Elizabeth from Whitstable in Kent wants to know about sidebars. I sent away for article guidelines from one of the major weekly magazines and they say they want sidebars included with travel articles. What is a sidebar?
A sidebar is the term used for information which is relevant to an article, but which doesn’t appear in the main text. For example, when writing a travel article, the details of how to get to a town, or other information pertinent to the reader, such as the tourist office address and opening times.
These details appear to the side of the main text, usually in a box, to draw attention to the information. Sidebars can also contain quotes, polls and lists related to the article.
The term is used in both newspapers and magazines and is also now common in web design, where sidebars are used to make links stand out more readily against the text.
When submitting your article, the sidebar facts should be given on a separate page and clearly marked as additional information. Many articles, but particularly travel pieces, are enhanced by the use of sidebars. It is a good idea to mention in your query letter the type of additional information you intend to include.
Penny from Sheffield has had her first magazine article acceptance, but panicked when the editor asked for a short bio. She posed the following question: Should I write about myself in the first or third person? Although most of the bios I’ve seen have been written in third person, it feels a bit weird writing about myself in that way. How long should it be? Also, what should I put in it? This is my first success, so I don’t have much to say.
Firstly, Penny, well done on having your article accepted for publication. The bio should be written in the third person, exactly as you want it to appear in the magazine. As far as length is concerned, if the editor hasn’t specified the number of words, then you should count the words of other bios used in the publication. As a general rule, magazines tend to use bios of about 60 words.
An author bio shows that readers can trust the writer because of their expertise in the field. So, let’s say your article is about witchcraft, but you have no previous writing credits, then mentioning that you come from a long line of witches would more than compensate.
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