Information for Piano Education Page Authors
by John M. Zeigler,
e value and seek out the opinions and expertise of many artists and educators for The Piano Education Page. To date, more than 50 talented educators worldwide have contributed tips, articles and/or interviews for publication on PEP. Although most of our articles by outside educators are written in response to invitations from us, we encourage others to contact us about contributing articles to the site, if they have something educational in nature they would like to say to a worldwide audience of students, educators and fans of the piano. This article describes the mechanics of and considerations for authoring on PEP. I hope that our authors, and anybody else considering authoring for the Web, will find it helpful in preparing articles for publication.
Are you a piano teacher or piano educator? Do you have something you would like to say to a worldwide audience of pianists, teachers and students? Contact us about writing for The Piano Education Page!
We strongly advise that authors submit to us their ideas for an article or articles before writing them for The Piano Education Page. This gives us the opportunity to ascertain the likely suitability of the article for PEP and determine if the topic of the article overlaps too greatly or too little with other material on the site. Submission of an article or interview to the site is, in no way, to be construed as constituting acceptance or conferring an obligation for publication of that article or interview on the site. By submission of material for publication on PEP, the author is certifying that the article is original, of his own creation, that it has not been previously published in any other location or medium, and that he agrees to transfer copyright to the copyright holder of The Piano Education Page, should the article be published on PEP. All decisions as to the suitability of articles for publication on The Piano Education Page are made by the Editor-in-Chief and are final.
The Piano Education Page is an entirely non-profit site. All articles, tips and reviews are donated to the site. Authors receive no monetary reimbursement, honorarium or expense payment of any kind for their contributions to the site.
We publish a wide range of articles on PEP, including, among other areas, information on: pianos, piano lessons, piano pedagogy, piano technique, teaching studio operations, tips for parents and students, musical reference materials, reviews of music software, hardware, books and learning materials, interviews of musicians and music educators, tips for kids, piano technology, computer applications in piano and music, and a host of other areas. This list is not intended to be all-inclusive. We will consider almost any general music or piano-related topic. If you have an idea in mind for a PEP article, it's a good idea to do a keyword search of PEP to see if we've already covered part or all of the topic you're interested in. Even if we have covered a topic, we will consider additional articles on that topic if the new articles add more information or an important new viewpoint to the existing articles. We also have need of piano educators or teachers who can speak and write colloquial Spanish for translating articles from English into Spanish for The Piano Education Page en Español (the Spanish language version of PEP).
Generally, contributing authors to PEP are pianists or piano educators, although we will consider articles from anyone with something unique and valuable to say about piano or piano education. We ask that authors give us a brief sketch of their educational and professional background when they contact us about submitting articles or with the article itself. Authors must be qualified, by education or experience, to write on the topics they choose, as judged by the Editor-in-Chief. Author background information supplied to us must be truthful and factually verifiable. Supplying incorrect or unverifiable background information may be cause for removal of all of the author's articles from the site.
PEP's visitors are comprised of pianists, teachers, educators, parents and students of all ages, literally worldwide. The site is organized into topics and areas for various age groups and interests, but we assume, based on evidence, that any article on the site may be read by any visitor, regardless of age, training, experience or level of interest. PEP has well over a million unique visitors and serves over fifteen million pages per year. Although we don't upgrade it as often, The Piano Education Page en Español (the Spanish language version of PEP), adds additional visits.
The Internet is a powerful publishing medium, but it has a number of important differences from traditional print media. Perhaps the biggest difference between Internet and print publication is that they are structurally fundamentally different. A print publication is inherently linear in presentation and use. The table of contents is followed by the text, which is followed by the index. These are typically read more or less in the order presented. Pages on the Internet, on the other hand, have an almost "tree-like" hierarchy due to the links present on those pages to other sites and documents. In principle, a reader on the Internet can read the first few paragraphs of an article, follow a link to another page on the site, read part of it and follow a link there to an entirely different site or jump back to the home page.
The ease with which the reader can move around a site and the Internet as a whole means that there are some good writing principles which apply in print media (brevity, organization, clarity, etc.) that become of critical importance in writing for an Internet site. Wasting visitors' time with unnecessarily lengthy or poorly written text is a good way to lose them fast.
