This tool for researchers, writers, grantees, and staff is designed to guide the development of reports and other products for potential publication by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) and under the CHCF brand. (Sometimes publications are released under the author’s brand, in which case the program officer will work with the author to set expectations.)
Guidelines for Submission of Publication Drafts
To answer your writing and editing questions, consult these resources in this order, as appropriate:
- This set of guidelines
- CHCF’s house style sheet
- Almanac style sheet
- Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed.
- Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.
- The Indigo Book, for legal citations
Questions and comments about the guidelines can be addressed to the CHCF program officer on your grant or to CHCF’s director of engagement, Sally Mudd.
Along with the publication draft, please submit a brief memo answering the following questions (which should summarize a discussion between author, program officer, and communications officer, and sometimes an editor, from the outline phase of this work):
- Who are the key audiences for this publication?
- What is the goal of this publication? What, ultimately, do we want your key audiences to do as a result of reading this publication?
All reports produced by CHCF’s External Engagement department go through a rigorous editorial process; therefore, authors should be prepared to work on multiple drafts before a final product is finished. All products should adhere to the following editorial standards:
- Relevance to audience. The relevance of the findings to the audience should be clearly stated in the introduction and reinforced throughout the product. A discussion between the author and the program officer about the purpose of the report, and an agreement about the audience it is intended to reach, should take place before the draft is written.
- Clarity/accessibility. Information presented should be clear and relevant to the publication’s audience.
- Accuracy/permissions. Authors are required to fact check publications and supply sources for all data. Accuracy of endnotes and sources is the author’s responsibility. Authors must secure written permission to reproduce the graphics or other materials of others.
- Objectivity/voice. Information should be presented neutrally and without bias. Tone of voice is professional. Avoid “I” and “we.”
- Asset-framing. Asset-framing is a narrative model that defines people by their assets and aspirations before noting the challenges and deficits. This model invests in people for their continued benefit to society. Please incorporate an asset-framing approach to your writing. Learn how CHCF is adopting this model (PDF).
Manuscript Submission Guidelines
For a visual example of how these guidelines are applied, see our sample manuscript. Feel free to use this file as a template in preparing your manuscript.
Please read the CHCF style sheet carefully before writing your draft. If you have questions about manuscript prep or editorial style, please contact CHCF’s managing editor.
- File format and margins. Reports and issue briefs should be delivered in a Microsoft Word file. Use one-inch margins all around and a 12-point font, single-spaced.
- Data links. Documents need to be self-contained, so avoid using data links to other files or to web pages. Instead, bring the data into the file and break any external links.
- Pagination. Your manuscript should be paginated. In the main menu, choose Insert > Page Numbers, then click OK (the default options for Position and Alignment are fine).
- Formatting. Your manuscript should not be formatted other than what is designated above (for instance, no fancy colored headers or other graphic elements). The design styles that you apply in Word will be stripped out when the designer imports the text into InDesign for layout.
- Headings. However, heading levels need to be clear and can be indicated in one of two ways: (a) use Word’s default styles for headings (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.), or (b) use bracketed codes such as H1, H2, and H3 before each head.
- Justification. In general, all copy should be flush left and ragged right.
- Indentation. If indents are required, use tabs (not the space bar) to create them.
- Lists. To created hanging indents in numbered and bulleted lists, use Word’s Bullets and Numbering function; do not use returns and/or tabs in the middle of text blocks.
- Page breaks. If page breaks are required, use Insert > Break > Page Break in Word (not multiple returns) to create them.
- Paragraph style. Use block paragraphs with an extra return between paragraphs.
- Spacing. Do not use multiple spacing at all, including after periods and colons. Use tabs or built-in features for indents, etc.
- Title page. Include the title of your report; the expected month and year of publication; and author names, degrees, and affiliations only (e.g., “Janet Smith, MPH, Health Care Association”).
- About the Author(s). This section is mandatory. Include author names, degrees, titles, and affiliations. You may include a brief, factual bio or description of an organization (up to 50 words), but it should not be promotional in tone. Include a hyperlink to an organization’s landing page.
- Acknowledgments. This section is optional. If you choose to include one, it should be brief and should not acknowledge CHCF. If a lengthy list of interviewees or contributors is required, make this list Appendix A.
