» Style/tone. Many of our readers are volunteer board members and other laypeople with little specialized knowledge of law, zoning, finances, engineering, etc. So it's important that articles are not overly technical, and are written in a light, conversational tone. Often it helps to use second-person direct address: "If your community is having problems controlling its board meetings, what can you do? Consider adopting strict rules, such as allowing your residents to speak only during a specified period at the beginning or end of the meeting."
» Structure. Common Ground™ articles tend to be broken into three main sections, and while that structure isn't carved in stone, it is a helpful way to approach a topic. Typically a feature article breaks down like this: Section 1—Identify the issue or problem. Section 2—Spell out a plan of attack. Section 3—Explain how to enact or apply the plan of attack. Another accessible way to address a topic is to structure an article around a series of questions. The angle for a story about raising the assessment rate, for example, might proceed from "five questions to ask before you raise assessments." An article about running productive meetings could address "10 ways board meetings go wrong."
Section 1—Identify the issue or problem. Section 2—Spell out a plan of attack. Section 3—Explain how to enact or apply the plan of attack.
» How-to information. For the most part,
Common Ground™ articles are service pieces, meaning they tell our readers how to do something. (The exceptions tend to be history or news-feature stories that explore an interesting aspect of community association development.) Think about the information community association volunteers and professionals need to know about your topic.
» Real-life examples and case studies. Whenever possible, you should use real-world examples from your own experiences to illustrate the point(s) you're trying to make. Be as specific as you can—name names of associations, if possible, and tell a little something about them (housing types, number of units, size, etc.). In fact, if you want to build an entire article around one particularly relevant case from your experience—involving an actual association confronted with the issue in question—that can be an interesting, accessible way to connect with our readers. For example, in recent years
Common Ground™ has published "case study" articles profiling a Virginia association's 11-year capital improvement project; another Virginia association's prolonged campaign to raise its assessment rate; a California association's overhaul of its lighting and electrical work; and two Arizona associations' efforts to thwart a resident who took over both boards.
» Community types. Our readers include people who live in or work for many different kinds of communities, including high-rise condominiums, townhouse clusters, single-family developments and large master-planned communities. You don't have to tailor parts of your article to each audience; but, on the other hand, if certain aspects of the issue you're addressing vary depending on community type, it would be helpful to note that. Otherwise, try to write your article in such a way that it's relevant to the most communities.
» "Your Stories": If you have something to share about the community association experience, this is your place. Share the moments that made you laugh, cry, cringe or smile. Or, if your community has done something that's exemplary, interesting or just plain different, tell us. Has your community volunteered for a good cause? Raised money for charity? Rebounded from a tough time? It can be a silly anecdote, a deeply held opinion or just an offbeat observation. Send your stories, pictures, news, ideas and opinions.
Average length: 300 words.
» "On the Board": Written specifically for community association board members, this department addresses leadership issues. Recent "On the Board" columns have dealt with leadership and management books, committees and how to choose a management company.
Average length: 1,000 words.
» "Nuts and Bolts": This is
Common Ground™'s hardware- and maintenance-oriented department, offering straightforward, hands-on advice on repairs and upkeep. Recent "Nuts and Bolts" columns have addressed bidding out painting jobs, spring landscaping, flood-zone correction and brick-mortar replacement.
Average length: 1,000 words.
» "Ask the Experts": This ever-popular department offers two ways to contribute. First, you can send a question about community association governance, operations or management for one of our attorney, accountant, manager or other experts to answer. Or, you can try your hand at answering a question. Just e-mail us to let us know you're interested in writing an expert opinion.
Average length: 400 words per answer.
» "Perspectives": An online section where CAI members and others can share opinions about the issues and problems impacting community associations. Share your thoughts on the past, present and future of common-interest communities. Opinion pieces will be published at CAI's discretion. Selected excerpts may be published in the magazine's "Your Turn" section.
Average length: 500+ words.
Objective. Articles published in
Common Ground™ magazine are aimed at informing and educating readers about issues and trends affecting community associations. They should not promote a particular company, product or service.
Accurate and exclusive. Authors are considered the experts. Authors must be able to verify that the information in their articles is accurate, that the article is their original work and that it has not appeared in another publication. Give proper attribution to quotes, reports or ideas not your own. Do not submit the same, or similar, articles that have been published elsewhere or that have been submitted to other publications.
Easy to read. The editor reserves the right to cut or rewrite submitted articles and columns as necessary. Every effort will be made to provide the author with an edited version of the article prior to publication.
Contact Common Ground™
6402 Arlington Blvd.Suite 500Falls Church, VA 22042(703) 970-9220commonground(at)caionline.org