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Writing for MAA FOCUS

We are always looking for news items and articles that will be of interest to MAA members everywhere. If you'd like to contribute, here are some guidelines:

MAA FOCUS is a news magazine, not a journal. Articles should be short, informal, and whenever possible, include photos and illustrations. A personal tone is acceptable and sometimes even preferred. Humor is also good, in its place. MAA FOCUS is not a scholarly journal: Hence, we avoid footnotes and bibliographies. Keep in mind that you are writing for a wide audience of MAA members. Make it interesting.

MAA FOCUS articles are SHORT. The typical MAA FOCUS page can fit about 600 words, leaving space for an image on the page. We print very few articles that are more than two pages long.

We like mathematics! That's why we're members of MAA. We are understocked with articles about mathematics because they are hard to write. If there's a new development in your field, a new way to look at an old idea, a cute bit of mathematics you've discovered or remembered, please consider sending us a short article. On the other hand, we’re not interested in publishing proofs. If you write about a new result, tell us the kind of thing you’d say to a colleague in the hallway to explain ’what’s really going on'? If you write about an old result, embed it in a historical account or a personal reminiscence.

We like pictures. If you have an interesting photo, we’d be glad to consider it for publication. If the central point is the picture, a one-paragraph caption will do instead of a full-blown article. To be publishable, pictures should be in high resolution and in a graphics format, preferably jpg or eps. In lay language: we want BIG images, and we want you NOT to embed them in a Word file.

Graphics can be sent in any format, but .jpeg, .tiff, .psd, and .png are preferred. Don't embed graphics in Word files; we can't use them that way. Images should have high resolution: 300 pixels come out to one inch when printed. Because such graphics files are very large, you might want to send the file through YouSendIt (available free) or another service specializing in handling large files. We always want more photographs, graphs/charts, and illustrations.
We are always interested in "filler" material. Did you see some screwed-up mathematics in the media? Do you have a good quote, or a new bit of mathematical folklore? We want it.

The best way to submit your article or news item is as an email attachment. Send it to Do not expect an instant response, but if we take more than three weeks, don't be afraid to email again to find out what happened.

Whenever possible, send articles in Microsoft Word or text. Avoid introducing too much formatting into your text; we would just have to delete it. Lay out paragraphs without first-line indentation and without justification. Skip a line between paragraphs. Avoid funny fonts, color, underlining, and ALL CAPS. 

Put your name on the manuscript. Please put your name and contact information on the first page of the document, not just in the email.

Every MAA FOCUS article includes a sentence or two about the author. It's set in italics at the end of each article. Please include this short bio with your article. Readers want to know whose work they are reading.

We follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. But don’t stress about it. The most important thing about punctuation, usage, and spelling is to be consistent. Here are a few of our style rules:

  • Almost everyone referred to in MAA FOCUS has a PhD and/or is a professor. So we just use full names on first mention, last names after that. No Dr. This or Prof. That.

  • It's "email," "website," and "online," not "e-mail," "web site," or "on line."

  • No double spaces. Ever. For any reason. Use the search-and-replace function to change space-space to space.

MAA FOCUS has a publication lead time of two months. For example, copy is due at the beginning of April for our June/July issue. If you need to tell the members something quickly, MAA FOCUS is not for you. We publish six issues per year: February/March, April/May, June/July, August/September, October/November, and December/January.

Please make sure you own the copyright to any text or images you submit.

We edit. Please remember that your prose will be copyedited, both for clarity and for space.

Ask. If you’re wondering whether something will work, ask us [].

We look forward to your submissions.

Jacqueline Jensen-Vallin, Editor