This is a self-service FAQ and policy for contributors who write news submissions via Yahoo Contributor Network for Yahoo News or Yahoo Voices only. This is not necessarily policy for other Yahoo websites.
Other News policies: General news policy, common errors and style| Sourcing and attribution policy | Factbox policy and format examples | Commentary policy
Yahoo Contributor Network is interested in news coverage from contributors who are knowledgeable and passionate about certain topics, who are on the scene at news events, and who can add intelligent and well-researched insight to the big stories of the day.
This FAQ and policy: (a) covers what we generally require of contributors, (b) offers some great examples of content we publish, (c) points out common mistakes contributors make, (d) includes a basic style guide for general news and politics, and (e) references some miscellaneous publishing do’s and don’ts.
Table of contents
– Basic requirements
– Examples of great content and formats
– Common mistakes + general style guide
– Politics style guide
– Miscellaneous do’s and don’ts
In general, here is what we ask contributors to do:
(1) Fill the gaps
Yahoo News has its own stable of staff writers and news partners, so there is no need for stories that are repetitive and redundant of what they already have or are planning for. Therefore, Yahoo Contributor Network will often write assignments that allow writers to fill gaps in traditional news coverage and provide original angles. Most often, however, we’ll rely on you to think of different ways of approaching a subject.
(2) Be original
Don’t rewrite what others have written — even if you link to them. As with most stories written via Yahoo Contributor Network, we don’t allow contributors to rewrite or regurgitate what others have written. You should use several and varied sources, especially primary sources (i.e., non-media sources) when readily available. You are not allowed to take others’ work and rewrite it and restructure it into a factbox. We ask you to use primary sources because they are a rich and straightforward reservoir of information.
Please read more about relying on multiple and primary sources here.
Your stories must be dominated by an original angle. This could include: (1) a personalization of a major news story — how it affects you specifically and in detail; (2) a localization of how a national story affects your area or state; (3) a well-informed and -sourced commentary on a major story; (4) an analysis that compares a story to similar and high-profile stories from the past; (5) original reporting from primary sources or people.
Sometimes, we’ll ask contributors to do a news round-up — an amalgamation of what other news outlets are reporting on a story or how a certain issue is being covered. But these types of stories will be assigned, and we’ll always ask you to rely on multiple sources, look for overlooked details and mix in primary sources, as necessary.
(3) Follow our policies
Because we deal with a very large number of writers, it’s imperative you follow our guidelines and contributor policies precisely. Understanding what we need — in general and on specific assignments — will speed up review times and allow us to publish a variety of voices.
Understand and follow our policies on:
– writing commentary
– citing and attributing sources
– adhering to our style guidelines
Make sure you’re also abiding by the general submission guidelines and community guidelines for Yahoo Contributor Network.
Examples of great content and different formats
While being original and filling the gaps in news coverage, you should pick the format that best suits your topic. It might be a first-person account, an interview with an expert, a factbox or something else. Here are some examples of great stories. You’ll notice that all these stories are flush with great detail and voice.
These could be a personal and heartfelt take on how a timely news event affects you. Or it could be a straight-from-the-scene account of a major news event.
– The Lucky Ones: A Near-Miss From the Joplin Tornado
– In Down Economy, Is It Time to Abandon Career Dreams?
– Maurice Sendak Taught Us How to Look for Monsters
– ‘Far from Invincible:’ NYC Students Suffered Poor 9/11 Environmental Conditions
– Katrina Five Years Later: Storm Wrecked Houses, but Not Home
Factboxes can vary in format: timelines, bulleted collections of facts, Q&As, collections of quotes from people in the story, a “by the numbers” approach. What good factboxes have in common is that they’re flush with interesting and specific detail, and they are not merely a narrative with bullet points in front of paragraphs. Each fact or section in a factbox should be a standalone tidbit of information, not merely the next sentence in a story.
You should use primary sources (i.e., non-media sources) when readily available. If you’re covering a specific beat, we encourage you to compile a list of websites to visit often. Sign up for email alerts and newsletters. Subscribe to blogs. This will get you up-to-date information and provide you with a great list of sources.
Please read more detailed information on factboxes here.
– What Contributed to Romney’s Florida Primary Win?
