How to Write for Nightingale

Everything you ever wanted to know about how to publish with us! In addition to helping writers level up their skills, these guidelines help our editorial team assist you through the review process. For any feedback or questions, email nightingale@datavisualizationsociety.org.

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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?

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!

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

Nightingale Magazine aims to be a collective community celebration, which means we encourage all members of the data visualization community – regardless of technical background, level of expertise, or any other defining characteristic – to submit articles for consideration. 

Please follow the guidelines below to submit. We look forward to seeing your submissions!

Email submissions to nightingale@datavisualizationsociety.org and note in your email that you are submitting for consideration in print.

Submission checklist

Ensure that your submission includes:

  • A Google Doc with your article draft
  • A Google Drive folder with accompanying images FOR WHICH YOU HAVE COPYRIGHT/PERMISSION TO PRINT (300 dpi preferred; lower resolution images may not render well enough to be printed). The ONLY case in which you do not need explicit permission to publish images that are not yours is if you are including an image of a book cover, film poster, etc., in a review.
  • Note: all graphics and visualizations should align with our print guidelines, as detailed in this document [PDF]:
Guidelines for print graphics and visualizations


  • Each print issue announces the editorial theme and submission deadline for the upcoming issue. It is okay for articles not to have an explicit focus on the theme, but we will prioritize selecting pieces that fit with the theme in some way.
  • Submission does not guarantee inclusion in the print magazine, though we will try to publish all submitted articles that meet our editorial standards either in print or online.
  • Earlier submissions leave more time for editorial support. If you want input from our editors on the structure of your article or suspect that you will need help cleaning up your writing, aim to submit well before the deadline.
  • The editorial team may need to edit aspects of your article (including changing the title, cutting text, or cutting or cropping images) to fit the layout and structure of the magazine. The team will do our best to make these changes collaboratively with you, but it is not feasible for us to offer authors the opportunity to review their fully-designed, print-ready pieces.

Types of PRINT content to submit

We encourage submissions of all kinds, even if it’s not listed here, but here are the types of content we are currently thinking of including:

  • Columns, e.g., short, text-based articles that provide perspective on a particular topic like data literacy, data ethics, career tips, etc. (200 – 600 words)
  • Short articles, e.g., “spotlight” or “gallery” pieces that focus on a specific visualization or collection of visualizations with short accompanying text. (200 – 600 words)
  • Long articles, e.g., behind the scenes, interviews, research-based articles, etc. that go in depth on a particular topic. (1,200 – 2,500 words)
  • Reviews of a book, event, course, conference, film, exhibit, etc. (200 words)
  • Activities, e.g., crossword puzzles, trivia, Kids’ Table prompts, etc.


Columns are mostly text-based and need not include images. These pieces provide perspective on a particular topic such as data literacy, data ethics, career tips, etc.

  • Word count: 200-600 words
  • Images: Optional

Short articles

Short articles typically include only a short amount of text and instead focus on highlighting one particular visualization (a “spotlight”) or a collection of related visualizations (a “gallery”).

  • Word count: 200-600 words
  • Images:
    • For a spotlight piece, 1-3 visualizations designed to fit on a US letter size page (8.5 x 11 inches) or two-page spread.
    • For a gallery piece, up to 10 images from which the editorial team will select several to feature.

Long articles

Long articles include behind-the-scenes pieces, interviews, research-based articles, etc., that go in depth on a particular topic and include several supporting images.

  • Word count: 1,200-2,500 words
  • Images: It depends, but a good guideline is one image per every 600 words (or approximately 2-4 images per article)


Reviews include a short amount of text describing your perspective on a book, event, course, conference, film, exhibit, etc., and one accompanying image.

  • Word count: 200 words
  • Images: One image representing what you are reviewing (e.g., book cover, film poster, course logo, etc.)


Get creative! Can you create a crossword puzzle or trivia quiz? Can you share dataviz activities you have done with your kids for The Kids’ Table? The content and format is up to you.

Digital Submission Guidelines

Email submissions to nightingale@datavisualizationsociety.org.

Submission criteria

You must be a member of the Data Visualization Society to submit an article for publication. It’s free to join and you can sign up here.

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

We prefer all articles to appear on Nightingale exclusively for three weeks before authors repost on their personal sites. After that, 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!

Our content varies in length. Typically, we publish pieces between 500–3,000 words.

Submission process

To submit an article for consideration, after you’ve thoroughly reviewed these guidelines and the checklist above, please follow these steps:

  1. Please email nightingale@datavisualizationsociety.org with a link to your article in Google Docs and a Drive folder with associated images.
  2. You will be assigned an editor within a few days of submitting your article. At that time, please send along a photo and a 2-3 sentence bio for your “author profile”; please also provide your social media handles (Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack) if you would like us to tag you in posts promoting your article.
  3. 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.
  4. Once you and the editor agree on a final version, the editor will port the article into our WordPress site for your review.
  5. The managing editor will schedule your article for publication. Articles are scheduled in the order they 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 newsletter).


We invite you to translate your article into other languages you speak. We are happy to publish articles in multiple languages and may be able to provide editorial support for other languages.

Nouvelles Normes Editoriales de Nightingale (French)


Since our launch in July 2019, we’ve been able to pay everyone (writers, editors, and illustrators) for their brilliant work. The Data Visualization Society pays all Nightingale contributors directly. 

You have one of the following three options:

  • Payment of $50 USD via bill.com.
  • One free copy of the magazine, via a discount code that can be redeemed in our online shop (shipping charges may apply depending on your shipping address).
  • Donate your payment back to the Data Visualization Society if you don’t wish to or are unable to accept compensation. We really do appreciate it – and YOU!

For more information, see our terms and conditions.

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.

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 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.


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.


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.


Again, first please follow CMOS. Here are some 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.


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.


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

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.

Nightingale Editors

Our Nightingale editorial team currently consists of Alejandra Arevalo, William Careri, Jason Forrest, Elijah Meeks, and Teo Popescu. Reach us at Nightingale(at)Datavisualizationsociety.org