Journal writing guidance2017-05-27T15:20:37+00:00

Guidance on writing for the Journal


These notes are intended:

  • to specify the criteria used in the selection and presentation of Journal articles; and
  • to set out the detailed style to be used in Journal articles.

Please do not be put off by the length or detail of the notes – the aim is to help writers, not to deter them. Without enthusiastic writers there can be no Journal.


The Society has a high reputation for the quality of its publications. Every effort must be made to retain that reputation. It is essential that the articles in the Society’s Journal are factually accurate, informative and readable.

Fact must be clearly distinguished from speculation.

Sources must be specified.

Personal attacks will not be published, but courteous reasoned criticism of previously published work is permitted.

Society members have no right of publication of articles. The editor reserves the right to obtain a second opinion on any article. The editor’s decision is final.


Authors need not be Society members, though preference for publication is normally given to members. No payment is made; expenses incurred are reimbursed only in exceptional circumstances.

Subject matter

Articles must be relevant to the aim of the Society, which is ’to encourage the study of the history of transport, with particular reference to railways, waterways and all matters associated with them.’

Articles will therefore be considered on:

  • any mode of transport (not just railways and canals);
  • any historical aspect of transport, including social and economic; and
  • subjects which would assist others in undertaking transport research.Articles should be of potential interest to a significant proportion of the general membership. Thus, if they are on a particularly detailed or obscure subject, they should help illuminate a wider topic.


    The RCHS Research Panel offers a consultative service to other members who are undertaking (or planning to undertake) research and writing projects. Examples of the way they can help include:

    • giving a second opinion on the scope and direction researches might take;
    • advising where to find answers to specific questions, or who to ask; and
    • reading and commenting in general terms on drafts of articles.

    To take advantage of this service, contact the RCHS Research Officer or the Editor

    Selection for the Journal

    The editor is responsible for choosing the articles to be published. The criteria used are:

    • the potential interest of the subject matter; and
    • the desirability of having a balance of topics in any one Journal issue.

    There is no set upper or lower limit on the length of articles, though articles of more than 10,000 words are likely to be split over more than one issue of the Journal. Articles of 750 to 1,500 words are particularly welcome as they give the editor flexibility in compiling issues of the Journal. Very short articles may be best presented in the form of a letter.

    Articles are considered on the understanding that they have not been previously published nationally and have not been simultaneously submitted for publication elsewhere.


    Copyright is vested jointly in the Railway & Canal Historical Society and the author. No article may be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of both the author and the RCHS, except that the author may:

    • use copies for their own teaching purposes; and
    • use the article or any part thereof in a printed compilation of works of their own, such as collected writings or lecture notes, in a thesis, or to expand the article into book-length form for publication.

    Requests to reproduce the article should be addressed to the Editor.

    The author is responsible for obtaining any necessary copyright clearances for photographs and other items reproduced (except for the Ordnance Survey: see below). This is important – if there are any problems or doubts, consult the editor.

    Where items are reproduced, for example, photographs held by Record Offices, the source must be acknowledged. Sometimes a reproduction fee has to be paid; sometimes the fee is waived but a copy of the Journal or article is requested – please let the Editor know if this is needed.

    Ordnance Survey maps are subject to copyright. However, reproduction of maps dating from the 1920s or earlier will not incur a royalty because of their age, though the source must be acknowledged. Later maps, or hand-drawn maps based on more recent Ordnance Survey maps, are liable for royalties; the editor will conduct the negotiations with the Ordnance Survey.


    Preferably, articles should be submitted to the Editor electronically as a Word file (.doc or .docx) or in some other compatible format. This can be done as an e-mail attachment or on a CD, DVD or some form of USB device. Do not embed photographs and diagrams; these must be sent as separate files.

    To make the Editor’s job easier:

      • insert two spaces after full stops
      • use hard returns only at the end of paragraphs
      • avoid hyphenation, either manual or automatic
      • refrain from use of automatic footnotes or endnotes

    Authors without access to word-processing equipment may submit their articles typed on white A4 paper, single spaced and single sided, or in clear handwriting. Pages should be numbered.