In some ways, an article for PEP, or any other web site, can be seen as something of a cross between a print article and a multimedia business presentation. Because the article must get its points across quickly and drive them home effectively, a bit of old advice from presentation preparation is also good counsel for writing articles for PEP: "Tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you've told them." What this means in the context of an article for a web site is that you start any article longer than a single printed page with a one paragraph introduction and synopsis of the article (the part above the first Presto!Menu in the full article depiction at right), then proceed to the body of the article, and, finally, end with a restatement of the main "take home" points of the article (the part between the last section head and the last Presto!Menu). This approach does several positive things: those who are not interested in the article find it out quickly and can move on to something more to their tastes; those who just want the "executive summary" can skip to the end of article; and those who really want to understand can read it in detail. This structure helps make the best use of time, while maximizing the chance that readers will remember what you feel is most important.
Like those in print media, articles for PEP can incorporate both text and graphics. However, the ability of the computer to handle sound and video means that, in principle at least, articles can become a multimedia experience that print can't duplicate. This allows articles to include music, sound effects and video, for example, although these are not required for any article on PEP. Because changes/corrections can be made quickly and at little cost, there is no need for the laborious and time-consuming editing of galley proofs that ink-on-paper publication entails, although we strongly encourage all authors to proof their writings carefully before submission.
The computer screen differs from more traditional methods of publication in that one can't easily carry it wherever one might want to sit or stop easily at any given point in an article and immediately pick up where one left off reading it. Reading for long periods on a computer screen may also be harder on the eyes than reading a print magazine. Mobile users experience even more limitations, due to the small size of the screen of mobile devices. Because of the limitations of the computer screen, articles for The Piano Education Page are usually kept to between five and ten pages in length as printed in final form from the web. Longer articles are often published, but they may be divided into a continuing series of articles with similar subject matter grouped in a single article. Even though broadband connections makes it less important now than twenty years ago, we still encourage all authors to be as concise as the subject matter permits, paying particular attention to the removal of repetitious statements.
Although the computer screen can display a large number of different fonts, authors should keep in mind that each visitor will have a different set of fonts installed on his system and that his font set will almost certainly differ from that of the author. For that reason, it is best to use bold, italic or underline to emphasize points, rather than changing fonts. Generally speaking, the author can depend on the presence of Times Roman and Garamond serif fonts and Verdana and MS Sans Serif fonts on most machines. Titles, paragraph sub-headings and body text fonts are determined by PEP's style sheets, although that can be overridden if a compelling argument can be made to do so. For most articles, I suggest that specific fonts not be called out in the document or by author request, as this helps maintain the consistent look of articles on the site.
The secret to all good writing is editing by the author. Most of us can't write a piece of any length and get it "perfect" the first time. Even Shakespeare's plays went through multiple revisions. Although each author will have his own individual approach, for most of us, it's a good idea to prepare the first draft, edit it for content, spelling and grammar, sleep on it, then edit again - adding things we forgot and removing things that don't fit, sleep on it again, and, finally, do a quick edit to check for missed items or improve language. A good rule of thumb is that, when you believe you have finished the first draft, you are half done!
In the process of editing, remove duplication and any unneeded verbiage. Use your spell-checker to correct misspellings. Check for grammar mistakes like run-on sentences ("I wrote this today and yesterday I wrote another article and tomorrow I will prepare a third.") and sentence fragments (I like the piano. That I started yesterday). Make sure the organization is logical (like materials together organized to build an understanding of the authors points) and simplify complex sentences made up of multiple clauses by converting them to two or more shorter sentences (this sentence is an example of a sentence that should be simplified!). Use active voice as much as possible ("I play the piano" rather than "I may play the piano"). Don't be afraid to use first person language ("I know that..."), rather than third person ("It is known that..."). Many of these issues are grammatical and immediately "flagged" by any word processor with its grammar checker turned on, so they are usually easy to find. Following such basic editing rules will make your writing clearer and more interesting to read.
Keep in mind when you write that many people all over the world will read your PEP article. Self-deprecating statements that are easily understood in a face-to-face conversation can simply make the author look bad on the Internet. Complaints or gripes that all of us communicate occasionally in normal life can sound out-of-place, when read by someone who doesn't know or care about the author. Similarly, while personal experiences can be valuable in illustrating a point, they cannot constitute the bulk of an article. If you are talking about a problem or experience, make sure that such a discussion is offered merely as a way of illustrating the problem and its solution. Finally, remember that neither you nor PEP's Editor can control who will read your article or how it will be used by them, so don't put anything in it that might be (mis)used to your detriment in some way.
Authors will find that using the structure of articles on PEP to best advantage will increase the response from their articles. As discussed above, that structure is designed to make sure that the average impatient Internet user can get a quick idea about what the article says and determine if he wants to take the time to read it in detail. A little extra time spent fine-tuning the introduction and summary paragraphs can be especially helpful in producing the best response to your article.