– Presidential Politics Upsets: a History
– South Carolina Primary Results, by the Numbers
– Timeline: John Edwards’ Scandal
– Famous Quotes About Pearl Harbor
Interviews with experts or newsworthy people
Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to let someone do it in their own words. Q&A interviews, with the guide of carefully selected and intelligent questions, put readers into the mind of experts on timely and newsworthy subjects. Here are some examples of great Q&A interviews that have resonated with readers and editors:
– Dogs of the Titanic: a Dozen Aboard, Three Survived
– Neil deGrasse Tyson on Space Mining, NASA’s Future, and American Space Exploration
– Westboro Baptist Church Elder and Spokesman Talks Gays, God and Obama
– Bishop Gene Robinson on Gay Marriage, Church-State Separation
– Space Tourism ‘Getting Closer,’ Virgin Galactic CEO Says
Commentary and analysis
Commentaries and analysis comprise a huge bulk of what we publish. But we don’t accept bland, ranting and vague commentaries. Submissions published on Yahoo News must be detailed, well-sourced, intelligent, compelling and, above all, a valuable read. The examples below are valuable.
Please read our longer and separate policy on writing news commentary here.
– Worst Election Ads of the 2012 Campaign — So Far
– Obama’s ‘Dog Meatgate’ and Republicans — Bless Their Hearts
– No Jeb Bush as Romney VP? Four Reasons Why
– Sheriff Arpaio Needs to Drop Obama Investigation
Common grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes + general style guidelines
Please make sure you are running your articles through a tool that checks for spelling and grammar mistakes (like Microsoft Word or a Web-based tool) before submitting. If you submit content with errors, your content could be declined or delayed. Even worse, you could be dropped from assignments if you continually submit content with errors.
Many contributors have asked us over the years for a list of errors we commonly see. They want to know, for example, how are contributors misusing abbreviations, numbers, hyphens, etc. In no particular order, here are some of the errors that arise often.
Hyphens in ages
When used as a compound modifier, ages need to include hyphens. For example: “John is a 15-year-old boy.” Hyphens are needed because “15-year-old” modifies boy. Without hyphens: “John is 15 years old.” No hyphens are needed because it’s not modifying anything. Tricky: Hyphens are still needed when the modified noun is implied but invisible. For example: “Any 15-year-old is a teenager.”
* Read more on hyphens at the Yahoo style guide.
That vs. who
“Who” means people. “That” means things. Correct: “The three men who arrived in town on Monday…”Incorrect: “The three men that arrived in town on Monday…” The word “who” should especially be used when applying it explicitly to a person’s name. “Who” should also be used when it’s implied that it’s a person.
It vs. they
“It” is singular. “They” is plural. Furthermore, a thing is an “it” — not a “they.” A company, for example, is a thing — thus, an “it.” If General Motors filed for bankruptcy, “it” filed for bankruptcy. “They” didn’t file for bankruptcy. Incorrect: “General Motors filed for bankruptcy on Monday because they couldn’t meet their financial obligations.” Correct: “General Motors filed for bankruptcy on Monday because it couldn’t meet its financial obligations.” Two or more companies? It’s “they” because it’s plural. Correct: “General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy this year because they couldn’t meet their financial obligations.”
It’s vs. its
It’s is a contraction of “it” and “is.” For example: “It’s dark outside.” (Or — “It is dark outside.”) Its is the possessive form for a thing. For example: “The company’s future is cloudy because its customers are unhappy.” Its refers to the company’s customers. If you’re uncertain, change what you’re saying to “it is” and read it aloud. If it doesn’t make sense, you probably mean its — no apostrophe.
“Up” words: verbs vs. nouns
The general rule is this: If it’s a noun or adjective, it’s one word or sometimes hyphenated; if it’s a verb, it’s two words.
– Matchup (noun) vs. match up (verb)
– Backup (noun) vs. back up (verb)
– Roundup (noun) vs. round up (verb)
Incorrect, misused or antiquated words and improper capitalization and punctuation
– Put punctuation inside quote marks. Correct: “He went to school on Thursday.” Incorrect: “He went to school on Thursday”.
– Health care is two words; not healthcare
– Amid, not amidst
– Among, not amongst
– Canceled not cancelled; canceling, not cancelling. But: cancellation
– OK, not okay
– U.S., not US. (See U.S. vs. United States below.)
– Do not user ampersands (these things — &) unless they are the style used by a company or created work. Use the word “and” instead.
– Percent, not %
– The word “percent” should follow all numbers when they are percentages. For example: “He was ahead in polling, 48 percent to 32 percent.”
– Put $ signs in front of dollar amounts. Correct: “He spent $4.” Incorrect: “He spent 4 dollars.” Also incorrect: “He spent $4 dollars.” Even worse: “He spent $50 thousand dollars.” (Should be: “He spent $50,000.”)
