Score Points with the Editor: Use a New Assignment Checklist

Thursday, November 01, 2012
I recently landed a new freelance assignment, and even though the editor provided direction, I realized several key elements relating to the article and contract weren't clear.

Maybe you've found yourself in a similar situation.

You know the direction the piece needs to take and you understand who to gear the article toward. But beyond those two key elements, do you know what the editor expects when you turn in the final copy? And, do you know what basics to expect from the publication?

In a situation like this, you may want to have a checklist handy. I use a similar list with my high school journalism students. It's a good tool for defining expectations. I break my list into five categories:

  • Audience
  • Basics
  • Contract
  • Details
  • Intent
Within each of these categories, I include basic benchmarks to guide my writing. It may seem simple, but sometimes, you may just forget to ask what an editor wants or if you've worked with her previously, you may take this information for granted.

So here's what my checklist looks like:


  • Demographics - who is the intended reader of the piece? Age group?
  • What information will they want or need to know? Sometimes I write a tagline to summarize the article.

  • Word count 
  • Deadline
  • Tone
  • Writing style
  • Sidebar 
  • Photographs, artwork, infographics, video required

  • Fee - How much will you be paid? What expenses are included? Will they pay a kill fee?
  • Invoicing method - Do you need to submit an invoice? When does the publication make payments?
  • Rights - What rights are included in this contract?

  • Experts - Are there certain experts the editor would like you to speak to? How many expert opinions do you need? Should you show contrasting opinions?
  • Reader or personal anecdotes - Should they be included?
  • Specific statistics

  • What's the primary goal of this article? To entertain? persuade? Inform?
Even after you've been freelancing for 20 years, using a checklist never hurts. It's another way to make sure you and your editor are on the same page.

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website


Anonymous said...

Even with a couple articles under my belt, you're right, this is a good list to make sure I've ran through. I especially like the last point. Sometimes, in my head, I know what my article's purpose is, but asking this question directly makes sure I've made it clear to a reader.

Marcia Peterson said...

LuAnn, this is a great guide. Definitely something to print out and follow! Thanks.

Clella said...

Thanks or this. I am planning to submit some articles. This is such a help. clella

Cathy C. Hall said...

A great list, LuAnn! It's so easy to *think* you've covered something--a list where you check off each detail you want covered makes sure that you do.

LuAnn Schindler said...

Thanks. I look over the list a couple times when I work on a piece, especially right before I hit send - is the intent clear?

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