NACLA Style and Submission Guidelines: Online
NACLA Report on the Americas is a website that covers Latin America and the Caribbean from a critical, progressive perspective. We offer analysis of the history of U.S. political, military, and economic intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean; we cover progressive governments and social movements in Latin America and the Latino United States; and we cover the arts and cultural production that have bred and are products of these movements.
We are particularly interested in investigative articles on Latin American and U.S. Latino political and economic developments, and U.S. policy toward the region.
- Length: Online articles and columns are typically 800-1,400 words. Longer features are typically 1,500-2,000 words. Investigate articles are 2,000-3,500 words. We consider other longer web stories on a case-by-case basis.
- NACLA house style is based with some exceptions on The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition. Please follow Chicago as best you can. Style adjustments will be made in the process of editing.
- To the best of their abilities, our writers tell stories. The use of evocative or jarring hooks, wit, vivid anecdotes, brief profiles of relevant actors, along with a number of illustrative examples and quotations from participants and observers, are fundamental to livening up an article.
- NACLA does not publish straightforward reporting of events. NACLA articles should always include the relevant sociocultural or political-economic context in which the reported events unfold.
With only rare exceptions, we do NOT publish
- Articles that were originally written as academic assignments or for publication in academic journals (unless rewritten with a NACLA readership in mind).
- Conference summaries (unless groundbreaking conferences, or critical pieces on very high-profile conferences)
- Press releases
We DO publish within the following categories:
- News analysis
- Music, film, art, and theatre critique
- Reporting from the field (see “style” section above for more)
- Op-eds (preference: online publication)
- Interviews (preference: online publication)
- Photo essays/slideshows
- Radio segments (online only)
- Music videos/songs (online only)
Queries: The editors prefer to receive queries rather than finished manuscripts. Only exclusive submissions, please, unless clearly indicated otherwise. Queries should outline the writer's approach to a specific, narrowly defined topic and should demonstrate the style and approach you will take in the piece, and an explanation of why this article is a strong fit for NACLA. Please also mention any sources that indicate original research. Attach (brief) samples of your previously published writing, or links to online sources of these articles. (If you have not been published, your query letter will serve as a writing sample.) We suggest you review our online content and previous issues of the NACLA Report—available online here—to see if we have already published an article on a topic or angle before you query us.
Queries should be roughly 200 words long. If you have photographs to accompany your article, please make note of that, and attach one or two. Time-sensitive work should be indicated as such in the subject line of your email. Also include a 1-3 sentence bio we can use in your final draft.
All queries for web articles, columns, photos, and audio content should be submitted via e-mail to the web editor, Laura Weiss, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edits: All submissions are subject to editing by the NACLA editorial team, though all final drafts will be sent to the author for final approval. We always edit with an eye toward maintaining the author's voice. Most edits include the following: formatting changes to adhere to NACLA house style; cutting of text; rewording for clarity, simplicity, or vivid evocation; rearranging for clear flow of ideas within argument or storyline. In some cases we will send back the document to you with a written description of the edits or any rewriting we need to see before publishing; in other cases we will make the edits ourselves and send to you for your final approval. Always expect to embark on one to three drafts (more for print articles and fewer or web articles).
Our readers: Our readership includes activists and academics with a range of interests: Latin America, leftist politics, U.S. Latino identity, U.S. imperialism, arts, and culture. While much of our readership has traditionally been comprised of the dedicated, long-term, community of readers who were first activated through NACLA’s investigative work of the 1960s and 1970s, there is now a younger generation of activists—many engaged through the Occupy Wall Street movement and the growing U.S. undocumented youth rights movement—who use NACLA as its primary education tool. NACLA writing should hereon build off this momentum and address itself to this younger generation.
While not made up entirely of specialists, our readership is politically sophisticated, progressive, demanding, and well versed in regional affairs. It is generally concerned with questions of equality, inclusion, and human rights. We aim to give this community refreshing ideas and new analysis to carry into its social justice work. We also want to catch and shape the opinion of those who Google search within the region and come across our articles unexpectedly—a student or senator, for example, traveling to Central America to do “charity work” without prior knowledge of the role of the U.S. military base outside the village she is staying in.
Tone: In order to capture “hearts and minds” and build a strong base of readers genuinely interested in critical progressive perspectives, we aim for the following:
- To offer sturdy, persuasive analysis; we don’t “yell.”
- To avoid unwarranted, ad hominem attacks.
- To illuminate the “system”: the broader set of dynamics that create suffering (poverty, inequality, criminal violence, prejudice, and their many overlaps) in Latin American and the Latino United States.
- To avoid clichéd writing. For example, we avoid explaining the history of the word “backyard” in U.S. foreign policy, unless using it ironically, deliberately, or critically.
