Here’re the writing guidelines for every writer that starts with Cosmos Media as a feature writer.

First a word on the sub-editing that every writer is expected to do before submitting their pieces. We don’t want to correct mistakes that the writer could’ve corrected herself. Only the errors you cannot find are reasonable, not the ones the writer is capable of correcting.

Second, kindly make sure your thought process is clear on the article you’re covering. After you’ve done your research online and collected enough material to put together a piece, take some time, clear your head, and marshal your thoughts before you start putting it all into words. Don’t begin to write unless you’ve got your head around the researched material. When you’re not organized in your thinking, it shows in the article.

What we want from you is well researched features structured in a planned way and written in coherent language. At no time during the reading of the article should the reader go “Oh, I don’t understand this bit. I don’t know what the writer is trying to say here.” Every sentence and paragraph should follow naturally, and the whole article should have a smooth flow — in language, style, and structure. No hiccups, no confusing bits, no out of place words.

Now when you do get down to writing, have the following in mind. These are the suggestions based on the errors and lapses we repeatedly see in the submitted articles.

When you write, always keep an online dictionary, a thesaurus, and google.com open in your browser.

–          Dictionary for obvious reason.

  • If you are in doubt about any word or its meaning, don’t be lazy and just use the dictionary.

–          Thesaurus to look for that one elusive word.

  • Constantly watch out for the best words you can use in your writing. Thesaurus makes looking for elusive words easy.

–          Google to clarify doubtful use of certain words. Also to cross-check questionable facts and figures.

  • If you are in doubt about a word, phrase or sentence structure, Google it. At Cosmos Media, we’re trying to give a good impression to the readers. Correct English usage and cross-checking facts and figures are the requirements for that.
  • If you find the suspicious word or phrase having been used by reliable sources, it’s good enough for us. Otherwise, discard it.
    • Any word or phrase used by Associated Press or BBC is good for us.

Paras should be roughly 20-60 words long and 1-3 lines strong. Try to adhere to this limit.

Edit your sentences for punctuation, spelling, style, grammar, and word usage. Also check wordiness. Keep libel issues and principle of fairness in mind while framing sentences.

Be careful in the use of capital letters, apostrophe, and punctuation marks like commas, semicolons, and colons.

–          Dr Shinde said, “The study validates the traditional use of herb as a youth-promoting substance in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.”

  • should be ayurvedic.

–          When writing feature headings, be careful with caps. Our features headings are written in title case, but this doesn’t mean every single word in capital letters. Majority of the publications, as well as us now, capitalize the principal words only. Leave prepositions (of, with, from, including, behind, against, etc.) in small case. Ditto goes for the.

–          To study accurate use of caps, punctuation marks, etc., at length, Google your requirements. It will give you good links to online English language resources.

  • Or take our help; we’ll be happy to put you on the right track.

Be generally careful with the use of conjunctions like while and although. The fact that we write research-based analytical articles on our medicine and health portal themedguru.com makes these tools that much more valuable. But using them blindly is not the way. Just leave it out when the argument you are putting forth doesn’t warrant the use of while. (In any case, use although instead of while; keep the latter for giving readers a ‘sense of time’ only, as in “while I did my writing, Samantha cooked cookies for me.”)

–          While a third of the miscarriages are usually caused by an overactive immune system, the new treatment – a steroid commonly used in treating asthma and allergies – can curb the immune response and protect the developing fetus in the crucial early weeks of pregnancy, thereby cutting the risk of miscarriage.

  • While is not needed in this sentence. In this case while can confuse the reader rather than making understanding this sentence easier for him. To connect the two parts of this sentence, use ‘and’ between them.
  • Correct sentence – A third of the miscarriages are usually caused by an overactive immune system, and the new treatment – a steroid commonly used in treating asthma and allergies – can curb the immune response and protect the developing fetus in the crucial early weeks of pregnancy, thereby cutting the risk of miscarriage.

While and however don’t normally come in the same sentence. Take this sentence from one of our articles for instance:

–          While the representative samples did show that child safety seats had helped reduce the chances of minor bumps and bruises among children by 25 percent as compared to lap-and-shoulder safety belts, however, both types of restraints scored equally in preventing serious injury, researchers found.

  • While, in the beginning of the sentence, has rendered however superfluous. So don’t use however here.

–          Ditto for this one with though and however interplay.

  • Though smoking, particularly cigarettes, is by far the key contributor to lung cancer with estimated 87 percent lung cancer deaths each year in the United States, however, non-smokers can still develop the disease.
    • Either cut though out or however. One will do just fine.

Always expand acronyms. Consider this sentence from one of the themedguru.com articles – “The risk on increased BMI at a young age, caused by prenatal exposure to OCs like HCB, … in life,” the study concluded.

–          The writer should have expanded acronyms BMI & OC.

There are peculiar ways of using certain words; taking liberties with English language, far as these ways are concerned, will be inappropriate.

–          Consider the word galore. It always comes after the associated word. For instance, “On my birthday, I got gifts galore. Never galore gifts.

Check redundancy, wordy phrases, needless repetitions, clichés, pretentious language, homonym problems, spelling and punctuation mistakes, vague words and terms, illogical statements and arguments, incorrect possessives, trite expressions, and other common problems.

Cut fat in your write-ups: Your readers will always appreciate more information in fewer words. So whenever you can cut some words, cut. Notice how the paragraph below has been cut to size:

Draft: If you are among those, who believe that smoking just one cigarette would not hurt your health in any way, and then it’s high time you change your perception. Because as per the researchers of a new study, 15-30 minutes is all it takes before that one cigarette you had puffed starts causing genetic damage in your body, leaving you one step closer to cancer. (65 words)

Edited: Smoking just one cigarette would not hurt your health, you believe? It’s time you changed your belief. According to a new study, 15-30 minutes of smoking is all it takes to cause genetic damage in your body, leaving you one step closer to cancer. (44 words)

Harpreet Bhagrath