Guide to Writing
The tone in which an article is written makes a big difference to how it is received by the reader. Information presented on TobaccoTactics must be objective, factual and well referenced, not subjective or judgemental. However, it is important that a clear explanation is given as to why a particular person or organisation is featured on TobaccoTactics.
There should be enough objective material – hard facts about what the person or organisation said or did, including quotes from the target person or from critics etcetera, to enable readers to make their own reasoned judgement.
The following guidelines outline some important points to keep in mind with preparing content for TobaccoTactics. Also see:
- 1 Focus on Facts
- 2 Help the Reader to Understand
- 3 Notes
Focus on Facts
Try to be as factual as possible. Avoid rhetoric or personal comments and stay away from speculation, innuendo which may lead to claims of defamation and/or libel. A profile entry on TobaccoTactics is not an opinion piece.
Avoid Generalisations and Unsubstantiated Sweeping Statements
Support your statements with as much primary material as possible. Just because someone else has said it is true, does not mean it is true and quoting someone else without checking your facts does not protect you from libel. Make sure your sources are up to date, and relate to the present day or else indicate that they are historical.
Avoid Sarcasm and Anger
Use temperate language. Sarcasm, ranting, and anger are counter-productive because they alienate people and make them think that your information is not strong enough to speak for itself. We explicitly warn against abusive language or language that is in any way racist, sexist or obscene or could be construed as such. Do not use swear words unless in quotations.
Provide Analysis and Do Not Assume Prior Knowledge
If we assume too much knowledge on the part of our readers, we are at risk of creating information that only insiders can understand. We have to assume that our readers know little or nothing about our article topic. They need to be introduced to it and led through the content step-by-step.
Therefore, please explain why you are citing the facts and what they tell us. For example, “Aspect Consulting has represented Fontem Ventures since 2014” does not inform the reader why such a relationship is noteworthy. The reader needs an explanation on why a combination of different jobs or functions raises questions. Or how a string of affiliations proves a link to the tobacco industry, and why that would inappropriate. A more accurate version would be “Aspect Consulting has represented Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of the tobacco company Imperial Tobacco since 2014”.
Take care to quote people or printed material accurately, and to represent their views correctly. Misquotations can lead to legal repercussions. Therefore, take care not to quote people or printed material out of context, thereby changing the meaning. If you repeat something libellous you can be held responsible for it. This includes repeating direct quotes from someone who is making allegations about someone else. It is no excuse in law to argue that it was published, for example, in The Guardian first - or that someone else said it first. Also if the person, organisation or company has denied the accusation in material you are quoting from (or later in a letter of clarification or a correction note), this should be reflected in the article you write.
Use Timeless Language
You need to assume that people will be reading your article well into the future. Thus, words like “now” and “currently” should be avoided. The terms such as 'at the time of writing' should be avoided if possible.
- Aspect Consulting is currently representing Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco.
- From 2013 to present, here has been a flurry of tobacco company investments in e-cigarettes
- Aspect Consulting began to represent Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco in 2014
- The year 2013 saw a flurry of tobacco company investment in e-cigarettes, both in the UK and in the US. This trend continued into 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Help the Reader to Understand
Do Not Assume Prior Knowledge
In TobaccoTactics articles, although we should not assume the reader has any prior knowledge of the tobacco industry and its activities, it is not practical to go into the background of every person and organisation that you mention. Instead, give a brief explanation of the relevance of people or organisations that you mention and the in-text links system should enable people to follow up. For example, if you are talking about a person or company, give a brief description of why it is important to mention this person, organisation, or company in particular.
This is not helpful:
- Jacob Sullum is the Senior Editor of the Reason Magazine, the oldest media channel owned by the Reason Foundation
This assumes that everyone knows what Reason Foundation does and that it is linked to tobacco companies.
This is more helpful:
- Jacob Sullum is the Senior Editor of the Reason Magazine, the oldest media channel owned by the Reason Foundation, an American libertarian think tank. The Reason Foundation has a history of receiving donations from tobacco companies.
This is the most helpful description:
- Jacob Sullum is the Senior Editor of the Reason Magazine, the oldest media channel owned by the Reason Foundation, an American libertarian think tank (reference). The Reason Foundation has a history of receiving donations from tobacco companies (reference).
Always provide references.
It also helps to give a brief description of a person’s position, even if they are well known in your own country. Readers in the UK will know who David Cameron is, but readers in other countries will appreciate a brief description, such as 'David Cameron, who became UK prime minister in May 2010.
Explain All Acronyms
There are a lot of acronyms on the TobaccoTactics website. Please spell out the full meaning of acronyms the first time you mention them. The first or second time you mention the full name, insert a bracket after it with the acronym. Thereafter you are fine with just the acronym. Thus for example:
- The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) calls itself "the UK’s leading libertarian think tank". It says that it "engineers policies to increase Britain’s economic competitiveness, inject choice into public services, and create a freer, more prosperous society". ASI promotes strong visions against regulation of smoking; in June 2013, it was found to accept money from the tobacco industry.
Make Your Prose Appropriate for the Audience
Most people will only read simple prose that flows easily from the page. We write for a general audience, and so need to pitch our material accordingly.
The following make an article easier to read:
- Short, simple sentences and paragraphs;
- Short (no longer than three-syllable) words;
- Brief explanations of important people, organisations, tactics and events;
- Text broken up by headers that signpost what follows;
This is where your references will appear.