HBR: Guidelines for authors (and consultants)

By | June 7, 2017

Great advice from the HBR editors. If you have ever thought (or dreamed) of writing for the Harvard Business Review, then you should read the guidelines from HBR here. As an educator, there are so many things to take away from this blurb on their website. Only 900 words, but well-written (no irony there) clear, and helpful. This all applies to your business writing and presentations. Read on.

1) Clear point of view. Their very first sentence.

At the Harvard Business Review, we believe in Management.

Boom. You know exactly how they feel about the topic.  Major HOOK at the front of the piece.

2) Explain the WHY. Like Simon Sinek famously explained, you gotta start with the WHY.

So we try to arm our readers with ideas that help them become smarter, more creative, and more courageous in their work. To do that, we enlist the foremost experts in management theory and practice, collaborating to express their thoughts in the most influential way possible. 

For HBR, they are tapping their incredible network to get ideas to their readers which will “help them become smarter, more creative and courageous with their work.” Ddang – that is awesome.

3) Explain the scope. They say they publish on a wide range of topics, but it also lists 11 specific topic areas, which I can only imagine is ordered that way on a purpose.  #1 Strategy, #2 Leadership etc. .

4) Evaluation Criteria. Whether you are applying for a job, or taking a test, it’s critical to know what success looks like. How will you be evaluated?  What are the rules?  HBR looks for writing that shows:

  1. Expertise
  2. Evidence
  3. Originality
  4. Usefulness
  5. Pleasure to read

Without even explaining those elements – you get an idea of what they are looking for. If you are a newbie without data, re-hashing old stuff that is not very useful. . .Well, it’s probably horrible reading too.  Don’t bother.

5) General notes on process. Here they manage your expectations on your likelihood of a successful submission, timeline, and gnashing-of-teeth editing process.  This part is one of my favorites – both for the smart way they encourage you, while also giving you a dose of reality.

If we’ve passed on something you’ve submitted, please feel free to try again with another idea. If our editors have said no multiple times, it may mean your work isn’t a good fit for our audience.

Yes, please don’t get discouraged by 1 rejection – but if you keep getting rejected, uh . . . .please stop. Gotta like the truth.

6) Show us your logic. The final paragraph is the main point.

The narrative outline should be no more than 800 words and should lay out the structure of the proposed article. We want to understand how the logic of your argument will flow. Please illustrate your points with real-world examples or provide one extended, detailed example.

Cannot reiterate this enough. Great advice to consultants. . . Lay out the structure so that the client can understand the logic of your argument and illustrate with real-world examples.

It will take you 5 minutes to read what the editorial staff of HBR (gold standard) think about thought-provoking business writing. Yes, this is worth your time here.

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