American Musicological Society, Inc.

Author Guidelines

Music Means articles are intended for a mixed audience of music enthusiasts and the general public. They are meant to be engaging and informative. As such, they should prioritize readability, accuracy, and narrative. All articles must be clearly and engagingly written, and should target a 6th-10th grade reading level. Thus, we ask authors to:

  1. Avoid jargon
  2. Use simple, active verbs
  3. Avoid long or compound sentences
  4. Minimize the use of adverbs and adjectives

We also strongly advise authors to use Word or one of the many readability apps (like Readability Calculator or Hemingway) to check the readability level before submission.

All articles for Music Means should include storytelling that answers a “story question.”

A “story question” is the thing that the reader is reading to discover; the answer the reader wants to find after all is said and done. It is usually stated or implied early on in the piece and it should be interesting and something the reader wants to have answered. In a murder mystery, the question is “whodunnit and how.” In a love story, the question (usually) is will the lovers find each other and how. In short, narrative nonfiction (like journalistic or research nonfiction) it should be a question that “makes meaning” of something and is not simply a dry statement of fact. If you can look up the answer in an encyclopedia or dictionary, it probably isn’t a good story question. For example, “What year did Columbus reach the Caribbean?” is not a story question. But in a tale about naval technology, navigation, and the financing of exploration by European kings, “Why did Columbus reach the Caribbean in 1492?” is a story question. To answer it, the writer must place facts and events in a specific order and give them a clear meaning.

Music Means articles do not include footnotes, but may include links to support factual statements or illustrate concepts. Photos, videos, audio, tables, and charts/graphs are also welcome, so long as they help bring the story to life or illustrate complex data or concepts.

Most Music Means articles are 500-750 words, and we will not publish articles of more than 1000 words.



Author Tips

1.       Keep things tight: Be clear on your story question before beginning to write and avoid digressions from it. You want your reader to come away with a clear understanding of what you are trying to convey.

2.       Opinions are okay: It is okay to express an opinion. We all have them. Just be sure to distinguish between provable fact and opinion / speculation.

3.       Spark interest: Write a first paragraph that grabs the reader’s interest by foregrounding a story or fact that is novel, fascinating, unusual, surprising, or poignant.

4.       Don’t bury your lead: Make your point early on. When reading online, people often don’t finish articles and so it is more important than ever not to bury the lead.

5.       Keep the title short: Keep the title short and direct. Aim for 6-8 words, and definitely no more than 10 words.

6.     Acknowledge others’ contributions: Music Means articles don’t include footnotes, but authors can and should name and/or link to other individuals and their important publications in the text.