– Use “more than” instead of “over” (and “fewer than” instead of “under”) when referring to numbers and figures. Correct: “They spent more than $50 on food.” Incorrect: “They spent over $50 on food.”
Italics, underline and bold
– Do not italicize quotes or quoted passages. Just put them in quotes.
– Never use underlining.
– Bold your in-article subheads. Do not use all caps.
– Italicize words of emphasis; do not use bold, underline or all caps.
– Put the names of books, movies and TV shows in double quotes. (Commas go inside the quote marks.) Newspapers and magazines are either plain-text or italicized.
– Always use double quotes for body text; use single quotes for headlines, subheads and when nesting quotes inside double quotes.
– Read more on quote marks at the Yahoo style guide.
Numerals and numbers
– In general, spell out one through nine. Use numerals for anything 10 and greater.
Exceptions we use often:
– Spell out numbers that start a sentence: “Fifteen people attended the party.” Unless it’s a year: “1967 was a good year for music.”
– Use numerals for all ages: “The boy is 5 years old.”
– Use numerals for money: “It cost $4.”
– Read more on numbers and further exceptions at the Yahoo style guide.
Calendar dates, days of the week and times
– Use AP abbreviations for months used as a specific date: “They will meet on Feb. 28.” Abbreviations: Jan., Feb., March, April, May, June, July, Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec. (March, April, May, June and July are not abbreviated.)
– Don’t use abbreviations when writing just the month: “They will meet in February 2012.”
– Don’t use the current year in a date unless there would be confusion. For example, don’t write: “They will meet on Feb. 28, 2011, to discuss the issue.” Instead: “They will meet on Feb. 28 to discuss the issue.”
– Use the day of the week if it’s in the current week: “They will meet on Thursday.”
– Separate years by commas: “Barack Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Hawaii.”
– Do not use “th” or “nd” or “st” or “rd” ordinal extensions with dates. For example, don’t write, “It happened on Feb. 23rd.” Instead, write, “It happened on Feb. 23.”
– For times, please follow this style: 6 a.m., 6:12 a.m., 11 p.m., 11:34 p.m., noon, midnight. Avoid: 6 PM, 2:30 AM, 2:00 a.m. Note that it is lowercase and uses periods. On-the-hour times do not use :00.
– Read more on time at the Yahoo style guide.
– Read more on dates and days at the Yahoo style guide.
We prefer that you use AP style for states. Some general rules:
– When states follow city names, use the AP abbreviation for the state. See the full list here: http://academic.luther.edu/~johnsmar/APstates.htm Example: “He lived in Boulder, Colo., for four years.” (Note: Eight states are not abbreviated. The best way to remember which eight are not abbreviated: They are state names that are five letters or fewer and the two not in the contiguous 48, Alaska and Hawaii.)
– When state names stand alone, they are spelled out. Example: “He lived in Colorado for four years.”
– If it’s not the last word in a sentence, separate state names accompanied by a city with a comma. Example: “He drove from Boulder, Colo., to Austin, Texas, on his road trip.”
– Titles are not capitalized unless they directly precede a person’s name.
– The word “president” is not capitalized unless it immediately precedes a president’s name. Correct: “On Wednesday, President Obama spoke at the UN.” Incorrect: “On Wednesday, the President spoke at the U.N.” This stems from a general rule that titles (but not jobs) are capitalized, but only when referring to a specific person. This also applies to derivative words like “presidential” and “presidency.” Two or more presidents in a row? Lowercase it. Correct: “On Monday, presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke about Haiti.” On first reference to any president (in the United States or anywhere in the world), use his first and last name.
Some titles are abbreviated if they appear directly in front of a person’s name. Here are some common ones used as examples:
– Gov. Jerry Brown
– Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
– Rev. Jesse Jackson
– Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
– Prof. Jane Smith
– Note: “Representative” is the preferred usage, not congressman or congresswoman. Also, “representative” is lowercased if not preceding a name. If preceding a name, use the abbreviation “Rep.” With location-based politicians, use commas to offset their party and state designation, not parenthesis. Use state abbreviates as noted above, not postal abbreviations.
Do not use courtesy titles like “Miss” or “Mr.” in front of people’s names.
– Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Section 8 and other formal government programs are always capitalized.
– Congress: Capitalized when referring to the U.S. Congress. Not “The Congress” — just “Congress.” When using the adjective “congressional,” it’s lowercase.
– House: Always capitalized when referring to the U.S. House of Representatives: “The House voted on Monday.” Lowercase when referring to a state-level body: “The state house voted on Monday.”
