Zoning Practice Contributor Guidelines
The editors of Zoning Practice (ZP) welcome proposals from outside contributors, including those who may be writing for the publication for the first time. Each edition of ZP includes one long-form feature article (4,000–4,500 words) on a single topic. ZP tries to maintain a clear, professional writing style that emphasizes trend analysis and practical recommendations.
Contributors need not be professional planners, but they should have superior knowledge of a subject of substantial potential interest to planners and land-use attorneys engaged in drafting or administering local land-use and development regulations. These subjects can include:
- Zoning concepts or techniques
- Zoning for specific land uses or structures
- Zoning administration and enforcement
- Code preparation and presentation, including maps, online codes, etc.
- Plan implementation through land-use and development regulations
- Subdivision controls, planned developments, and site plan review
- Social, economic, or environmental changes affecting land-use
To make a proposal, contact the editors by email. In your message, include a brief note of introduction, a suggested article title, a short paragraph summarizing the prospective article, and a parallel-structured outline with section and subsection headers.
This gives the editors an opportunity to respond to the suitability of the topic before a contributor writes an entire article. Following the acceptance of an article proposal, the editors will issue a letter of assignment authorizing preparation of an article for Zoning Practice and specifying a manuscript delivery date. Standard payment for a lead article is $500.
Authors must submit the final complete manuscript, and any associated images, electronically (either by email or online file transfer) as a Word document (.doc or .docx). APA's response to the submission will be governed by criteria outlined in the letter of assignment and any attachments. APA maintains final editorial control of the publication. Prior to publication, APA will also acquire from the author(s) a copyright agreement, without which publication will not go forward.
- Left-align all text and use double paragraph breaks (i.e., two hard returns) between all paragraphs.
- Format all text in 11-pt. Calibri or 12-pt. Times New Roman typeface, with main section headers bolded in all caps and subsection headers bolded in headline style (i.e., a mix of upper- and lower-case letters).
- Cite all external sources in-text with parentheses containing the citation author's last name and the year of publication (e.g., Smith 2010). When referencing municipal code provisions, cite provisions in-text with parentheses containing the relevant code section(s) (e.g., §1200.01).
- Provide one reference list, formatted according to The Chicago Manual of Style, corresponding to all in-text citations (excluding municipal code citations).
- Enclose all notes about artwork — including placement, credits, and captions — in angle brackets (i.e., <>) and separate these notes from body text with double paragraph breaks.
Writing Quality and Style
The following tips are intended to help authors think about how to develop their articles without dictating their structure:
I. The Lead
Both the opening sentence and the opening paragraph are crucial for grabbing the reader's attention. The bottom line is simple: What is this article about? You need not cram details into the opening, but you need to be as specific as possible in defining the subject matter, giving preference to the most current development of importance. For instance:
Indianapolis has developed a new tree ordinance that, for the first time anywhere, requires builders of residential housing to maximize building energy savings from tree shading and windbreaks.
Compare that to this blander, more sedate opening:
Environmentalists have long known that trees help reduce energy costs. Some have advocated that builders and cities take this into account in new residential construction, but most cities have no such provisions in development ordinances. Planners generally have regarded as a secondary consideration and are more interested in ...
Which gets you into the story faster and captures your interest? Obviously, in the second opening, the writer is literally forcing the reader to wade through line after line to find the punch line. The emphasis shouldn't be a game of hide and seek. Put your cards out on the table right away.
II. Quote What Really Matters
Properly used, quotes from interviewees or even from documents can be a journalistic art form. Readers don't need or want to know all the trivia from an interview, press release, or press conference. Put in quotes only what enhances the reader's knowledge and advances the story, and avoid mere verbiage.
Where the actual wording is verbose, paraphrase. There is nothing wrong with taking a speaker's words and saying it better, so long as you don't wrap your words in quotes attributed to that source. For instance:
The judge's ruling held that oil companies are legally responsible for the health impacts of toxic air pollution from refineries.
But suppose we were to quote the case:
Judge Barbara T. Reynolds said the following: "Under California Revised Code Section 650.132, air emissions from oil refinery facilities will lead to a finding of liability for the owner if found to produce a toxic health impact on the surrounding population."
Ugh! It's bad enough that you, as the author, had to read the actual decision; your reader is paying good money to have you translate it!
III. Stick to the Subject
Thinking about leads is helpful for more than just creating a spunky opening to an exciting story. It can serve as a beacon for errant writers who stray from the main point of the article. A news article generally has but one key point, around which all subsidiary points must clearly rally. If the article is about a new affordable housing plan in Denver, don't feel obligated to add information about unrelated federal housing legislation just because it, too, starts with H. If the new plan is affected by federal legislation, explain that as background to the main point. Otherwise, know when to conclude your article, and save the rest of the material for another day and another story.
IV. Use Active Voice Wherever Possible
Emphasize doing, not done to. This helps keep the focus on action and avoids the fuzzy thinking that accompanies grammatical victimization. Consider the difference in clarity between the following:
Lawyers for the Halfway Residential Group sued the state in federal district court last month, charging that its cutoff of housing renovation money violates HUD rules and the Family Housing Act.
A suit was filed last month in federal district court, charging that federal law was violated when housing money for neighborhood groups was cut off in the new state budget.
In the latter sentence, the drift into passive voice has allowed the writer to fail to think about who is doing what to whom, with the result that the reader is left in a mental muddle while struggling through a boring sentence. It's enough to make a time-conscious reader cancel a subscription.
V. Who Said It?
Occasionally, even established journalists go around attributing things to "sources." Inasmuch as we seldom get leaks or deal with national security, there is nothing, literally nothing, worth saying in Zoning Practice that cannot be said by an identifiable person. Therefore, every quote needs a named source, and every statement of opinion that is not the author's should be attributed to someone expressing it, whether or not it is wrapped in quotation marks.
In the case of study findings, name the study or the organization or agency that released them unless the information has become such general knowledge that this is no longer necessary. (In other words, in discussing the Earth's spherical geometry, it is no longer necessary to cite Galileo or Copernicus.)