July 30, 2012

In No Particular Order

The bibliography is one of the first things I look at when I receive a submission.  I review the sources used and check how well the bibliography is formatted.  Recently I received a submission with a bibliography that shocked me.  The author submitted a nonfiction article with a strangely composed bibliography.  The sources —titles only—were listed in random order.  Come on.  A bibliography has to have order.  It's called alphabetical order.

This is not the first submission that I’ve received that had a poor bibliography.  Many times, authors are careless in writing the bibliography.  Words are misspelled; titles are not capitalized; punctuation is missing; formatting is incorrect.  These errors however, are more common than a bibliography composed in no particular order.

In most cases, nonfiction submissions for children’s magazines are required to include a bibliography.  Stories for Children Magazine only requires three sources, two of which can be Internet sources.  So, composing a short bibliography is not hard.  Still, even with only a few sources, the bibliography has to be formatted correctly.

Most magazine editors make their preferences known for formatting in their guidelines.  Some editors prefer the Chicago Style.  The University of Chicago Press has created the Chicago Manual of Style, which provides guidelines for citing sources as well as for formatting papers.  Other editors like the MLA Style (the Modern Language Association) which is used primarily for subjects related to the humanities and liberal arts, such as literature, mass communications, and media studies.

When writing nonfiction for children, always include a properly formatted bibliography with good sources. It may be the first thing an editor looks at. If you've spent time researching and writing an article, make sure that an appropriate bibliography accompanies your work. Visit the MLA organization's website on the Internet or refer to a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style if you have doubts about citing sources.  With a little practice, you'll be formatting bibliographies with ease and perfection.


  1. These are good tips. I heard Highlights editor Debra Hess speak at a conference, and she said the same. When she gets a sub, she flips to the back. If there is no bibliography or a shoddy one--instant rejection.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. It's nice to know I'm not the only editor who is passionate about proper bibliographies.