Everything you ever wanted to know to publish with us! In addition to helping writers to level up their skills, these guidelines provide alignment for our editorial team in assisting you through the review process. For any feedback or just to ask any question at all, please write: nightingale@datavisualizationsociety.org .

In order to publish your article on Nightingale, you need to evaluate your article on each of the following six questions before you submit it to our editorial team.

1. What is the unique topic of your article?

Nightingale is the journal of the Data Visualization Society (DVS). We are interested in stories about all aspects of data visualization and information design for any industry, discipline, or mindset! We have an expansive view of what data visualization encompasses and how we use it in our world.

Picking something to write about is important and you should try not to cover something that has been covered too much. We ask that all authors be familiar with what we normally publish at Nightingale and at least generally scan for other articles on the same subject matter.

the top 5 search results for bad pie charts

For example, there are many, many articles talking about why pie charts are bad. We do not need to publish another article rehashing the same information. That said, maybe you have a unique angle to contribute to this heated subject. If so, we welcome your article and thoughts, but your writing should acknowledge your familiarity with the subject, and why your article is advancing the discussion.

At the same time, not every article has to be 100 percent unique. We welcome personal stories, testimonials, and how-to articles. We have featured articles covering many aspects of dataviz — including education, entertainment, history, sports, best practices, new techniques, personal stories, testimonials, and other compelling aspects or implementations of visual information design. On the whole, our content tends to lean away from pure data science and toward data visualization and information design.

If there’s ever any question about what subject has been covered too much, just email or Slack us! We’ll let you know if we’ve already covered it.

2. What point are you making in your article?

Think big or think small. We want to help you communicate your big ideas, but we’re also interested in your hyper-granular, laser-focused articles, too. Regardless of the topic, you need to have a point and stick to it.

Before you write, you may want to sketch out the story format of your article. This will help you hone in on your main ideas, structure your work, see connections, and frame the point you’re trying to make. If you are using subsections, you should be able to summarize each in one sentence and so should the reader.

Taking time to consider the point you’re trying to make is more than finding the themes or facts in the structure of your article — doing this will help you focus on the “so what.” Being explicit with your readers helps them understand why your ideas matter to them. After all, this is a platform for discussion.

3. What is your article’s beginning, middle, and end?

After you know what to write about, you should consider how you’re going to write about it.

Nightingale’s readers range from students and seasoned practitioners to those adjacent to or interested in the field. We strive for a tone that is accessible and fun, but professional.

It is important to tell a story. All articles should have a beginning, middle, and end. This doesn’t mean that you need to bend over backward to write a novel when you are sharing a how-to — but you should try to introduce and contextualize it and provide a summation. This is how we think about stories and this format is proven to be effective.

Also, telling a story is more fun — for you and your readers. Readers like to follow along with you on your journey. We love stories about people, about life. Tell us about your mistakes, what made you proud, or what you’d do differently if you did it again. Even the most technical article can be made more relatable by bonding over shared experiences.

4. Is your article interesting, inspiring, or informative so that people will want to share it?

You should write and prepare your article so that people will want to share it with others. Putting a focus on sharing articles can help your ideas spread throughout the community. This is more important than just social media metrics. You should consider issues that people are curious about in our community so that you can add your voice to the conversation and make room for them to share theirs.

5. Does your article have interesting images?

Isn’t this diagram interesting? It is the ENIAC machine via fulltable.

Please consider images to be an integral part of your story. Everyone loves images — and data visualization is primarily visual — so include some examples!

Always include a high-resolution image at the top of your story. This has the following benefits:

  • When people share your story on Facebook and Twitter, it will be more prominent in news feeds, making people more likely to click on it.
  • Our readers prefer images of data visualizations.
  • If you’re having a hard time, you can always look at the free-image services like PixabayPexels, or Unsplash or discuss it with your editor.

Keep in mind that our readers are global and reflect all walks of life. Please think about this when making image choices.

Also, please caption every image or provide alt-text to aid with accessibility. Please consult these tips for writing alt-text.

6. Be cool to everyone

We don’t expect this to ever be an issue, but be sure to use an open-minded tone in your writing. We live in an age where words and representation really matter. We certainly want you to tell your story in your voice, but we also reserve the right to ask you to broaden your perspective.

We read all articles before publishing and try to help each one succeed by providing editorial support. You need to proofread your article several times before submitting it, but you should also expect that we will suggest some edits to your work before publishing. Our editors try to spark a friendly dialogue in order to take your piece to the next level.

“Be cool to everyone” is an easy mantra to keep in mind and ultimately it will help more people to engage with your ideas and share them with others.


Why do standards matter?

Submissions that do not clearly fit our standards above will be returned for further review before we can consider publishing.

We have always been enthusiastic about supporting new voices and over a third of our articles in 2020 came from first-time writers. In order to continue this support, we will establish new ways to pitch and review articles via a “sandbox” approach to support the development of emerging writers and provide proper mentorship. Our editorial staff will recommend authors for this program as it becomes available.