    A covering e-mail or letter should be sent giving the author’s name (including forename in the style preferred) and address for correspondence, plus telephone number and e-mail address.

    Authors should keep a copy of their text, in case anything goes astray.


    The general desire is to publish contributions in full, though minor changes may be made by the editor to accord with the Journal’s standard style (see later), to improve clarity or to correct grammar. However, the editor may wish to shorten the text or reduce the number of photographs or drawings because of limitations of space, duplication, relevance of some of the material or to ‘tighten’ the article.

    If major changes are desired by the editor, the author will be consulted and offered the following choices: the author to shorten the article to an agreed length, or the editor to shorten the article. In an extreme case, it may be that a précis would be more appropriate; again this could either be done by the author or by the editor. If significant amendments are made, the author will be sent a copy of the revised text for checking before it is submitted for printing.


    Authors of articles will usually be sent proofs of articles for checking and correcting typographical errors. Other alterations can be accepted only at the editor’s discretion; if any text is desired to be inserted, it may be necessary to make an equivalent reduction elsewhere. Proofs must be returned to the editor within 72 hours of receipt, otherwise the editor’s corrected proofs will be used.

    Complimentary copies

    Authors of articles will be given two complimentary copies of the Journal.


    Illustrations such as maps, plans and photographs often convey information to the reader in a simpler and clearer way than text. They also help break up large blocks of text, which helps make the Journal look more attractive. Maps are particularly important for articles concerning a particular railway, canal or location. Ideally they should show all locations mentioned in the text. The reader cannot be expected to know local geography – indeed, some of the Journal’s readers live abroad.

    Maps and plans are usually redrawn for publication. Contributors should submit either a clear sketch map showing the necessary features or a marked-up copy from an Ordnance Survey or some other suitable map on which these features are clearly highlighted. Keep detail to the essentials, though any features which help to indicate precise locations should be given. The orientation must be identified. The scale should be indicated by use of a rule, as it is often necessary to alter the size for printing.

    Illustrations should ideally be submitted in electronic format, each one as a separate file, in .jpg format at a resolution of at least 300 dpi. They should be accompanied by a list (which may form an appendix to the main submission) showing the captions and any necessary attributions. They should be described as Figures, abbreviated in the text as ’Fig’, for example ’Fig 1’, ’Fig 2’.

    If necessary, hard copies of maps, plans and photographs may also be submitted. These will not be returned after publication unless specifically requested by the contributor. Photographs should be clear and sharp, with strong contrast, preferably black and white with a gloss finish. Do not write on the back. For woodcuts, line-drawings, diagrams and the like, a good photocopy will reproduce better than many photographs can.

    Style guide

    The basic rule is to imagine the reader as someone with a general interest in the subject but not a specialist in the particular topic. The style and level of language used in a quality newspaper is a good guide.

    Try to use ‘plain English’. Be as brief as possible, as superfluous words obscure the meaning and lose the reader’s interest. Avoid the excessive use of jargon and technical vocabulary; if specialist words are essential, they should be explained in the text or endnotes, or possibly in an appendix. Avoid using the first person singular (’I’) and avoid spoken contractions such as ’isn’t’ ’don’t’ etc.

    Avoid the inclusion of information which will later become out of date; for example, rather than saying ‘five years ago’, state the year.

    Use quotations sparingly. A short quotation, especially if in archaic or old-fashioned language, is often more effective than a longer one.

    Specific editorial conventions

    It helps the editor if authors abide by the style guide. However, authors should not get too bogged down in the detail – it is generally relatively easy for the editor to put everything in the standard format.

    Numbers: Normally, numbers up to twelve should be written as words; other numbers should be written as figures. Numbers in tables or in lists are always written as figures. Use commas in large numbers (except years), for example, ’4,321’. Dimensions and measurements should appear in figures, for example, ’the pipe was 9 feet long’. These general rules should be broken whenever consistency requires otherwise or to make the meaning clear. Sentences should not commence with a number. Preferably re-phrase the sentence, but if this is not possible, spell out the number in full.