- About the Foundation. This section is boilerplate language, and you do not need to include it in your manuscript; it’s already in the design template.
- Contents. You do not need to include a table of contents in your manuscript. The designer will create one in layout based on the head levels in your paper.
- Boxes. Use the bracketed instructions “[BEGIN BOX]” and “[END BOX]” before and after any copy that you wish to be formatted as a sidebar box. Do not create the box yourself, as the copyeditor will then be unable to insert endnotes or marginal comments.
- Pull quotes. If the copy you propose to use as a pull quote already exists in your paper, you can select it and insert a marginal comment indicating as much. If the copy you propose to use as a pull quote doesn’t exist in your paper (e.g., a quote from an interviewee), use the bracketed instructions “[BEGIN PULL QUOTE]” and “[END PULL QUOTE]” before and after it, respectively.
- Run-in heads. These should be capitalized sentence-style and should be set in boldface and followed by a period. This bulleted list is an example of properly styled run-in heads.
- Glossary. If your paper includes a glossary of key terms, this can be Appendix A or B (depending on whether you have an appendix as part of the acknowledgments). Glossary terms should be treated as run-in heads: capitalized sentence-style, in boldface, and followed by a period.
- Appendices. Your paper may include one or more appendices. All appendices require a title and a reference in running copy (e.g., “see Appendix A”). Appendix letters are separated from titles by periods. Appendix titles should be capitalized title-style (e.g., “Appendix A. List of Contributors”).
Links and Font Attributes
- Links. If your document contains links, including in sources (citations) for figures, tables, and endnotes, please link text that describes what you’re linking to, or in the case of a source, the title of the source. Examples:
- The CHCF website is being updated.
- Susan H. Busch and Kelly A. Kyanko, “Incorrect Provider Directories Associated with Out-of-Network Mental Health Care and Outpatient Surprise Bills,” Health Affairs 39, no. 6 (June 2020): 975–83.
- Italics. Use italics for emphasis sparingly.
- Boldface. Use boldface for run-in heads and glossary terms.
- Underlining. In general, do not use underlining. (The one exception is hyperlinks, which typically display as underlined blue copy in Word, though this will get changed to boldface blue copy in the layout.)
- All caps. Do not use all caps, as doing so may require the designer to rekey text after importing the copy into InDesign.
Endnotes and Footnotes
- Use Word’s citation feature. Citations should be included in your manuscript using Word’s Insert Endnote function. Do not create a section titled “References.” If you do not know how to use the Insert Endnote function, please see the sample manuscript for detailed instructions or ask the CHCF managing editor for help. Each citation should be complete and accurate and should include a hyperlink if the source was found online. See the “Citations and References” section of the CHCF style sheet for details. Please include a link to the source landing page (rather than directly to a PDF) whenever one exists. Please note: If the Insert Endnote function is not used, your paper will be sent back for correction.
- Citation numbering. For citations, use endnotes numbered 1, 2, 3 (in Word, you will have to change the default setting for endnote number format, which is i, ii, iii). These numbers should almost always follow the sentence’s final punctuation and will automatically be superscripted in Word.
- Footnote symbols. When explanatory footnotes are required, use these symbols, superscripted, in this order (tip: copy and paste any special characters from here): * (asterisk), † (dagger), ‡ (double dagger). If more footnotes are needed, double the symbols: **, ††, ‡‡. Use Word’s Insert Footnote function to set bottom-of-the-page footnotes; you will have to change Word’s default setting for footnote number format, which is 1, 2, 3.
Figures and Tables
- Placeholder images. If a figure or table was created in a different application or file — such as PowerPoint, Excel, or simply a separate Word doc — you should include an image of that feature in your main text manuscript. However, please also include a bracketed instruction such as “[FIGURE 1 GOES HERE].” (The image file won’t be editable, so it may be stripped out before the manuscript goes to the designer for layout.)
- Titles. All figures and tables require a title. Figure and table numbers are separated from titles by periods. Figure and table titles should be capitalized title-style. Use terminal punctuation only if most figure or table titles in a document are full sentences. Example: “Figure 3. Adjusted Primary Care Spending Percentage by Health Plan Product”
- Sources. All figures and tables require a source notation below that includes the year. Source notes appear at the foot of the figure or table before any other notes. They are preceded by the word “Source” (or “Sources”) followed by a colon. Please include a link to the source’s landing page (rather than to a PDF) whenever one exists.
