Essential Principles for Authors

When writing your manuscript, there are ten key principles which you need to follow to ensure that your material is presented in a complete and correct way. Your work may appear in other formats (as an eBook or online product for example) now or in the future; not just as a traditional printed book. Implementing these principles while you write will not only aid the publication process but help your work translate more easily into digital formats.

Download a PDF version of the Essential Principles here.

1. Structurally sound

Structure is a key aspect of your work. A clear structure not only aids readability; if published digitally, the way you have structured your work has a major impact on how well your content will display. The key theme here is consistency—ensure the way you have structured your work is consistent at every level.

  • If grouping chapters into ‘parts’ or ‘sections’ ensure this is done consistently, that is, if one chapter is grouped into ‘parts’/’sections’ then you must group them all in this way.
  • Chapters should be organized in a logical and consistent way across your work. Do not split some chapters into ‘sub-chapters’ and others not.
  • Ensure every chapter uses headings and features consistently. If you are opening chapters with, for example, a mini table of contents, every chapter should employ this feature. The use of headings should be consistent within (and across) chapters; please don’t create a different hierarchy of headings in one chapter from the hierarchy employed in others.
  • If you have included section/part openers etc., they need to ‘do’ something—e.g. at least provide a contents list of the section/part or a general description of what the section/part covers.
  • Size matters—your work may be displayed in other formats on different screens of varying sizes, so think about the impact of large sections of unbroken text, long headings, and large and complex tables.

We discuss structure in more detail here.

2. Heading in the right direction

Headings are essential in structuring your work and ensuring that it is readable and accessible. You need to:

  • Ensure that the pattern of heading usage is organized consistently across your work.
  • Use headings to keep text in digestible ‘chunks’.
  • Use headings in a ‘nested’ way, one inside another. If you are creating a sub-structure within a section, always follow a level 1 heading with a level 2 heading (rather than jumping from a level 1 heading to a level 3 heading).
  • Ensure that this structure falls at the same ‘depth’ of heading in each chapter, i.e. if ‘Overview’ is a level 1 heading in chapter 1, it should be a level 1 heading in all chapters. Otherwise it makes any navigational lists difficult to work with.
  • Use headings that describe the content covered but keep them short, so they can work in all formats (in a digital publication, longer headings are cumbersome).
  • Don’t include references or ‘call outs’ to figures, tables, boxes, or footnotes in headings., e.g. (‘See Figure 2.3’).
  • Ensure all prelim items/sections/parts/chapter headings have a descriptive title. For example, don’t label a part just ‘Part 1’. At the same time, ensure the titles used can stand alone and are unambiguous.
  • Appendices need to be numbered separately and should each have a title (so that a reader knows which appendix may be of interest, just from the list of contents).

We discuss the use of headings in more detail here.

3. Cross-examination

The impact of cross-references in your work relies on the way in which they are employed—using general references or print-only features as a target will invalidate the reference in other formats. You should:

  • Ensure that they point to a specific target in the text. This allows us to cross-reference specifically to this target, which is crucial in digital formats where hyperlinks are used to take readers to a precise point in the text. Avoid using ‘see above’ or ‘see below’ as a means of cross-referencing as they provide nothing specific to link to.
  • Avoid using page numbers as cross-references: page numbers won’t necessarily exist in a digital product.

We discuss cross-referencing in more detail here.

4. Location, location, location

It is important that you include clear and precise instruction on the placement of tables, figures, and boxes, in your manuscript. You should ensure that:

  • All figures, tables, and boxes have a cue in the main text (not in the headings or footnotes). This placement cue or indicator, e.g. and an in-text ‘call out’, e.g. (‘See Figure 2.3’), should be included for all floating figures, tables, and boxes.
  • Ideally elements should be numbered and numbered consistently. Use separate numbering schemes for figures, tables, and boxes.
  • If your text includes any un-numbered, anchored elements, ensure that you have inserted a placement indicator at the location in the manuscript where you wish them to appear.
  • Ensure ‘Figures’ are actually figures, boxes contain at least some text, and tables are content in columns and rows.

We discuss using in-text features in more detail here. See also sections on Artwork and Tables.

5. Reference check

References are not only vital in your printed work but are also a key feature in digital publishing, where bibliographic references are hyperlinked. In order to ensure this linking is possible and correct, you should must:

  • Ensure that all references are complete and consistent, whichever reference style is used (Harvard, Vancouver, or in footnotes).
  • Avoid Ibid. and other similar conventions (op. cit. etc) are avoided; these are print-specific terms and limit effective linking of references in a digital context.

We discuss references in more detail here.

6. Style icon

OUP has a clear house style for authors to follow concerning spelling, punctuation, text formatting, abbreviations, acceptable language, numbers, dates, and units of measure.

  • You will need to follow these instructions and check your work before final submission. This will save time and unnecessary corrections during the production process.
  • Your editor will provide you with any additional subject- or series-specific guidelines you need to follow.
  • When writing, think about the language you use—your work may be published in several ways now or in the future. Ensure it is not specific to just the printed book and that references to material elsewhere in your work make sense to readers whatever device or format they are using to access the information.

Details on OUP’s house style can be found here.

7. Work of art

All non-textual material is referred to as 'artwork'. These could be ‘line drawings’, ‘illustrations’, ‘halftones’, or ‘photographs’. Other features such as tables and boxes or equations may also be part of your work. When including these, you need to think about:

  • Permissions for artwork to be reproduced.
  • Call outs in the text for each artwork item, e.g. (see Figure 1.1) which serve as a reference point and online can be hyperlinked to take readers to the feature (this includes other in-text features such as tables and boxes).
  • For figures (and some complex tables which cannot be placed in the text) which are supplied separately, a placement indicator is also needed IN ADDITION to the call out, which is an instruction in angle brackets to let the typesetter know where they should be placed, e.g. <Figure 3.2 here>.
  • Boxes should not be ‘designed’ in your manuscript but supplied as text only and labelled clearly to indicate where they start and finish (e.g. <start of box>, <end of box>).
  • Photographs should be submitted in the correct format and resolution—300dpi and 4 x 6 inches.
  • Compiling a list of all artwork for submission, which needs to include all details of artwork, any instructions on redrawing, permissions, and all captions or credit lines.

We discuss artwork requirements in more detail here.

8. Cover your bases

Your Contract will state whether you or OUP are responsible for obtaining permission to re-use copyright material in your work. You should bear the following in mind:

  • Start early: failure to obtain permission to use copyright material may significantly affect the content of your title, as well as the publication schedule.
  • Formal permission is needed to reproduce any material in copyright, unless the use made of the original is covered by ‘fair dealing’ being used for purposes of criticism, review, or the reporting of current events, or is covered under the STM Publishers’ Guidelines.

We discuss material where permission is required and how to approach copyright here.

9. Key features

Abstracts and keywords are used to describe your work and ensure that it is fully searchable and discoverable online. Your OUP Editor will let you know if abstracts and keywords are required for your title.

  • An abstract should be written for the work as well as for each chapter.
  • The abstract should be 5–10 sentences capturing the essence and summarizing the content. It should not exceed a paragraph and 250 words for the work and 150 words for a chapter.
  • A list of 5–10 relevant descriptive keywords should also be produced for each chapter and the work. Keywords should be targeted to the content, appear in the abstract and each keyword should not be longer than three words.

We discuss abstracts and keywords in more detail here.

10. Final countdown

All files submitted should be named in a meaningful and consistent way. You should create a separate document for each chapter as well as for all end matter items/prelim items.

Please remember that your manuscript should be complete on final delivery. Missing items or chapters can hinder the smooth production of your work and affect the publication date.

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