The tone of articles for PEP should be positive, constructive and educational, in keeping with the educational nature and goals of the site. Article language should take into account the intended audience: an article for teachers should be professional in tone, though avoiding the over-use of jargon, especially if that jargon might not be familiar to all members of the teaching community. An article for parents and students should be slightly more colloquial in tone and free of jargon. An article for children should be couched in terms that children will find understandable, interesting and fun, without becoming overly "cute." ALL articles for PEP must be "family-friendly." Even though an article might be intended for teachers, for example, it should use language that could be read safely by a child, even if the child might not understand all its terms.
Typically, articles for PEP are anywhere from about 1500 to 3500 words in length. Articles significantly longer than 3500 words will usually be split into a series of multiple articles. The structure of an article will be determined by the both the subject matter and the author's personal style and taste. That said, we ask authors to include an opening paragraph which is a short "teaser" summary of the content and goals of the article. The article should end with a "summing up" paragraph of a few sentences, either reiterating the main points or conclusions of the article or providing a clear statement of the "take-away" message. It is helpful if the author supplies with the article or review a list of about 6 search keywords to be used with the article and a one or two-sentence abstract of it to be used for indexing purposes. If the article author does not supply these, they will be chosen by the Editor, based on or derived from the content of the article.
Articles on The Piano Education Page must be free of political, religious, or racist views. We don't wish to stifle free speech in any way, but we do not believe that such views are a useful part of education in music. Any article which espouses such views or creates the impression of such will be edited to remove those views or impressions.
Articles should include the author's name as he/she wishes it to appear and address (including city and state of residence), e-mail address(es) and URL for any personal web site that the author would like us to link with the article. We normally include these items with the published article, unless the author specifically requests us not to include them. Author web sites linked with an article can be teaching studio or biographical pages. Sites dealing with other business interests of the author will not be linked on the article.
Articles for PEP are handled entirely by e-mail. The text of an article can be sent as e-mail itself or attached to e-mail as a computer file. Attached text files can be in Word, WordPerfect, ASCII text or HTML formats, among others. We can read virtually any text format, though we ask authors to tell us which format the attached file is in, just to save us time. Any graphics the author might like to appear with the article should be sent as e-mail file attachments also (GIF or JPG format for artwork, JPG format for photos). ALL text and graphics sent to us must be certified by the author as original, of his own creation, and not previously published. The author bears full responsibility for making certain that this is true for the materials she/he submits. If the author wishes to re-publish on PEP any text or graphics previously published elsewhere, she/he is responsible for obtaining the necessary permissions and copyright clearances in writing and forwarding those to us before we publish the article.
Authors should remember that much of the power of the Internet is in hypertext links to other pages on this site or other sites with useful information. We encourage authors to include links to other sites or other pages on PEP with good information relevant to their article topic. A short bibliography can also be appended to the end of the article if the author so desires. Articles need not be encyclopedic, but it is entirely appropriate to include additional sources of information, if they exist. If you have links included in your article, please be sure to identify them in the article text by page title ("Joe's Piano Page"), in addition to supplying the URL (www.joespiano.com). URL's change frequently; if the page you want to reference is identified only by URL and that URL changes, there is virtually no way to restore the correct link.
Most reviews on PEP are done at the invitation of the Editor-in-Chief. If a reviewer is aware of a particular product that she would like to review and has not formed an opinion about it, she should contact the Editor-in-Chief to solicit a copy of the product. This preserves the anonymity of the reviewer during the review period and allows us to keep track of what products are in review, so as to avoid inadvertent duplication of reviews. Reviewers of learning materials must disclose any potential conflicts of interest (financial interest in the product to be reviewed, family or business connections with the product, preconceived opinions, previous experience with the product or manufacturer of it, among others), or any potential for the appearance thereof, before performing the review. To avoid any appearance of bias, it is strongly recommended that the reviewer maintain a friendly, but professional, relationship with any contacts at the publisher of the product in review.
To keep reviews as complete and as consistent as possible across a wide range of products, reviews must be in a specific format and have specific information present. Authors of reviews should read (and print for reference) our Review Procedures and Software Reviewer's Checklist or Book and Learning Materials Reviewer's Checklist, as appropriate, for a list of topics to be covered and information to be included in the review.
Since the availability of help, online and by phone, is such an important element of the usability of a product, we ask reviewers to pay particular attention to available help, including both tech support and customer service, for the product they are reviewing. Initially at least, reviewers should not disclose the fact that they are reviewing for PEP to help or tech support contacts. This gives reviewers the opportunity to judge the quality of help available to the "average" purchaser of the product. Once the reviewer has formed an opinion on that topic, she may, if necessary disclose her position as a reviewer for PEP.