    Range of numbers: Provided that at least two digits stay unaltered, use the least number of digits possible. Thus, for example, write ‘250-1’, ‘1903-7’, ‘1903-11’ or ‘1897-1903’, but not ‘67-9’, ‘250-61’ nor ‘1897-903’. ‘Teens’ are an exception, as the figures should reflect what is said, for example, ‘1914-18’, not 1914-8’. Write ‘from 500 to 600’, not ‘from 500-600’ nor ‘5-600’.

    Dates and times should be written as (for example) ‘25 December 1998’; do not use ‘th’ etc. (The form 25.12.1998 is acceptable only in tables.) The names of centuries should be written as, for example, ’nineteenth century’ and not as ’19th century’ or ’C19’. Where the name of the century is used as an adjectival phrase, as in ’nineteenth-century railways’, it should be hyphenated. (Note the grammatical difference between ’in the nineteenth century’ and ’nineteenth-century railways’.) Decades should be identified by numbers not words, and without an internal inverted comma, for example, ’the 1920s’and not ’the 1920’s’. For time, follow the pattern ’9.00am’, ’11.15pm’. For approximate or estimated dates use ’c’ followed by the date with no space or full stop, for example, ’c1790’.

    Ampersands are always used instead of ‘and’ in the titles of railways and canals, for example, ‘London & North Western Railway’ and ‘Leeds & Liverpool Canal’, and in certain other proper names, such as ‘Railway & Canal Historical Society’ and ‘David & Charles’. Ampersands are not used in normal text.

    Abbreviations: Omit full stops in all abbreviations, including the names of people, for example, ‘A N Other’ and in citations, for example ’p 25’. Write ‘that is’ and ‘for example’ in full, not as ‘ie’ and ‘eg’. The first time a name is used it should be written in full with the abbreviation in brackets, for example, ‘The National Archives (TNA)’; thereafter use the abbreviation. If known, it should be written in the form generally used by the organisation, for example, ‘LNWR’, ‘M&GN’, ‘GNSR’ and ‘RCHS’; if in doubt, omit the ampersand and words such as ‘of’.

    Capitals should be used in proper names of companies, institutions and the like, for example, ‘Grand Union Canal’. Use capital letters in ‘Bill’, ‘Act of Parliament’ and ‘House of Commons’. Use capitals for formal job titles, such as ’General Manager’, titles of nobility, such as ’Duke of York’ and formal titles of institutions, such as ’Board’. Where words such as ’station’, ’colliery’ and ’farm’, form part of a proper name, they should be capitalised, for example, ’Victoria Station’, ‘Norton Colliery’ and ‘Cothay Farm’, similarly ’River Severn’. Otherwise use lower case, as in ’the colliery was located’. In book titles, the first and all chief words are capitalised in the main title only: use lower-case for all words in any subtitle; in the title of articles, only the first word is capitalised. Generally, capitals should be kept to a minimum.

    Italics: The names of boats, locomotives etc should be written in italics. Names of houses and public houses are not written in italics, nor are placed within quotation marks. The titles of books, journals, etc are written in italics but the titles of articles in journals are not italicised but placed within single inverted commas. Latin words now commonly used in English are not italicised, such as ’percent’. Note that ’circa’ should not be used – prefer ’c’ followed by the year, ’c1790’. The word ’sic’, by virtue of its function, should always be placed within square brackets and not italicised.

    Addresses are written without commas after the house number or between the city/county and post-code. ‘Road’, ‘Street’ etc are not abbreviated. Thus, for example, ‘123 High Street, Manchester M7 6RJ’.

    Quotations: Place short quotations within single quotation marks in running text. Double quotation marks are used only for quotations within quotations. Long quotations (three or more lines) should be indented but not placed within quotation marks. The questions of whether to modernise spelling, capitalisation and punctuation, and of whether to expand contractions in original documents quoted, are left to the author. If it is decided to modernise or expand, the fact should be stated in an end-note.

    Brackets should always be round, except when inserting editorial notes, expansions or explanations, when square brackets must be used.

