Zoning Practice Contributor Guidelines

The editors of Zoning Practice welcome proposals from outside contributors, including those who may be writing for the publication for the first time. Contributors need not be professional planners, but they should have superior knowledge of a subject of substantial potential interest to Zoning Practice subscribers. These subjects can include:

  • Best practices in dealing with specific land uses
  • Alternatives to traditional zoning codes (e.g., form-based codes, performance zoning, etc.)
  • Incorporation of environmental concerns into zoning
  • Subdivision controls, planned unit developments, and site plan review
  • Emerging issues in urban land-use patterns
  • Code enforcement
  • Code preparation and presentation, including maps, online codes, etc.
  • Social equity factors in zoning and land-use controls
  • Permitting, zoning administration, and similar managerial aspects of land use

 In every case, the topic of an article must concern some aspect of zoning or land-use controls that would benefit an audience primarily consisting of local planners, planning consultants, zoning administrators, planning commissioners and zoning board members, elected officials, and land-use attorneys, as well as others with an ongoing interest in land-use regulations.

Issues of Zoning Practice generally feature one article, which is featured on the cover with an iconic illustration. These articles are mostly topical pieces on a particular subject within the zoning field. Case studies of a particular city or practice are useful if accompanied by a solid explanation of why this information is useful to a nationwide audience of planning practitioners.

Articles generally require significant expertise concerning the subject matter on the part of the author(s) and a willingness to report on how the topic affects land-use regulation in more than one community or part of the country. Our aim with lead articles is to supply our readership with knowledge that is broadly applicable nationwide, although the applicability will not always be universal. An example of widespread but not universal applicability was the May 2012 issue, in which the authors discussed the use of zoning and other land-use controls to mitigate the dangers of wildfires. While this hazard does not affect all communities, it does affect thousands of jurisdictions to some degree, and thus the article has had broad appeal. On the other hand, subjects like mapping principles for rezonings, the topic of our December 2011 issue, are of value to virtually any community that wishes to take the message to heart. Both types of lead articles are potentially valuable to the readers of Zoning Practice if they are well researched and well written.

The best approach for potential authors is to submit to the editors a brief outline, not exceeding one page, detailing what you propose to cover in the article, along with a brief cover letter outlining your own background and expertise related to the proposed topic. This gives the editors an opportunity to respond to the suitability of the topic before a contributor writes an entire article, and also gives the editors the opportunity to make suggestions for revising the focus if they feel a need to do so. Based on an agreement with the author(s) concerning the topic, the editors can then issue a letter of assignment that authorizes preparation of an article for Zoning Practice, and specifies a deadline for completion.

Contact the editors with a proposal

Typically, a lead article will consist of approximately 3,500 words, plus illustrations and tabular materials. Depending on the topic, these may include some illustrations that do not appear in the print version of Zoning Practice but may appear online as web-based enhancements on the Zoning Practice web pages. In most cases, the editors will also expect to collaborate with the author(s) concerning ideas for cover art. Writing should be crisp, clear, and understandable to lay officials typically involved in land-use decision making in local government. The writer is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the material.

Authors must submit the final complete manuscript, and any associated images, electronically (either by e-mail or online file transfer) as a Word document (.doc or .docx). APA 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. Finally, APA will execute with the author(s) a contract specifying terms of payment and outlining the author's participation, if any, in the online Ask the Author forum. Standard payment for a lead article combined with participation in Ask the Author is $500; without Ask the Author, the standard fee is $300. While author participation in Ask the Author is voluntary, it is strongly encouraged.

Formatting Guidelines

  • Left-align all text and use double paragraph breaks (i.e., two hard returns) between all paragraphs.
  • Format all text in 12-pt. Calibri or 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.)