– Senate: Always capitalized when referring to the U.S. Senate: “The Senate voted on Monday.” Lowercase when referring to a state-level body: “The state senate voted on Monday.”
– Representative vs. congressman: Do not use the terms “congressman” or “congresswoman.” Use “representative” instead. Abbreviate as “Rep.” when immediately before a name: “Rep. Jared Polis…”
– President: Capitalized only in front of a name. “President Barack Obama” on first reference. “President Obama” on second reference. But when writing “We need a president who can…” the word is lowercase. Always lowercase derivatives: presidency, presidential. The word is never abbreviated.
– Political titles: Most are abbreviated only in front of a name. For example: Gov. Jerry Brown; Rep. Jared Polis; Sen. Mark Udall. President is never abbreviated. Spell out and lowercase president, governor, representative and senator when using them on their own and without a name. For example: “The governor proposed a solution on Monday.”
– Names: Use a first and last name for everyone on first reference, including Barack Obama. After that, use only the last name unless there is more than one person being cited with the same last name and it needs to be clear who is being spoken about.
– Parties vs. philosophies: Capitalize “Republican Party” and “Democratic Party,” including the word “party.” Capitalize terms and derivatives that are associated with a party. For example, the following words would be capitalized only when associated with a specific and recognized party: Democrat, Republican, Communist, Socialist, Libertarian. (“He is a member of the Socialist Party.”) DO NOT capitalize them when they’re associated with a philosophy or stance. (“She is a conservative politician and he is a socialist.” )
– Do not capitalize “tea party” unless you are referring to specific groups, like the Tea Party Express.
Miscellaneous do’s and don’ts
Please note these specific policies:
Avoid keyword stuffing
While it’s helpful to tell readers in your headline and first paragraph what you’re writing about (and this includes using keyword phrases), you should not stuff your content with keywords.
This problem most often occurs when a suspect is accused of committing a crime. Remember that someone should only be called a “killer” or “kidnapper” or “criminal” when that person has been found guilty in a court. Merely being a suspect doesn’t make a one criminal. Reword your sentences to avoid libel. Using the term “alleged” does not always shield you from libel. It’s better to put potentially libelous phrases in the words of authorities: “Prosecutors said that the suspect did XYZ…” or “Police said they believe John Smith did XYZ…”
Avoid weasel words
Don’t be vague about your sources or supporting evidence. Some weasel word examples: (a) “Some people say…” WHAT PEOPLE? (b) “Studies show…” WHAT STUDIES? (c) “It has been said that…” WHO SAID IT? For more, refer to this website, What Are Weasel Words? — http://ezinearticles.com/?What-Are-Weasel-Words?&id=1430474
Do not respond to readers or write about readers
Do not respond to readers or otherwise engage with them in your news submissions. This is not allowed — whether as a one-sentence rebuttal or as an entire submission. Your submissions should stay on topic and shouldn’t veer into a back-and-forth with readers. We understand that readers’ comments can be wrong, mean-spirited and all sorts of awful things. But it’s not our position to get into a war of words with them. Further, contributors should not comment on their own news stories in response to readers. This policy may vary from other Yahoo websites.
Do not write about Yahoo
Do not write about Yahoo, as a company, when it makes the news.
Choose only one category
For Yahoo News submissions, please choose only one category. Recent tech enhancements and changes now sometimes allow contributors to pick Yahoo News categories for their submissions. Please only pick one category that best exemplifies your story. Picking more than one will not benefit your story; all but one category will be removed by an editor.
Do not include photos or images with your submissions — with two exceptions
Do not include photos or images with your Yahoo News submissions — with two exceptions. Yahoo News’ image policy undergoes constant changes, and a lot of that change revolves around image providers. We can no longer accept images from Wikimedia Commons, iStockPhoto, Stock Exchange, the federal government, any public domain images, press kits, and other YCN-approved sources. The only exceptions: (1) a photo you took yourself or (2) a photo for which you have been given explicit and express permission to publish on Yahoo News with your story (e.g., a photo taken by a friend of a news event). If you do include one of these two options, the photo must still be directly related to your story and of high quality. When attaching a photo, please put this at the end of your caption, in parentheses: (Photo courtesy of Contributor Name) Note: Occasionally, an editor may republish a story from Yahoo Voices to Yahoo News, and it may have a photo attached. If you are submitting to Yahoo Voices, you should continue to abide by that site’s image guidelines, which can be found here: https://contributor.yahoo.com/help/popup/?help_id=310