican Party), as well as terms identifying formal members or adherents to such groups (e.g., a Republican). Names of systems of thought and references to the adherents of those systems are normally lowercase (e.g., socialism, a socialist). An exception can be “Communist” and “Communism.” When talking about the idea and its adherents, it’s normally lowercase. When there’s a political party in a country named after communism, the party’s name and its adherents would be capitalized. If both the communist philosophy and a political party are referenced throughout the article, the author can choose to capitalize all of them to avoid editorial headaches (8.66).
  • Pronouns for God and Jesus can be capitalized if the author wishes, though Chicago recommends against it (8.95).
  • Regardless of length, all prepositions in a headline or article title are usually lowercase (8.159).
  • Generally, ordinals between first and one-hundredth are spelled out (9.6), including for centuries like the twenty-first century (9.32).
  • The United States should be abbreviated as “US” and not “U.S.” (10.4).
  • For the Arabic definite article “al,” put in lowercase (unless at the beginning of the sentence) and connect to the noun with a hyphen. For instance, use al-Qaeda and Bashar al-Assad (11.79). On another note, use Kim Jong-un instead of Kim Jong Un.

Our exceptions to Chicago include:

  • Chicago’s general rule for possessives requires almost all plural nouns end with an apostrophe and an s, even if the word ends in s. For instance, the possessive of bass is bass’s (see 7.16). Instead, Providence follows the alternative practice for words ending in s, so the possessive of bass would be bass’ (see 7.22).
  • For a member of the US Marine Corps, Chicago puts “marine” in lowercase (see 8.112; note that the word for a member of the US Senate, “senator,” is also lowercase, unless used as a title before a name). American tradition capitalizes “Marine,” and official US military style guides also capitalize words like “Sailor,” “Airman,” “Soldier,” and even “Family.” Providence will only capitalize Marine.
  • Numbers from zero through 100 are spelled out according to CMOS (see 9.2). However, Providence follows the alternative rule (see 9.3), which requires spelling out single-digit numbers (zero through nine) and using numerals for all others.
  • When creating endnote citations for articles found online, do not give entire URL. Instead, give only the domain name (e.g., ProvidenceMag.com).

Citations

We prefer narrative citations worked into the body of the text (e.g., “In her book Just War Against Terror, Jean Bethke Elshtain argues…” or, if more detail is deemed important, “In the chapter ‘The Pulpit Responds to Terror’ in her book Just War Against Terror, Jean Bethke Elshtain argues…”). That said, readability, flow, and accurate attribution are crucial. We want our readers to sense that arguments emerge from a body of traditional thought on these matters and our mission is aided by guiding readers to appropriate sources and thinkers. We are willing to defer to the writer’s judgment as to whether to use parenthetical page numbers or location indicators following quotations or when to resort to endnotes (never footnotes) to add supplemental commentary or to avoid clogging up the prose with a large number of citations.

For essays or blogs submitted for the website, please embed links where necessary.

Article Length

For the website, we prefer to publish articles that are between 500 to 1,200 words long but are willing to publish longer pieces that are readable.

For the print edition, book reviews are between 800 to 1,200 words long, essays are 1,500 to 3,000 words long, and lead features are between 3,250 to 4,000 words long.

Other General Guidelines We Ask Writers to Follow

Context

  • Explain from the beginning. Do not assume your readers know your subject’s background. Providence’s readers are all very, very smart, but they are not all experts in your field. Make sure every smart, interested reader can follow each and every sentence and paragraph you write.
  • Engage the reader. First impressions are everything, even—especially!—with writing. Find the most engaging anecdote or news event to launch into your article and put your issue in a wider perspective. Place your expertise in context so that the smart reader outside your field can understand. Find that conversational angle, hook the reader, then teach the reader what you know.

Clarity

  • Kill jargon dead. Don’t use terms of art that only experts in your field will understand.
  • Avoid personal pronouns and the royal “we.”
    1. The royal “we” is never acceptable. We will always edit this out. Save us both time and avoid using it.
    2. Do not use “we” or “us” to refer to a specific country; we have readers from around the world and don’t want to exclude them.
    3. If your entire piece is about your experience, let’s talk about using personal pronouns and discuss the best approach before you submit your piece; 90 percent of the time a piece is stronger avoiding the personal experience, but there is still that 10 percent in which it is a useful tool.
  • Write in standard, conversational English. Hifalutin isn’t better; it’s just hifalutin.
  • Avoid the passive voice. Scientific writing for research journals often favors use of the passive voice, i.e., “The dog was bitten by the man” rather than, “The man bit the dog.” Use active voice unless there is an overwhelming reason to use passive. (Note from editor: There is almost never an overwhelming reason to use passive.)
  • Limit the acronyms. In fact, avoid them if at all possible. Unfamiliar acronyms are extremely off-putting to the non-expert, and it’s remarkable how many of them can be avoided, with remarkably little effort.

Conviction

  • Convincingly Christian. Providence is not merely a news publication. We are a thought journal committed to a core set of values and ideas, and our mission is to inculcate these values and ideals among our readers and subscribers. Do not merely write a news report; write a perspective that seeks to enlighten the soul as well as inform the mind.
  • Inspire the reader. We want the last impression of your piece to be the lasting impression of your piece. Do not recap what you just wrote about; the reader just read it, so it’s unnecessary. Rather, use that last paragraph to push the discussion forward. Your last words will be the first words the reader uses when telling a colleague about your piece. Make them good.
  • Every publication has a house style, as do we (see above). We are sticklers, so please understand that we won’t change house style just for you

Payment

We pay $100 per article for the website.

For the print edition, we pay $250 for book reviews and between $500 and $1,000 for essays and features.

Contributors will need to provide an invoice and fill out tax paperwork before we can pay.

Submissions

Manuscripts in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx) can be sent to submissions@providencemag.com.