There are some specific characteristics we prefer in technical articles. While we appreciate humor in any article, fluffy technical articles that do not thoroughly cover the topic are not appropriate for our niche, even though they work well and are popular with some publishers. We will publish much longer articles than are allowed by other magazines -- up to 5,000 words -- because we want technical writers to have enough space to be thorough.
After reading a technical article, the reader should have enough information to enable him or her to act. All necessary contacts and resources should be presented. The reader should know whether he or she would like to do this work and is capable of doing it. How to do it and advantages and disadvantages should be presented. The article should include what can be expected if one does this, both during the process of doing it and after the work is completed. The writer should present potential stumbling blocks and point out areas which are open for misinterpretation. (For example, during barrier coat applications, just how dry must the previous coat be before applying the next round? Might this differ from one side of the boat to the other if the sun shines on one side only? This is one issue that caught us "off guard" in the boatyard.) Last, but not least, we prefer honesty to "apple pie and motherhood." We are not trying to appease advertisers, so if something does not work well, feel free to offer your opinion for the benefit of fellow readers.
At this writing, we are using around a dozen Macs in our Good Old Boat home office and many other Macs in the offices of our associates. We have learned to translate to and from most platforms, but the following file formats are preferred:
- Microsoft Word
- .RTF file extensions
Please do not use fancy formatting. By the time your work has been translated from one computer software to another and through several word processors and page-design programs, most formatting is gone anyway. The spaces between words will survive, as will the returns between paragraphs. Embedded graphics, bold and italic font changes, headers and footers, etc. will be lost. The more complicated your formatting, the more difficult it is for the editors to read your manuscript. There is absolutely no chance that we will use your formatting. It will be deleted through our process without ever being appreciated by the editors. Simple is good. Simpler is better.
Further Advice From the Technical Editor
It is not uncommon for us to need additional clarification from an author because the materials used were not described in sufficient detail. In one case we pulled a scheduled article at the last minute because we could not confirm, identify, and find sources for the materials used. In other cases we simply did not consider some articles for publication because such details were lacking.
Think of the work you are describing as a process involving specific materials and activities. Did you use epoxy resin or polyester resin? Instead of saying marine bondo, be specific about which product was used. Was the sealant RTV, urethane, or polysulfide? What kind of wood did you use? A process that worked well for you involving specific materials may not work at all if the materials involved are substituted for others that are not compatible with each other or not really suited to the task.
So give us more detail than we will need. If it breaks up the flow of words, include an appendix with materials and sources. We will publish as much of it as we think is appropriate to make certain that, if a reader attempts the project, there is a good chance of success. You can not give us too much detail about materials used.
While We Are On The Subject, a Few Tips
The technical editor is a curmudgeon. There is nothing we can do about that. He owns half the business. His notes follow. Authors should avoid the following usages:
- Amps per hour, Amps/hr. and similar -- Although actually published occasionally elsewhere, these are meaningless terms that only confuse the well-informed reader and demonstrate the writer's lack of comprehension of basic electricity. If amps per hour does not grate on your sensibilities like fingernails on a blackboard, you probably should not write about electricity. If you do the algebra on this, you come out with the reciprocal of time (1/time) or charge divided by the square of time (T squared). Nonsense.
- Electricity and water do not mix -- Many writers eventually resort to some kind of water analogy to try to explain how electricity works. I have yet to see what I thought was a really good water analogy. If you want to explain electricity, talk about electricity. Hydraulics is another field entirely. Avoid this trap; it is already full.
- ABYC -- Marine technical writers often quote the ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) chapter and verse as though the quoted requirements came from the burning bush. This is not a popular practice with the Good Old Boat editors. The ABYC Standards and Recommended Practices for Small Craft documents are not available to the vast majority of our readers. Membership in the organization is quite expensive and is, therefore, not common among non-professionals. Although regulating agencies and insurance companies may adopt all or parts of the ABYC standards, the ABYC standards are otherwise completely voluntary having no inherent force in law. They also do not preclude good design and engineering alternatives.