Over the past few years, it has not fallen to the editor of GE to pen the Talking Point. This section has been reserved for those wishing to get a message across, the weight off a chest, or to grind an axe. But this month it will offer guidance on how to get something published in GE.
Why? Because as long as I have been involved with the magazine (since 2004), two questions constantly asked of the editorial team have been: "How do I get something published, and how do you choose what goes in and what does not?"
GE has long been in the enviable position of receiving far more for any given issue than can fit in its pages. The most appropriate of these submissions vie with each other for inclusion and with limited editorial pages available, many that are good may still not appear.
Although every editor's dream is to be sent material that requires little or no editing – and that will go straight into the magazine without fail – most people, understandably, do not know exactly what is required.
Since every magazine is different, and no one can be expected to know exactly what is desired, it seems only fair to print some guidelines on what we are after. GE is the industry's mouthpiece, and this is how to use it.
Being a monthly title, news needs to be as fresh as possible. This means sending editorial that really is "of the moment", rather than being about something that happened several months ago.
Most news stories in the media follow a tried-and-trusted formula of the five Ws. Who is the story about, what happened, where was this, when and why? However, since this is an engineering title, the next question is generally how? Covering these in more or less this order will mean the story begins to write itself.
Simple but important pointers to bear in mind are to use one word instead of two wherever possible, and a shorter or simpler word instead of a longer one. Writing in the active voice is a major aid to keeping a reader's attention. As an example, company X did the work, rather than the work was done by company X.
Applying this simple but far reaching rule to everything you write, whether a submission to GE, or something else entirely, will help keep a reader's attention right to the end of the piece.
When sending something in about current activities, try to think from the viewpoint of a competitor. Ask the question: "Would I really read this?" Readers quickly see through a thinly veiled marketing exercise, and it does not serve a purpose to lose them by the second sentence.
The same is true of features. But an additional point is to send us something that has not been published elsewhere and to add technical depth wherever possible. GE subscribers say they keep back issues that have technical value. This means your article may get referenced again and again over a period of years, rather than weeks.
On the same note, the editorial team is always pleased to be asked to visit a site where work is ongoing. But what makes this interesting is technical depth on projects that are in some way out of the ordinary. This might be a technically challenging job, a site with a great history or tricky ground conditions, an unexpected occurrence that needed on-the-fly solutions, newly launched equipment getting a workout, or perhaps old equipment being used in a novel way.
More than anything, GE greatly values reader feedback. What are we doing right and what would you like to see more, or less of? To help gauge this, GE will soon conduct a reader survey that will offer a straightforward means for you to let us hear opinions. Alternatively, why not write the editor a letter.
Last, and definitely not least, we aim to beef-up the peer reviewed paper and technical note sections of the magazine with an increase in the quantity and frequency.
But we can only print worthy material, and critically, this means we want good quality content from you to run in your magazine.
Damon Schünmann is editor of GE. Send comments and article ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org