When your organization is looking for speakers and authors to submit abstracts, papers, posters, or session proposals for an upcoming event, you want the process to be as easy as possible so that you receive even more high-quality submissions to choose from. An easy submission process begins with clear, concise submission instructions so that speakers and authors understand all requirements before they begin. Here are some simple tips and best practices for writing instructions that reduce confusion and frustration.
Write easy-to-follow call for papers instructions with these 10 tips
Know your audience
Some submitters may not understand the terminology in your instructions. Keep your audience’s background and demographics in mind so you use language you know they’ll understand, especially if English isn’t their first language.
Keep it short
When reading online, users shy away from long, complex paragraphs. To increase the chances that your users will read–not skim–your instructions, use short, easy to understand sentences.
Use simple terms
There’s no need to use fancy words when writing instructions for your call for papers. Using simple terms will make sure more people understand the process you are explaining.
Use contextual instructions
Supplement your instructions with tips that appear throughout the submission process. These additional points can be written next to specific fields, or appear when a user places their cursor over a “Help” icon. Having these instructions on the page ensures people see them right when they need them most.
Use numbers and bullets
If you want your submitters to follow the instructions like a recipe, use numbered lists to indicate the steps they need to take. If you have more general or optional instructions, use bullets.
Use the imperative
Vague statements can confuse readers. Use the imperative and write your instructions like direct commands. For example, write “Select one topic below,” instead of “Please pick from this list of topics.”
Use different typefaces and sizes
If you need to call attention to a particular instruction or warning, use bold typeface or consider changing the font style or size. Using a different colored font can also help, but keep in mind that colors can be difficult to read for some users.
Anticipate the length of the process
Give submitters an idea of how long the process will take. For example, your submission process may involve 3 sections and take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. That way, submitters will be able to ensure they have enough time to complete the submission and not be rushed.
Go through a test-run
Because you know your submission program inside and out, you will be less likely to catch instructions that might be difficult to understand. Ask a few coworkers or trusted contributors to go through the instructions and provide feedback before you open the submission site to everyone.
Don’t be afraid to change the instructions
If you think you’ve written clear instructions but you’re still receiving feedback that users are struggling with your system, it’s not too late to change your instructions. Changing them late will still give future users the chance to have a smoother submission process.
Writing instructions for your call for papers may not be as easy as it sounds. When you’re close to a project, providing detailed instructions that external users will understand can be a challenge. But, if you follow these tips, you will produce more effective instructions that can make it easier on submitters!
Looking for more tips to simplify your next call for abstracts, papers, posters and presentations? Check out this article, Pro Tips: Call for Papers & Abstract Management, where we collect advice from a panel of abstract management experts.