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This month we have expert advice from Simon Whaley on providing extra information for publishers; be inspired by our students' successes; find inspiration and something of use in useful websites, plus Ten Top Tips highlights how to make your website work for you.

EXPERT ADVICE

Boxes, Boxes, Boxes

By Simon Whaley

The end of your article is not the end of your article. Confused? Well not for much longer, because I’m going to lift the lid on boxouts, side panels, sidebars and further information sections. But what exactly are these strange things and what should they contain?

When you view an article in a magazine, take a closer look at what lies in front of you. Is it just a series of paragraphs printed on the page, or is there something else? Articles need to be visual, to stimulate the readers' eyes as well as their minds, so editors often use pictures and images to help break up the page. However, this isn’t all they have at their disposal. It’s possible to add visual interest with text too – and that’s where a boxout, a sidebar or a further information panel comes in. In fact, practically every travel article has one or more of these and many regular articles do too. Take a look at any magazine and see.

A boxout is literally some extra information contained within a box, which the editor places somewhere on the page. It could be at the end of the article, down the side of the page, in the middle of the page, in fact it can be anywhere. You, as the writer, do not need to worry about its location. If you provide this information, you do not have to worry about the box. That’s not your job.

So what sort of information do these further information panels contain? Well, practically anything relating to your article. However, it needs to be short and succinct. This is not the place to write War and Peace! Think short paragraphs. Examine the magazines and you’ll see that bullet points are popular, as are numbers. Your article about how to de-clutter your house could include a boxout called, “Five Top Tips to De-clutter the Kitchen.”

Travel articles need to give readers information on how they can follow in your footsteps. In an article I produced for Heritage magazine, I had to provide the information for their ‘Follow the Trail’ sidebar. This contained all the information a reader needed to know to attend the visitor attraction I was writing about. It stated: 

- opening times, 
- admission prices, 
- how to get there, 
- what facilities were on offer, 
- what else to do in the vicinity that may be of interest.

If you’re writing an article about a health problem for example, consider offering a boxout containing information detailing website addresses, contact details for self-help support groups, charitable organisations or registered clubs. For the walking routes I provide to Country Walking magazine, the boxout has to contain details of how many stiles my readers will encounter, where to park, where they can find public toilets, which bus will get them to the start of the route and which maps to use.

Boxouts give practical information. Editors love articles that enable readers to act upon what they read and boxouts can help do that. Looking in the September issue of BBC CountryFile magazine, the writer, Mark Rowe, has written an article about spending a day with a Falconer, someone who uses birds of prey for flying display purposes, or to hunt small animals. There are three boxouts that accompany this article.

1. The Birds. The first boxout lists the six different birds of prey that the writer encountered on his day with the falconer. He provides a short paragraph, (no more than 50 words) explaining the different abilities of each bird.

2. A Brief History of Falconry. The clue is in the title – ‘brief’. It’s only 170 words, but it explains the art of falconry from its beginnings in early Egyptian civilisation through to its existence today.

3. Experience Raptors Up Close (raptor is another word for Falcon). This is the practical section for the reader. Here, the writer lists four places across the UK where readers can go and see falconry for themselves. There are full postal addresses, telephone numbers, website addresses and a brief paragraph (20 words) about what each facility offers.

So these boxouts or further information panels give the reader more - more information, more practical knowledge, or ways of finding out more for themselves. Remember, magazines love numbers so give readers six things to look out for when visiting an area, four shortcuts to a healthy, happy life or seven ways to recycle your garden waste.

Boxouts can work just as well for interview pieces too. I interviewed the writer of 100 Ways For A Chicken To Train Its Human and I sold the piece to Practical Poultry magazine. I included two boxouts with this piece, the first giving full details of the book (publisher, ISBN, price) and the second was the author’s own top ten tips for keeping chickens.

When writing an article that entails a lot of research, it’s tempting to include as many facts as you can. But this can make your article cumbersome and heavy going for the reader. The solution is the boxout. Whilst researching information about the Royal Yacht Britannia, I came across numerous fascinating facts. I wanted to use as many as I could, but chose carefully which ones to include within my article. The rest I put in a boxout, which I called ‘A Flotilla of Facts’. The title was a nice bit of alliteration, whilst also playing on the boating theme.

The writer who offers an editor boxout information in addition to the main article is providing added value to that editor. Do this, and you’re offering a better package than the writer who doesn’t supply this information. Give the editor more and publication of your article could be, as they say, ‘in the bag’. Or should that be, ‘in the box’?

Boxing Clever 

- Boxout information is short and succinct. Think bullet points.
- Give your boxouts a ‘title’ like this one. 
- Put them after your main article text, but before the final words – The End. 
- On your title page, quote your article length WITHOUT the boxouts. 
- You can mention on the title page that you have provided additional boxout information. 
- The editor may not use all the boxout information you provide. 
- And remember – don’t put your boxout text inside a box. That’s not your job!

Biography
Simon Whaley is a freelance writer and tutor for the Writers Bureau. He is a regular contributor to Country & Border Life and Country Walking magazines and hundreds of his articles have appeared in publications like Heritage, In Britain, Hotel, Self-Build & Design and The Lady. Simon tries to include boxouts with every article he writes! You can also follow Simon’s other writing tips and advice on his blog, which can be found at http://simonwhaleytutor.blogspot.com