Footnote. Most of us work in Microsoft Word, and Word has an excellent footnote function. Use it. Footnote everything in your article — every fact, every quote, every number. Most sentences will contain several footnotes. Never use ibid, but rather write out complete footnotes every time — even if one is identical to the one above — because when lines get moved, footnotes move with them. Put sources’ phone numbers and email addresses in the footnotes, and don’t just put it in the footnote for the first reference to the person, but in the footnote in every reference. (See the manuscripts of our killed stories, here, to see how thoroughly we footnote. The sources’ contact information has been removed, but you’ll get the idea.) Don’t use endnotes, which put all your references at the end of the article, but rather footnotes, which put them right there on the same page. That way your editor can glance down as she reads to verify that your facts are backed up.
Footnoting is there mostly to help the fact-checkers. It’s a courtesy, but it helps you as well. You want the head of fact-checking, when he runs into the editor at the coffee pot, to mention how great it is to work with your copy.
Footnotes are also there for the editors, who might wonder as they’re reading how you know some particularly stunning fact. If they see the cite right there on the bottom of the page, it will inspire in them a great deal of confidence.
Footnoting is also there for you. During the editing, you may need to remember where you got a particular fact. And months later, when you go back to your story in order to build an entirely new one around a related topic, you’ll have a guide to your sources. I’m now working on a book proposal based on an article I wrote six years ago. My old footnotes are a life-saver.
To continue with a theme I began a few days ago — how to make yourself so pleasant to work with that magazine editors gravitate toward you — here are two ways to “put yourself on staff.”
By that, I mean radiating such an acute sensitivity to the way a particular magazine operates that you give the impression of being a member of the staff. The importance of doing so cannot be overstated. Remember, you’re dealing with some of the most stressed-out people on the planet — magazine editors — and anything you can do to make yourself an island of relief will be so wildly appreciated that it will increase your chances of getting assignments.