The checklist below will be the criteria that we review before accepting your article for the editing and publishing process:

Here’s a worksheet for you —view it online here

A standards-based approach will help us all to lift our voices and continue our high-energy discourse. We are thrilled to help our community share its ideas and passions. Please let us know what you think about our new process!

Article translations:

Taking a page from the Outlier Conference, we invite you to translate this article into other languages you speak. Please send your translation to this email address with “Article translation” in the subject line. We will add them to this article! (Alternatively, you could opt to post the translated article on your medium account and then send us the link.)

Nouvelles Normes Editoriales de Nightingale (French)


The rest of this article contains detailed answers to common questions our editorial team receives from writers. For any question at all, please write: nightingale@datavisualizationsociety.org.

Common questions from writers:

Do I need to be a member of the DVS?

Yes. It’s free to join and you can sign up here.

How long should my article be?

Our content varies in length as you can see from our top five articles of 2020 (scroll to the bottom of this post to link through to each of these):

  • I Learned Dataviz in a Year, and You Can, Too (seven-minute read)
  • The Great Emoji Challenge (two-minute read)
  • Ten Considerations Before You Create Another Chart About COVID-19 (nine-minute read)
  • How to Create Brand Colors for Data Visualization Style Guidelines (six-minute read)
  • Constructing a Career in Data Visualization: The How (14-minute read)

Typically, we publish online pieces from between 500–3,000 words. Think of these as short-to-medium-form articles. As we expand into a print format, we may also be able to showcase more “tidbit”-type material. We will update these guidelines as appropriate once that information is available.

Can I post my article on my personal website or can I share something I previously wrote?

Nightingale pieces should be original to Nightingale. Sometimes we get submissions/pitches for content that originally appeared on a personal Medium, website, or blog. Moving forward we want to originate content in Nightingale.

We prefer all articles to appear on Nightingale exclusively for three weeks before authors repost on their personal sites. We encourage authors to link back to the original Nightingale post, the benefits of which include a credibility boost and SEO-friendly external links. If you have any questions, just send us an email — we’ll work it out!

When will my article be published?

Once you and your editor have completed the agreed-upon changes, we’ll schedule your article for publication. Our queue is prioritized in the order we complete the editing process.

We publish new articles in the mornings (US east coast time) and promote them via the #dvs-nightingale-free Slack channel, Twitter, LinkedIn, and The ‘Gale (our monthly newsletter). Please let us know if you do NOT want us to promote your piece in this way.

Does my article have to be in English?

We are happy to publish articles in multiple languages and are able to provide editorial support for Spanish, French, and German at this time. Other languages may also be available, just drop us an email to discuss.

How do I submit my article?

In order to submit an article for consideration, after you’ve thoroughly reviewed these guidelines AND completed the checklist above, please follow these steps:

  1. Please email nightingale@datavisualizationsociety.org or direct message the managing editor and provide a link to the article in Google docs and related images. It works best if you send a link to a Google folder containing the article and the images. In the article, please note which image to place in which position. We use this to set you up as a Nightingale writer on our WordPress site.
  2. You will receive an email to set up your author profile on the site. Please check your email (and your spam folder) for that invitation.
  3. You will be assigned an editor within a few days of submitting your article.
  4. The editorial workflow will occur in Google docs using in-line revisions. After one or two reviews of the article, we’re usually ready to publish.
  5. Once you and the editor agree on a final version, the editor will port the article into the site for your review.
  6. The managing editor will let you know about the publication date.

How do I get paid?

It is our priority to pay everyone. However, due to a change in our relationship with Medium, we are amending our writer compensation structure. The Data Visualization Society pays all Nightingale contributors (editors, authors, and illustrators) directly.

  • We disburse all payments via PayPal. Due to the global nature of our community of contributors, PayPal is the most widely accessible and usable platform.
  • We will continue to pay a base rate of $50 (US Dollars) per article to all writers and will add a small increase ($1.50) to cover processing costs associated with this model.
  • Payments are made by the 20th of the month after the article was published.

You also have the option to donate your fee to the DVS! We gladly welcome your support, just let us know!

Visit our writer compensation and payment policies for more detailed information.


What can I anticipate from the editorial process?

Our editorial staff adheres to the following style guidelines when reviewing your submission, so keep these guidelines in mind.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

As Nightingale is a professional journal, we adhere to the CMOS, with some exceptions. Please familiarize yourself with this style before submitting. Note that our editorial staff will make minor CMOS-type edits directly to your article without explicitly flagging it for you.

Titles/headlines and subtitles

Headlines play an important role in getting people to read an article. All articles should have a main headline and then a subtitle that works in tandem to (a) show what the article is about and (b) attract readers.

All headlines should be in the title case. Use this tool to help.

