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An Encyclopedia of 

African American Literature

Guidelines for Contributors

Hans Ostrom and J. David Macey, Editors

Audience:  The primary audience for the encyclopedia includes high school students and teachers, as well as patrons of public, undergraduate, community-college, and special libraries. The primary audience, in other words, is not composed of specialists. Therefore, the entries need to be accessible and jargon-free --- but also accurate, of course. Contributors may wish to look at entries in other encyclopedias published by Greenwood Press, other literary encyclopedias, and/or entries in Oxford Companion volumes to get a sense of the scope, purpose, and style of a reference-work entry.  We will also send you a sample entry.

Entry Guidelines

Content of entry: All entries on authors should begin with the author's name --- last name first, followed by a comma, then by first name and middle name(s), and then, in parentheses, by the author's birth year and, if applicable, the year the author died. Close this information with a period.  Example: Fisher, Rudolph (1897-1934).   After the name and dates, identify what kind(s) of writer the author was or is.   Example: Fisher, Rudolph (1887-1934).  Novelist and short story writer.  Note that this first phrase need not be a complete sentence.  Entries on works, events, eras, or movements should also, as far as possible, provide pertinent dates in parentheses and, in a phrase, identify genre of the work (novel, play, poem, etc.) or the nature of the event, era, or movement. 

Then all entries should continue with a lead sentence (or sentences) that summarize(s) the significance of the person or of the topic.  The entry should describe this significance as it relates to African American literature and/or literature in general.  Entries need to establish the connection between the entry-topic and African American literature.  The chief purpose of entries is to provide a clear, concise description, discussion, and/or definition of the subject.   Please write objectively.   You may quote from or paraphrase the views of others if you deem this information important, or you may refer to widely held assessments of an author or a topic, but you should refrain from stating your own opinion or developing an original argument.     In other words, encyclopedia entries are different from In other words, encyclopedia entries are different from journal-articles, monographs, and books.   Present controversial issues dispassionately, noting diverse viewpoints 

Entries on authors should include pertinent, accurate biographical information as well as an overview of the works and achievement and important links to other others authors.

Entries on topics should define the topic clearly, represent its scope, and indicate its connection to African American literature. That is, although an entry on the Blues will define the Blues and sketch their history, it will focus on the connection between the Blues and African American literature. 

Please be generous with dates so that readers aren't left wondering when something happened or when something was published.  Include dates when you mention any notable event, unless the date is absolutely impossible to find.  When listing any work's title in an entry, please include its publication date in parentheses, immediately following the first reference to that work.

Bibliography Following Entry: The chief purpose of the bibliography at the end of each entry is twofold: (1) It provides a selected (by no means exhaustive) list of recommended works (articles, books, interviews, audio material, video material, and/or archival material) about the author or topic that the non-specialist audience can use for further reading.  Do not include references to scholarly work appearing in journals that are difficult to access unless such work constitutes the only source available.  (2) The bibliography should also include sources to which the body of the entry refers. In the body of the entry, cite sources by last name and page number in parentheses after the first quotation or paraphrasing, and do check to make sure that the source then appears in the bibliography.  Please check the accuracy of page numbers, titles, publishers, and dates of publication, as well as of the spelling of authors' names.

Bibliographies for entries on authors should, in most cases, be divided into two sections: Primary Sources and Secondary Sources. In cases where the list of primary sources, of secondary sources, or of both will be very short, the division may not be necessary and sources may be blended into a single list, alphabetically arranged.

Bibliographies on major authors and broad topics will need to be selective. Think in terms of 10-15 secondary sources for entries on authors and 10-15 sources for entries on genres, broad topics, themes, etc.

 Professional Style/Mode of Citation

After the entry, write Bibliography, followed by a colon, and then list the bibliographical entries in block-paragraph form.  The entries should appear alphabetically, according to the last name of the author, but the order of names should not be reversed.   Example: John Doe, not Doe, John.  Entries in the bibliography should be separated by a semicolon. 

Otherwise, consult the sixth edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers for the required format for listing books, articles, translations, on-line publications, interviews, and recordings. 

Also, see "Quotation" below.

Your Name

At the very end of the entry, after the bibliography, write your name as you wish it to appear, on the left margin.

General Guidelines

Word Limit: Please be sure that your entry does not exceed the assigned word limit, and please do everything you can to meet deadlines. Word limits and due dates are shown on the contributor release that will be mailed to you from Greenwood Press.  Please note that your are not officially assigned an entry until the contributor release has been sent by Greenwood Press and returned, signed, by you.  The editors, Hans Ostrom and David Macey will advise you about whether an entry is still available, and they will contact Greenwood Press, but the assignment does not become official until the release has been signed and returned. 

Please contact the editors as soon as you think you might have difficulty meeting a deadline.

Original Work: Please be scrupulous about using your own words and about avoiding even the appearance of plagiarism.  Please indicate clearly when you are quoting from or paraphrasing another work, and, as noted, cite that work in the bibliography that appears after your entry.


Quotations from works of living authors and those whose estates still control copyrights must be limited to fair usage.  If you quote more than 300 words of prose, 1 line of poetry, 10% of a review or short article, or 50 words from an unpublished interview, from any single copyright-protected source, regardless of how those words are scattered throughout your manuscript, you will need to obtain permission.

In-text quotations from scholarly sources should be paraphrased when possible, but if they are necessary, they must cite their source, including page numbers, e.g., (Brown 1998, 235).

Please follow the MLA format for internal documentation, taking care that the reference is included in the list of further readings. 


All entries should follow standard U.S. usage. For questions regarding style or usage, contributors should consult the sixth edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.


Spelling should conform to standard American usage as found in Merriam-Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary. Foreign words not included in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary should be italicized. Special characters and diacritical marks should be inserted electronically from the word-processing program. Please contact the editor with questions concerning the use of special characters.

Capitalization and Names 

Personal names should be capitalized and spelled according to Merriam Webster's New Biographical Dictionary. Place names should conform in spelling and capitalization to Merriam Webster's New Geographical Dictionary; please note that foreign place names use the English equivalent rather than the original.

Names of organizations should be spelled out for the first time, the abbreviation given in parenthesis; all subsequent references should use the abbreviation.


Spell out numbers 1-10 (one through ten); for numbers over 10, use the numeral; for numbers over 999,999, use the numeral followed by the word (e.g., "1.5 million copies"). 


Centuries should follow the format for numbers stated above: "seventh century," but "18th century." Decades should be in numerals and should indicate the century, as in "1920s." 

Preparing Your Entry

Please prepare your files in recent versions of MS Word or WordPerfect for PC. If you are submitting more than one entry, each entry should be in a separate electronic file. Use simple, clear naming conventions, using the first six letters of the entry head. 

Do's and don't's of word processing

Use the tab key for paragraph indents. Never use the space bar to position text.

Don't hyphenate words at the ends of lines.

Don't right-justify the text.

Don't use a hard return anywhere within a paragraph; use hard returns only at the ends of paragraphs, items in a list, titles, and all levels of headings.

Don't use centering or other formatting commands other than bold and italic in your word-processing software.

Use one space, not two, after a period.

If your entry contains special characters or symbols, please consult with the volume editor. You will probably need to incorporate custom coding in the final manuscript.

Tables and graphics should not appear in the text files; each should be in a separate file.

For page numbering, use the numbering feature in your word-processing program; don't manually insert page numbers in your files.



University of Puget Sound Copyright © 2008 Last update: Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Hans A. Ostrom