Update to article formats

Here is an update to the article formats that we work to. Note that we have trimmed down some of the word lengths, along with titles and straps, which should now be a maximum of 50 and 100 characters respectively.

Article types

Format Description Word count (body)
Announcement A short piece of text focused on transmitting a key fact, or set of facts. Describes the who, what, why, where, when. Focus on facts, do not interpret them. No reported speech. Neutral voice. No target audience. 200 max.
Update A timely news item which describes the why, what, where and when of a result or event, and its implications. Updates are written for a single audience and are pitched at an appropriate level for them. No opinions other than those attributed to named parties. 400 max.
Service update News item which provides updates, such as new features, relating to an EMBL service. Target audience is scientists, and service updates will usually incorporate lists and action items. 600 max.
Feature An in-depth treatment of a topic. This could be a specific area of research, or recent developments in science and policy, for example. Three possible lengths, decided by the editor. Features are always written for the general public. 800, 1,200 or 2,000 words max.
Opinion An opinion piece by a named writer not affiliated with the EMBL Strategy and Communications team. Must be clearly labeled as opinion. Be sure to make it clear from the strap that this is an opinion piece. This is important for contexts where opinion pieces may be mixed in with updates. Something like “Jessica Davo looks back on the early days of SPIM at EMBL” 800 words max.
Profile Short, personal insight into a person’s life and work. Lively, engaging, interesting, unexpected. Can be first person, Q&A-style, or narrative led. Should be accessible to a general audience. 800 words max.
Explainer Explainers are didactic content with a long shelf life that introduce the reader to a topic. Intended for a non-specialist readers. May be embedded within updates or features. 600 words max.
Definition Definitions explain the meaning of a word or expression (as used in the context of EMBL work).  They familiarise the reader with a word or expression they may not be familiar with, but which is important for the story. May be inserted in another text with minimal editing, or used as a box. 20 words max.
List Lists are reusable content that can include timelines and clustered or related concepts. They appeal to readers’ curiosity. 100 words max. per list item
How to ‘How to’ are sequential instructions that outline how something is done. Rather like a recipe, where each step is limited in length. 100 words max. per step

Elements of text

Name Description Length
Title (or “head”) A short statement that explains what the content is about. Should be understandable and should impart information even if read alone. Use active verbs where possible. Puns and word plays are acceptable but not if they risk confusing people or obfuscating the issue. 50 characters max.
Strap A short teaser that is always shown near to the head. Straps should complement the head and entice people to read on. There is no punctuation at the end of the strap. 100 characters max.
Byline Writer’s name. Shown only on opinion pieces, updates and features.
Captions Captions help the reader to make sense of an image or chart, explaining what is being shown. Captions must include a credit in round brackets in the format “(Image: Name/Organization)” Note the space after the colon. There is no punctuation at the end of the caption. 255 characters max.
Body The main content of an article or piece of text. Word counts in the section below refer to the body.
Subheading Subheadings break up the text into structured, manageable parts. Subheadings are informative and entice the reader to proceed through the text. 5 words max.
Standfirst The standfirst (sometimes called a kicker) is an introductory paragraph that comes before the body. It is not to be confused with the lead which is an introductory paragraph that leads into the rest of the article. Standfirsts are used only on features and at the editor’s discretion. 100 words max.

Author: Dan Noyes

I joined EMBL in February 2016, where I am now the Joint Head of the Strategy and Communications team. I'm interested in communications strategy development and solving the problems of how communications works in practice in large organisations.

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