Writing Guidelines

Prior to submitting your article using the submission form, kindly review these writing guidelines to see if your article fits within the scope of one our publications and to ensure that it complies with our formatting requirements. We strongly encourage you to contact us before writing your article to pitch your idea and get feedback before you even begin.

Audience

Our readers are well-informed, intelligent individuals with a wide range of interests. They are not necessarily specialists in international affairs, though many are. Our readers want to be provoked by smart, fresh takes on the world and rigorous analysis presented in clear, accessible prose. The ideal article strikes a balance: It should spark debate among specialists but also engage and inform a general interest reader.

Approach

We do not seek to publish the news. We seek to publish geopolitical analyses and forecasts. Articles should seek to explore trends and situate single events in their larger context. It is critical that an author moves beyond decribing what is happening and explain why it matters and what might happen next. 

"One problem is the nature of journalism, which covers events, not trends: Bad things can happen quickly, but good things aren’t built in a day, and many consist of things that don’t happen — such as wars in most of the world." - Steven Pinker

EMPATHIC ANALYSIS

Articles should seek to understand nations and their leaders in their own right, without bias or agenda. They should also maintain a fresh perspective and continually challenge preconceived notions. Because of this approach, articles will frequently depart from conventional wisdom.

Beyond observing pure power dynamics between states, it is important to take stock of the actors at play and their perspectives. What makes one issue a flash point for one people as opposed to mundane to another determines the capacity of a country's will to fight. 

Format of Articles

Introduction

The opening paragraph serves two purposes: to engage the reader instantly and to summarise what the story is all about. A good intro depends on your judgment and decisiveness. It declares why the story is being published, what is the newest, most interesting, most important, most significant, most attention-grabbing aspect of the story. It is not a summary of everything yet to come. The best intro will contain a maximum of two or three facts, maybe only one. The worst intro will be uncertain of what the story is all about and will contain several ideas. The best intro will demand that you read on. The worst will make it likely that you will move on.

Rest of the ARTICLE

Once you've got the intro right, the second paragraph will be the most important you write. And so on. Holding the reader's interest does not stop until they have read to the end. You have already planned your structure, the hierarchy of information. After the intro you are amplifying the story, adding new, if subordinate, information, providing detail, explanation and quotes. And doing all this so that the story reads smoothly and seamlessly.

Articles are about providing information, and there is nothing more frustrating for the reader than finishing a story with unanswered questions still hanging. University students are taught about the five Ws: who, what, when, where and why. They are a useful tool to check you have covered all the bases, though not all will always apply. 

Try to put yourself in the place of the reader coming cold to the story, interested in it and asking the questions that will make it clear. Have you dealt with them? The editor will soon tell you if you haven't. There is always a problem over how much knowledge to assume. You cannot always start from the beginning, but you can include sufficient to ensure it is not meaningless. It is a matter of judgement.

Style of Writing
OFFICIALESE

Language used in letters from bank managers and read from their notebooks by police officers giving evidence in court should always be avoided. People do not "proceed"; they walk. Police do not "apprehend"; they arrest or detain. "At this point in time" is now.

Active not passive

Always prefer the active tense in news writing, and particularly in intros. The active tense is faster and more immediate; it also uses fewer words. "Arsenal were beaten by Manchester United last night ... " is slower than "Manchester United beat Arsenal ... ", and if it is a London newspaper "Arsenal lost to Manchester United ... " is still preferable.

Positive NOT negative

Not: "The government has decided not to introduce the planned tax increase on petrol and diesel this autumn." But: "The government has abandoned plans to raise fuel taxes this autumn." News is more engaging if it describes something that is happening, rather than something that is not.

QuotING

Long quotes bring an article to a grinding halt. Short, incisive, direct quotes change the pace of a story, add colour and character, illustrate facts, and introduce personal experience. Analysts paraphrase speeches and reports to focus on the main points, and to make them shorter and more comprehensible. 

Never use a word other than "said" when attributing a quote. Affirmed, opined, exclaimed, interjected, asserted, declared, are all tacky synonyms which do nothing to help the flow of the article. When people speak they "say". 

Rules of Thumb

Before you pitch an idea, keep a few things in mind:

  • Read the articles published here on the website. It’s the best way to get a sense of what we like and the easiest way to avoid sending us something we’ve already covered.
  • Avoid the obvious such as  articles like “NATO at the Crossroads” and “The Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations.”
  • Connect the dots. The CCSS focuses on why what happens “there” matters “here” — and vice versa.
  • Steer clear of wonky, technical language. We are in the business of making big ideas accessible to the widest possible audience.
  • Provide original research or reporting to support your ideas. And be prepared to document what you say. We fact-check everything we publish.
Sections
Analysis

The Analysis section is for political analysis and forecasting. The purpose of an Analysis article is to provide a detailed and thorough investigation or study of a specific topic designed to deepen understanding or identify the component parts. It idealy elaborates on policy prescriptions or scenario forecasts. These articles are composed of 800 to 1200 words.

CommentaryThe Commentary section is for opinion-editorial style articles. The purpose of a commentary article is to express an opinion, assessment, or explanation about an event or specific situation based on an analyst’s position and arguments. These articles should be composed of 600 to 1000 words but may vary according to the level of detail of the commentary.
The Essays section is for long-form research articles. The purpose of these articles is to provide a research question, review of conventional wisdom, and a case study. These articles are composed of 2000 to 5000 words.
The Reviews section is for book review articles. The purpose of the review is to articulate a work’s over-arching thesis. The review should then break down and critique each of the work’s premise and come to a judgement of the author’s conclusion. These articles are relatively brief and are composed of 600 to 800 words.
The purpose of the interview is to consult a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on a given topic and elicit insights from them. These interviews are composed of 800 to 1200 words.