The Washington Post’s Acts of Faith offers breaking and ongoing news, analysis and opinion about major religion stories. We tackle anything where faith, spirituality, ethics and values live, from politics and culture to science and education. Please note that we are considering a limited number of submissions right now.
Acts of Faith is edited by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who is on work leave. Send pitches to Michelle.Boorstein@washpost.com and @Julie.Zauzmer@washpost.com.
Want to write for us? We get a lot of pitches, but we try to carefully consider each one. Our one requirement is that the piece must be related to faith, or its absence. We look to break or explain news related to religion and spirituality. If there is no such angle, we’re not a good match for you.
We are most interested in news tips and news stories, including features that that reveal a new trend in religion. Freelance reporters can contact us with emerging story ideas.
Want to write analysis or opinion? Here are some other guidelines:
Q: Does my piece have to be related to the news?
A: Short answer: Basically. Long answer: We prefer things off the news, but another way of asking that is: Why this piece, and why now? We need a good answer to that question. It could be connected to something that happened (preferably very recently), or a trend, a new book, or tweet or song or an idea that’s being discussed (or should be), or a person whose relevance right now feels important to you.
Q: What do good pieces include?
A: Here are some ideas:
- Some element of surprise.
- Something that evokes feeling: Awe, outrage, passion, fascination, delight, etc.
- Analysis, explanation, context, history, quotes, evidence, data.
- Elements that are both specific and broad (for instance, a piece on Mormons and modesty would hit both a specific crowd and a broad topic).
- Some basic journalism rules: Don’t say anything that isn’t true. Don’t copy anything you’ve seen elsewhere. Don’t make up names. Anything in quotes should be verbatim accurate.
Q: What pieces don’t work?
A:It’s not a perfect science, but here are some general thoughts:
- Pieces that don’t have a news hook are more challenging and have to hit a higher bar.
- Pieces that drive an agenda rather than an idea.
- Pieces that seem expected. We don’t want, “Of course [said author] would advocate [such view].” Or that make a point or offer news that’s already widely out there.
- Pieces that are too inside baseball. This includes writing that is too academic and not accessible to a general audience.
Q: Should I send a brief pitch or the full article?
A: Either is fine. The pitch should include strong, newsy headline suggestions (what’s going to be your point?) and how soon you can turn something around.
Q: Should I include an author bio?
A: Yes. We need a one- or two-sentence bio, an explanation of what makes you the right person for the article, whether it’s your institution, your book, your blog, etc.
Q: Does it have to be something that hasn’t run elsewhere?
A: We prefer original pieces but consider reprints and book excerpts.
Q: How long?
A: Word counts tend to run somewhere between 600 and 1,200 words long.
Q: Will the piece go in print?
A: Some pieces are considered for print, but it’s not guaranteed and it’s not a priority for Acts of Faith. We’re looking to reach a broad, online national and international audience. Our online audience is far, far larger than our audience for print.
Q: How are headlines chosen?
A: Provide a few suggestions! We are looking for something that will be both enticing and shareable. No, we don’t want clickbait, but we do want people to click in. Remember, the piece is competing up against kitten videos for eyeballs.
Q: Have any common writer mistakes to avoid?
A: Avoid passive voice and academic jargon. Use strong verbs. Don’t start a sentence with “this” or “that” referring to a previous sentence. Each sentence should stand alone. Don’t include double spaces between a period and the next sentence. Keep paragraphs short, two to three sentences. Eliminate cliches. Put books and movie titles in quotation marks. If you are writing first-person narrative, try to get creative with i, i, i, i, so you don’t sound too self-focused. William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” offers more good tips.
Q: Can I include links?
A: Of course! Please do back up your claims with sources. Link to original documents, previous news stories, etc. Linking to your book or Web site is fine in your bio, but avoid too much self promotion. Consider adding tweets, Instagram or some other visuals to help show what you’re writing about. What would help the reader dive more deeply into the subject? We have to add links manually, however, so please be judicious.
Q: How soon will I know if a pitch or story is accepted?
A: It depends. Please provide a deadline if you plan to pitch it elsewhere. If you are pitching to multiple publications, please make that clear in the pitch. If you don’t hear back, feel free to send another nudge.
Q: What happens after the story is accepted?
A: It will be edited, and a final version is usually sent to the author unless the changes are very minor. Please send a draft as close to the final version as possible so we don’t have to go back-and-forth on changes, and bold or highlight anything you would like changed during editing. Please tell us your availability and include a phone number so that we can reach you quickly for edits if needed.
Q: What happens after the story is published?
A: Promote away! Send to your friends and family. Post it on social media. Tag @Washington Post on Facebook and Twitter.