An Example - Writing for the Tilma

Tilma January 2004

The Tilma is the magazine of the Marian Catechist Apostolate. We are Marian in our emphasis on spiritual development, and we are Catechists in our emphasis on teaching authentic catechesis. The Blessed Virgin is our patron saint, and so our magazine/newsletter emphasizes her role in both spiritual development and catechesis.

When articles are accepted for the Tilma, it is on an "all rights" basis. The Marian Catechist Apostolate reserves the unrestricted right, in perpetuity, to make use of material appearing in the Tilma in print, on the web site, in special compilations, or in any other way. The author, however, retains the right to have the article published elsewhere. It is necessary to notify the editor that the article has been published previously, mentioning the Tilma and the date of publication. All articles are subject to editing.

Tilma Style Sheet

Every magazine has to have a consistent style and tone, and the editor keeps it consistent by publishing only submissions that follow its “style sheet,” a list of instructions to writers on the magazine’s subjects, tone, approach.

Word Counts

  • Most articles should be 2,000 to 4,000 words.
  • Marian Catechists who have written an article longer than 4,000 words have two alternatives. First, review the article to see whether it could be written more tightly. Second, contact the magazine for approval to submit a 4,000 word article for use in the printed magazine and the full length version for the web site. Third, divide the article into two separate articles; submit one for publication this year and one for publication the following year, so that each one is a separate article.

Bible Quotes

  • Use only the RSV2CE (Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition) of Scripture for all biblical quotes.
  • When quoting Scripture, cite the verse inside parentheses after the quotation mark at the end of the verse. Don’t put a period at the end of the verse being quoted; put it after the closed parentheses, like this: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
  • Do not abbreviate biblical books with short names (John, Acts, Luke, etc.). When abbreviating biblical books with longer names, use the longer abbreviation whenever possible: “Matt.” (not “Mt.” ), “Deut.” (not “Dt.” ), “Gen.” (not “Gn.” ). A guide to biblical abbreviations can be found in entry 14:34 of The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • » Always put a period after any abbreviation of a biblical book: “Matt.” (not “Matt”). This rule also applies to other common abbreviations, such as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Fr.” and “Dr.”

Usage and Punctuation

  • If you insert your own comment into a quote, use brackets, not parentheses. “This will help the reader [See what we mean about using brackets?] to understand it’s you talking,” said the editor.
  • Always capitalize divine pronouns (Who, He, His, etc.).
  • Capitalize the nouns “Apostle,” “Bible” and “Scripture,” but don’t capitalize the adjectives “apostolic,” “biblical” or “scriptural."
  • Use “St.” before names of Apostles and saints (e.g., “St. Peter” ).
  • Remember this distinction: “e.g.” means “exempli gratia” (“example given,” or “for example”); and “i.e.” means “id est” (“that is,” “in other words”).
  • Put only one space between sentences, no matter what they told you in typing class. Typewriters were designed with monofonts, so that every character was the same width, like this: mmmmm iiiii. Modern computers use variable fonts, in which wide letters take up more space, like this: mmmmm iiiii. Variable fonts are designed to look right with one space between sentences.
  • Put one space before and after an em dash – like that.
  • Do not use spaces before or after hyphens (e.g., non-spaced hyphenation).
  • If you use leader dots (ellipses), use real ellipses, like this … not three periods in sequence. Every computer font has real ellipses.
  • Do not put a comma after the “and” in a series of three or more names or brief listings: Brian, Pat and Jim will thank you for that.
  • Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks: “You’ll see what we mean,” said the editor. The writer said, “Yes, I will.”
  • Question marks and exclamation points go outside the quotation marks when they are not part of the material being quoted. You’ll see what we mean. Do you understand what we meant by, “You’ll see what we mean”?
  • Colons and semicolons that aren’t part of a quotation always go outside the quotation marks.
  • Avoid exclamation points!
  • “Okay” is okay. “OK” is not okay.
  • Avoid unnecessary, superfluous, space-wasting adjectives.
  • Avoid, where possible, the words “very” and “that.” Instead, use verbs that are inherently strong.
  • Avoid clichés like the plague (e.g., “avoid like the plague,” “the long and the short of it,” “fit to be tied” and “to make a long story short”).
  • Avoid jargon and unnecessary technical terms.
  • Avoid writing in the passive voice. For example, “Jones was pushed out of the way by Smith” is not as good as, “Smith shoved Jones out of the way.”
  • Use contractions liberally. For example, we’d prefer you didn’t say, “We would prefer you did not say.”
  • Avoid writing citation-laden pieces. The Tilma addresses scholarly subjects, but not in the traditional style of academic journals. When quoting material, work the author’s name and the title of the work into the body of your piece whenever possible. Provide publisher and page information parenthetically. Here’s an example: Marty Barrack makes an interesting point about the Halakha in Second Exodus (Houston: Magnificat Institute Press, 1999, p. 121).
  • In situations where a body reference isn’t feasible, use this form after the quoted material: (Martin K. Barrack, Second Exodus (Houston: Magnificat Institute Press, 1999, p. 121).
  • Book and periodical titles, such as Second Exodus or the Tilma, are italicized, never underlined. Titles of articles, magazine departments and book chapters are set off with quotation marks, such as, “The Holy Rosary: Contemplating the Face of Christ.”
  • Please proofread your article carefully before submitting it. Incorrect spellings, especially of names and key terms, can call into question your understanding of the subject you’re covering.

Numbers and Numerals

Write out numbers when:

  • Using any number from one through one hundred
  • Writing numbers like five hundred, one thousand or twelve million
  • A number appears at the beginning of a sentence; if the sentence begins with a number that is not normally written out, rework the sentence so that the number appears later

Use numerals when:

  • When writing numbers like 101, 243, 5,745 or 5,723,894
  • When numbers appear in clusters (e.g., listings of ages, quantities or percentages) and writing them out would be awkward
  • Always use numerals in complete biblical citations (e.g., John 3:16). Passing references should be made to “chapter three” or “verse sixteen”

Combine numerals and words

  • In instances like 165 thousand, 1.5 million, or 812 million