- General notes. Other general notes to the figure or table as a whole follow the source note and may be preceded by the word “Note” (or “Notes” if there’s more than one sentence) followed by a colon.
- Footnotes. Specific figure or table footnotes follow any other notes and use these symbols in this order (tip: copy and paste these characters from here): * (asterisk), † (dagger), ‡ (double dagger), § (section symbol), ∥ (parallels), # (number sign). If more are needed, use double marks in the same order: **, ††, ‡‡, §§, ∥∥, ##.
- Capitalization. Table column heads are set in all caps in layout but should be capitalized title-style in a manuscript. In general, table body copy is capitalized sentence-style, although if subheads are required for clarity, they can be capitalized title-style.
- References in text. The running text should contain a reference to each figure and table (e.g., “see Figure 1” or “as shown in Table 2”). These references are commonly enclosed in parentheses before the final period of the sentence that describes what is shown in the figure or table. Example: “Descriptive statistics for these organizations are included in Table 1.”
Submission of Figures and Graphics
If the draft contains figures (pie charts, bar charts, line graphs) that need to be created by the designer (preferred), please provide the raw data for each figure in an accompanying Excel file.
All figures must have complete titles, axis labels, and source notes. Main axis labels should be capitalized title-style; other figure labels should be capitalized sentence-style. (See the preceding section for further guidelines on figure titles and source notes.)
For graphics that have already been produced and that do not need to be recreated by the CHCF designer, please supply high-resolution art files following these guidelines:
- Acceptable formats for already-produced graphics. Most preferred is vector-based Adobe Illustrator (.ai or .eps) with fonts provided (or outlined fonts if no edits will be needed). Other acceptable formats are some other source file (from whatever software was used to create the graphics), PDF exported from the source files, or Excel with raw data. These are all editable formats the designer can manipulate.
- Unacceptable formats for already-produced graphics. BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG, TIF, or any other web-based rasterized graphics format. These are not editable.
Notice in the figure below the poor visual quality of the rasterized graphic on the left versus the vector-based graphic on the right.
The publishing process has several stages. In some cases, a CHCF editor will be involved in the early stages of the scoping of the project, and will have input, along with the CHCF program officer, on the shape of the publication — for example, audience, content, format (infographic, issue brief, report, etc.). In other cases, the editor will be brought in after an outline has been produced by the grantee and will provide input. In the majority of cases, the CHCF editor is brought into the process when the first draft of a publication is delivered to the program officer.
Usually the program officer works directly with the author for several weeks on the content before the draft is deemed ready for the editorial department at CHCF.
The following describes the timeline and the people involved after the delivery of this first draft to the editorial department. Depending on the complexity of the project, there may be multiple rounds of editing. In general, the publishing process takes approximately six to eight weeks.
Assessment (1 week or less)
- The CHCF managing editor reviews the draft to determine what level of editing it needs (in some cases, a CHCF external contract editor is assigned to do the actual editing, but the managing editor oversees the project).
- A meeting may be set up among the author, program officer, and communications officer to discuss the goals and timeline for the project, and to determine the best format for the piece, based on the intended audience. Are there ancillary products to be developed out of the work that would help reach a specific audience (infographic, interactive data visualization, audio/video, slideshow, etc.)? Please note that in cases where supplemental products are created, the author will be required to review them for accuracy.
- The managing editor provides an assessment memo/email to the program officer and the communications officer, outlining any suggested editorial changes to be made to the draft and raising any questions about key elements (i.e., data requirements for figures, endnotes, etc.). The editorial suggestions at this stage may require the author to add more content, to rewrite for clarity or comprehension, or to reorganize sections of the publication.
- There may be several rounds between the author and program officer before the final draft is ready for copyedit.
Editorial Phase (2–4 weeks)
- The managing editor works with a copyeditor who performs a detailed review of the final draft in track changes. This usually takes about one week depending on the length and complexity of the manuscript.
- This copyedited draft is first reviewed by the communications officer and program officer, who discuss edits with the author, who responds to any questions raised by the copyeditor and approves of any substantive changes.
- The program officer will coordinate any additional review that is required by other CHCF staff or external stakeholders.