Don’t use clickbait. Don’t use listicles. If your headline is too long, Google will truncate it. Long headlines can also prevent your top image from appearing in news feeds. Here are some tips from Medium about good headlines and subtitle ideas and there is a Headline Analyzer tool within WordPress that you may use.

Eight principles for a great headline (from Medium):

  1. Be direct
  2. Use conversational language
  3. Focus on what is most interesting
  4. Be bold in your assertions
  5. Check your bias
  6. Communicate urgency
  7. Show what someone will learn
  8. Deliver on your promises

Other tips:

  • Generally, statements are better than questions. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, though.
  • Particularly relevant for us, try to avoid dataviz jargon that the average reader might not understand.

Subheads and other formatting

Be judicious with bold text. Write your piece for easy readability so you don’t need to depend so heavily on bold text.

Please be consistent in your use of subheads in terms of both size and phrasing. If you start with a few words in your subheads, e.g., The data, continue with short phrases throughout your article. Don’t switch to full sentences later in the article. Also, please capitalize the first word of the subhead only. And capitalize the first word of the subtitle only, to further distinguish it from the headline.

Images and attribution

Please caption every image. Technically, as a writer, you are liable for copyright infringement. The simplest way to attribute an image is to put the words “Image credit” below an image and link this text to its original source.

Attribute quotes to the people who originally said them. If it’s a multi-line quote, you should use pull quote formatting:

“When you have wit of your own, it’s a pleasure to credit other people for theirs.”

Criss Jami

Resist the temptation to use pull quotes to quote your own story, or to tease something you’re about to say anyway.

Always give credit where credit is due to colleagues or other DVS members for their ideas. It is important to realize that some members may not want their names or direct quotes to appear in an article or even online. So make sure to reach out before quoting them or naming them to obtain their permission. If not, then paraphrase their ideas and make sure it is clear that the ideas are not your own.

Organizing and reviewing your content

Consider Dr. Bernadine Healy’s mantra: “strong verbs, short sentences” when writing. Review your content for run-on sentences and sentence fragments. Err on the side of breaking long sentences and paragraphs down into shorter ones. Consider separating sentences with semicolons into stand-alone statements. A paragraph is comprised of at least three sentences, but use frequent paragraph breaks, if necessary, to differentiate your article’s points. Make sure to introduce and/or explain graphs and other figures.

Keep your tense consistent throughout. If you’re talking about something that occurred in the past, use the past tense.

Evaluate the tone of your piece to ensure that your authentic voice comes through. Be aware of a tone that’s robotic or academic. Remember, this is meant to be a conversation with your reader.

Refer to your reader as “you” — not “we” or “us.” “We” are not going to do this tutorial, your reader is going to read your tutorial and do it on their own.

Code

Where possible, code should be in text form rather than images. This makes the code more accessible to screen readers, and easier for people to copy and paste.

Links

Some authors prefer to provide source links at the end of the article. Others use links in their main content. We accept either approach. However, if you are linking, try to work links into your sentence. Underlining text makes it harder to read, so only hyperlink a few words (no more than four).

If a link is vital to a story, you can create an embedded link by putting it on its own line and pressing enter.

Punctuation

Again, first please follow CMOS. Next, review these quick tips.

  • Put commas and periods inside quotes, except when it might confuse a reader (like with variable names or book titles).
  • Use contractions. They’ll make your prose seem more conversational. That’s always a plus.
  • Replace ampersands (&) with the full word “and.”

Titles within the article

Book titles, albums, TV shows, and movies should be in italics. Song titles should appear in quotation marks, e.g., “Data Visualization Rocks” is the first song on the upcoming album entitled I Love Data.

Numerals

Spell out one through nine: the Yankees finished second. He had nine months to go.

Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events, or things — also in all tabular matter and in statistical and sequential forms.

Terminology

Authors can use British Data Visualisation or American Data Visualization. The shortened version is “datavis” or “dataviz” uncapitalized. Please treat dataset as one word.

Tagging

Please don’t set ANY categories or tags. Your editor will handle that as we use these to manage site placement.

Wow, you made it all the way down here? You are dedicated and deserve to treat yourself! Go have some fun before you submit your article. Haha.

Author profile

Jason Forrest is a data visualization specialist, writer, and designer living in New York City. He is the director of interactive data visualization for McKinsey and Company’s COVID Response Center. In addition to being on the board of directors of the Data Visualization Society, he is also the editor-in-chief of Nightingale: the journal of the Data Visualization Society. He writes about the intersection of culture and information design and is currently working on a book about pictorial statistics.

Author profile

For 20 years, Mary Aviles has stewarded projects driving strategy and content, human experience, concept development, and systems change. A graduate of the University of Michigan, her work has spanned the business-to-business, health care, and nonprofit sectors. Mary is a mixed-method UX researcher at Detroit Labs and the managing editor of Nightingale. She writes about dataviz in real life (IRL) in an effort to help practitioners and “non-data” people enjoy better understanding and experiences in their shared ecosystems.