- We avoid idealization, unless using it ironically, deliberately, or critically. For example, we wouldn’t believe that the movements, activists, or governments we generally support have no flaws, or don’t perpetuate forms of violence within the ranks.
- NACLA houses a variety of progressive opinions. We avoid party lines and sectarian battles, and instead encourage debate among writers.
- U.S. hegemony: Contention around the many ways to describe the origins and influence of U.S. hegemony in Latin America abounds. The writer must make a coherent argument backed up with evidence, but as long as it offers a fresh, progressive perspective, we look forward to publishing it.
Avoiding Academic Conventions: NACLA is an interface between activism and journalism with the grounding of academic rigor. Avoid the following:
- The self-referential overstatement of the argument (e.g., “In this article I will talk about X, Y, Z…”) The storyline should speak for itself.
- Extended discussions of the theoretical and methodological issues particular to your field. Focus instead on the matter at hand.
- Much prolegomena. A single “nut graph” (see “Article Structure”) usually does the trick—move onto the storyline as quickly as possible.
- The telling rather than the showing. We don’t talk about the “courageous miners,” but we do paint a picture of their courage by describing displays of solidarity with one another amidst adversity, dangerous working conditions, union busting, and so on.
- Footnotes. Though they are standard in academic writing, NACLA articles no longer employ footnotes. See “Citations” below.
Article Structure: Though made to be broken, these rules will bring up the quality of an article very quickly. The best writers know these conventions well, and when they break from them, they do it with self-awareness; novice writers will need to rely on these structures.
- The hook: Usually anecdotal, though with occasional exceptions. Pull the reader in from the start. (It’s about the feeling of the water with your toes on the shoreline, or how the water tastes cupped in your hands, and not the birds-eye view of the lake—unless you’re flying over the lake in a private plane with three paramilitaries and 80 kilos of cocaine.)
- Nut graph: The compression of your basic argument, without “This article will explain…” (Here’s where we climb to the nearest hill to assess the specific tint of the water, its tide, its current, its distribution routes, and so on—why the taste of the water matters in the first place.)
- The storyline.
- Long articles should include at least one or two section breaks to give the reader a break.
- The conclusion. NACLA conclusions avoid our most beloved slogans: “Hasta la victoria siempre,” “Workers of the world, unite!” or “La lucha sigue.” Similarly, NACLA conclusions avoid renditions of these beloved slogans: “The only way forward is to transfer power to the working class,” or, “We call on the community for action.“ These are conclusions that could be added, boilerplate, to any NACLA article—which, in the spirit of “fresh ideas,” we want to avoid. The sentiment of these very necessary take-aways should come across naturally from the argumentation within the body of the article. A few strategies for circumventing concluding clichés:
o End with a striking/unexpected quotation.
o End with a specific policy suggestion.
o End with an image that ties back to the initial “hook.”
o End with an original question (not a rhetorical one!)
o If you find you are repeating the same idea over and over in your concluding paragraphs, see what happens if you cut off your piece before you think the article is done. You may end up stumbling upon something unexpected but still final.
Citations: NACLA no longer uses footnotes. Online articles cite with hyperlinks for essential sources of information, direct quotation, amplification, and clarification.
While we will not publish your footnotes, the editors would appreciate knowing the author's sources, especially for claims and statements that might be considered controversial.
For online articles, hyperlinks serve two main functions: They provide a level of interactivity that contemporary online readers are growing accustomed to and therefore expect, and they externalize the grunt work of writing background information so that an article’s analysis can be foregrounded. Potential uses of hyperlinks: direct quotations, paraphrased text, statistics, events, legislation, organizations.
Language: NACLA publishes primarily English-language material with occasional translations into Spanish. We have one key exception: we are increasingly publishing work in Spanglish. The use of Spanglish should be intentional, with a cohesive vision of Spanish/English incorporation throughout. Spanish words within Spanglish articles will not be italicized.
Facts: While we read all submissions carefully and critically, authors are responsible for the factual accuracy of their work. Frequently we will respond to drafts with specific queries to provide sources for claims and allegations we do not have the immediate availability to verify. Please cite your work using links to help our fact-checking process.
Photos: Freelance photographers should submit a list of countries/themes/dates of their photographic work, and we will call when we have particular photo needs.
A Note on Funding: NACLA Report on the Americas is a very modestly funded nonprofit publication. Regrettably, we are unable at this time to pay writers’ fees. We can offer, however, to consider the Article an in-kind donation. The donation is tax deductible, and NACLA will send you a receipt indicating the value of the work donated (calculated according to our previous writers’ fee of $.12 per word, plus 10% of that subtotal to cover any future reprints).
Rights: NACLA reserves the right to include the Article in NACLA book collections and in electronic databases and classroom reprints. NACLA retains republication rights unless a prior agreement has been worked out between the writer and NACLA.