Although reviews are inherently opinion pieces and subject to individual judgment, we ask that authors of reviews state as clearly as possible in the review the factual basis for their opinions. Opinions lacking any apparent factual basis may be removed from reviews during editing. Once the review is completed, a copy of the edited draft of the review will be sent to our contact at the publisher of the product for factual accuracy checking and comment. If any significant additions or corrections are made to the review, the reviewer will be so notified of the content of the changed review. Unless the factual basis for some important opinion is shown to be incorrect, any such changes will not involve changing the reviewer's rating or overall tone of the review. In most cases, the reviewer may keep the reviewed materials for use in her studio, subject to any applicable licenses governing the use of the product.
Once received, the article and any graphics submitted with it will be edited for content, length, grammar, and spelling by the Editor-in-Chief or his designee. In particular, any comments judged to be potentially libelous, defamatory or slanderous will be removed in the editing process. We will also remove any content that we judge to be overly commercial in nature and any other content not in keeping with our site policies. If significant changes or additions (beyond grammar and spelling correction) are made to an article, the author of the article is usually notified by e-mail of the changes prior to publication. The article will also be converted into PEP's display format (similar to the format of this and other pages on the site). Because articles on the site are subject to editing, they may not appear in a form identical to that originally submitted by the author. Usually, if significant changes (addition or removal of material, etc) to content are made during editing, the author will be emailed the revised copy of the text for comment.
Often, questions or comments will be e-mailed during the editing process to the author by the Editor, seeking clarification or additional information. The author's answers to these questions may or may not be embodied in the published article, but must be answered before publication takes place. Any graphics (photos, drawing, video) sent with the article should have indications in the article as to where they should be placed. In the absence of such indications, the Editor will make the decision where to place them in the article.
On most occasions, the content of a given article will be related to the content of other articles on the site. Typically, the Editor-in-Chief will add "inline" links to at least some of that related content on PEP. On rarer occasions, the Editor may also add links to external sites. These inline links do not change the author's text in any significant manner; they simply provide easy access to more information for those who want it. Usually, the inline link articles are set to open in a new window, leaving the originating article open in its own tab or window.
Once an article appears on the site, it will remain available to visitors indefinitely, unlike a print article, where the only way to look at an old article is to find and go through back issues. Also unlike a print magazine or book, upgrading and updating articles on PEP is relatively easy and goes on continuously to keep them relevant and up-to-date. Authors are encouraged to submit revisions and updates to their articles whenever they feel such updates are needed or justified. Submitted updates may be edited, but will usually be incorporated into the article, when requested. Any links or other factual content of an article may be updated automatically by the Editor, when he becomes aware of the need for such an update.
Title and copyrights to any article appearing on The Piano Education Page are transferred to the copyright holder of The Piano Education Page, if the article is published on PEP. Any article published on The Piano Education Page becomes the property of the copyright holder of The Piano Education Page. The mere fact that an article is edited before publication on PEP shall not be construed as changing in any way the policy of transfer of ownership and copyright to the copyright holder of The Piano Education Page. If an article is rejected for publication on the site, the author of the article will be so notified; ownership of the article will revert to him, and he will then be free to publish the article in any other venue he deems suitable. A copyright transfer form for article authors is available on the site.
We respect the rights and intellectual property of others, just as we expect respect for our rights and intellectual property. We do not accept for publication on PEP articles which have been previously published or which are substantially the same as previously published articles, as this might violate the copyrights of the original publisher. We do not allow re-publication of articles written for PEP or re-publication of minimally modified versions of those articles, as re-publication would violate our copyrights.
We often allow royalty-free reprinting of PEP's articles for educational purposes, in whole or in part, if the requester seeks permission in advance of reprinting and acknowledges The Piano Education Page as the source of the article. For more information on reprinting from The Piano Education Page, please see our article, Reprinting from The Piano Education Page.
Because PEP is an electronic resource, rather than a print publication, we do not supply hard copy reprints of articles to authors. Authors of PEP articles may reprint their own articles royalty-free for their personal, non-commercial use, subject to the terms and conditions indicated on Reprinting from The Piano Education Page. Any usages outside the terms and conditions on that page are prohibited. To protect the value of PEP as a non-commercial educational resource, we vigorously enforce our copyrights.
Authorship of articles is generally acknowledged with the article itself. A list of contributing authors and editors can be found on our Credits page. Contributing authors may cite their articles and/or position as contributing authors to the site on a curriculum vitae, for example, so long as they correctly portray their contributions. Authors who incorrectly represent their contributions to the site may be subject to removal of their articles and/or severing of their connection to the site. All authors must agree to abide by all PEP site policies.