    Commas: Provided that clarity is maintained and ambiguity avoided, keep the use of commas to a minimum.

    Dashes. Use a hyphen (-) within words. Use an en dash (–) without spaces to link places (London–Bristol) or dates (1850–60); also in wheel arrangements (4–6–2). As a punctuation mark, use an en dash with a single space on either side.

    Acts of Parliament should be cited in standard form, using arabic chapter numbers only, even for Local & Personal Acts, for example, ‘7-8 Vic c18’. If it is not obvious from the context whether the Act is Public & General, Local & Personal, or Private, a note should be added in brackets after the chapter number. Where a title is cited, it should be the official short title of the Act.

    Weights and measures should be quoted in the contemporary form without metric conversions. Write the name of the unit in full in the text, for example, ‘feet’ and ‘hours’. Abbreviations may be used in tables, for example, ‘ft’ and ‘hrs’. The basic SI metric units of linear measurement are the metre (m) and millimetre (mm); metric sizes should not be given in centimetres. Having chosen one system, stick to it consistently. A space is required between a number and the following symbol.

    Money: Predecimalisation money should not be converted; it should be written as, for example, ‘£1,234 15s 6d’, ‘£1,234 15s’, ‘15s 6d’ or ‘6d’.

    Timetable references should be given in the contemporary form. For example, a train in the 1940s would be referred to as ‘the 6.15pm departure’, not ‘the 18 15 departure’.

    Grid references should follow the conventions used by the Ordnance Survey. Thus they should be in the form
    ‘AB 123456’, with no stop after the letter, a single space between the letters and numbers, and no space between the numbers of the easting and those of the northing.

    Compass points. Capitals should not be used for compass points. Treat intermediate compass points as a single word, as in ’northeast’, ’southwest’, without hyphenation. However the names of companies etc should follow the official form of the name, for example ’South Eastern Railway’. Compass points used in geographic descriptions should not be in capitals (’south Wales’ not ’South Wales’) but capitals should be used in the proper name of an administrative area or similar, such as ’North Yorkshire’ or ‘East Sussex’.


    References in the main text should appear as endnotes not as footnotes. They should appear in the text as arabic numerals and be raised above the text. They should be placed after any punctuation. If the author has used automated endnotes during the composition of a contribution, they must be converted to form part of the body of the text before submission.

    End-notes are listed in a separate section immediately following the text and headed ‘Notes and references’. (If the end-notes comprise only one type or the other, then the title is ‘Notes’ or ‘References’, as appropriate.)

    Any general notes and acknowledgements should be placed first and not numbered.

    Notes should be used sparingly and only for matters that are not directly relevant to the main text, for example, acknowledgement of someone’s help in drawing the information to one’s attention. If readers would miss something of significance by ignoring a particular note, this implies that the information should be in the main text. Notes should never be used to save the effort of changing the main text to incorporate afterthoughts.


    It is a principle of the Society that articles in its publications must be adequately referenced. However, too many notes and references disrupt the flow of reading; they can also take up a significant amount of space which the editor may have used to better advantage. It is therefore necessary to attain a satisfactory balance. References have three purposes:

    • to enable readers to follow up the research for themselves;
    • to give the origin of a particularly important statement or opinion, especially if it is controversial; and
    • to show the range of sources used in the research and hence to enable readers to judge the soundness of the research.

    None of these requires a large number of references. Where much of the information comes from one source, this probably needs to be mentioned only once. It is often best to group all necessary references within a paragraph in a single note placed at the end of that paragraph. An exception is information from newspapers; subsequent researchers would appreciate it if every relevant issue date is quoted, since searching newspapers is particularly time-consuming.

    For further information, consult the Journal Editor –

    Examples of a reference to a book and to a journal article

    Jean Lindsay, The Trent & Mersey Canal (Newton Abbot : David & Charles, 1979), p 20

    R F Hartley, ‘Killingworth 200 – the Killingworth Rail Road and Stephenson’s early locomotives’, North Eastern Express, vol 54, February 2015, pp 4–12

    Subsequent references to an item that has been cited earlier take the following form: ’Lindsay (1979), p 94’