Design Phase (2–3 weeks)
- After the managing editor has reviewed the final draft, the editor sends the report to an outside designer to have it produced in the CHCF template, after which the author and program officer review it. There may be more than one round of review/edit before it becomes final.
- The managing editor and communications officer choose a final title and cover artwork that conform to CHCF’s brand (approved by the program officer).
- The final publication is posted on CHCF.org and disseminated through CHCF’s channels (newsletter, blast email, social media).
Grantee-Published, CHCF-Funded Publications
If the publication will not be published on CHCF.org, as agreed upon by your program officer, please include the following text in the paper’s acknowledgments: “This paper was made possible by a grant from the California Health Care Foundation.”
Types of Publications
CHCF has a number of publication types, which are outlined below. Examples of each of these types can be provided by your program officer. Many of the following examples link to PDFs.
- Fact Sheets are usually one to three pages and often contain figures. They can be used to provide a summary of findings from a larger report or a quick discussion of a program, etc. Examples of facts sheets: Missed Opportunities: Important Discussions About Serious Illness and End of Life and Listening to Mothers in California: Care Team and Place of Birth.
- Issue Briefs run approximately 4 to 12 pages. Issue briefs focus on the implications of policy, trends, or developments in the health care environment. Examples of issue briefs: The Secret of Health Care Prices (policy brief) and Quantifying Integrated Physical and Behavioral Health Care in Medi-Cal.
- Reports provide in‐depth information or research and can be 10 to 30 pages. Examples include case studies on new methods for delivering care, comprehensive examinations of new tools in health information technology, research on methods for reducing hospital readmissions, or evaluations of new models of health care delivery, such as retail clinics. Examples of reports: The Sky’s the Limit: Health Care Prices and Market Consolidation in California and California’s POLST Electronic Registry Pilot: Lessons for All States. Reports should be organized in the following structure:
- Title page: title, month/year, and “prepared for the California Health Care Foundation by (author name / grantee organization name)”
- Acknowledgments (if applicable)
- Grantee information (author, title, institution and brief description [up to 50 words] of the work of the author or institution)
- Table of contents
- Executive summary should be included for longer reports (>20 pages) and should closely follow the outline of the report and summarize key points
- Introduction/Background should include the purpose and context for conducting the research (i.e., policy relevance) and the research questions
- Methodology (if applicable)
- Appendices (any appendices should be referenced somewhere in the body of the publication)
- Endnotes (not footnotes)
- White papers are quicker and easier to produce than other CHCF products, as they are simply designed and do not have a cover image. These may be similar in length and content to a report, but fewer resources are devoted to layout and production. White papers are usually intended for a small, niche audience and often don’t go through standard CHCF promotion channels (email, social media) but are posted on the foundation’s website as background on an issue. Example of a CHCF white paper: Voluntary Behavioral Health Integration in Medi-Cal: What Can Be Achieved Under Current Law.
- CHCF Health Care Almanac is made up of two kinds of products. The first is a series of graphic publications that provide data and analysis on aspects of the health care market, such as health care costs, disparities, providers, quality of care, and insurance. They are ideally no longer than 40 pages. The second are market reports, which are issue briefs focused on particular regions in California. These are approximately 8 to 12 pages.
- Snapshots are graphic publications that are not part of the Almanac family of products and that provide data and analysis on narrow subjects in health care financing and delivery, such as the results from a survey. They are ideally no longer than 30 to 40 pages. An example of a snapshot: Help Wanted: Californians’ Views and Experiences of Serious Illness and End-of-Life Care.
- Slideshows can showcase multiple images to draw attention to the project. These images can be accompanied by a brief caption, or they can stand alone. Some examples: Home Is Where the Hearth Is: New Models for Nursing Homes and Small Numbers Can Have Big Consequences, 2017.
- Infographics are attention-grabbing graphic displays of information that highlight key messages from a report or issue brief. CHCF has produced a variety of examples.
- Interactive graphics. US Health Care Spending treemap, Covered California dashboards (created with Infogram), and examples of line charts and bar charts (also created with Infogram).
- Static graphics. These are often larger format and can be printed as a poster or handout. Examples include Choosing a Hospital for Cancer Surgery Is a Delicate Operation and Pulling the Plug on the ACA.
- Share-friendly graphics. Smaller-format graphics are produced mainly for social media. See examples on Facebook and Twitter.