your guide for creating concise, easy-to-read documents and effective videos.
This guide outlines OVC publishing policies and submission requirements, effective writing principles, and video production tips that will help you navigate the publishing process and share the results of your hard work with others in the field. Review these guidelines carefully while your project is in the early planning stage—all involved, including you, will save time and money as we collaborate to bring your project to successful completion. The guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive; make sure to check with your grant manager for guidance on preparing specialized products.
Periodically, we update these guidelines as requirements and best practices change. Check back for revised recommendations before you start a new product.
Message From the Director
OVC's Publishing Guidelines describe the criteria grantees and contractors must follow when submitting materials to OVC to be published. We are committed to producing quality products and welcome this opportunity to help you develop dynamic and useful products that will both inspire and instruct the victims' rights and services community.
Most of our products are now published exclusively on our Web site, providing greater access to virtually all types of information. This guide includes tips on preparing information for the Web that will help you—the grantee or contractor—develop and organize content in a way that expedites the publishing process.
In addition to Web-based publications, we offer a wide range of educational multimedia products designed to enhance the skills of service providers. Because these products play an important role in advancing our training agenda, we have expanded the publishing guidelines to include basic principles that will help producers skillfully manage the production process. We hope you will find this section useful and informative when planning your video project.
As the federal office responsible for enhancing the Nation's capacity to assist crime victims and provide leadership in changing attitudes, policies, and practices to promote justice and healing for all victims, we look forward to working with you to produce products that meet and exceed professional standards of excellence.
Office for Victims of Crime
Table of Contents
Developing an E-Pub
Producing a Video
Copyright & Policy Requirements
Before your grant, cooperative agreement, or contract ends, you must submit your product to OVC for review and, after that review, a final submission package that includes any review changes. These two steps must take place—
These are minimum requirements for submissions to be reviewed. OVC is moving to a review process that will incorporate benchmarks for periodic feedback as development proceeds throughout the grant or contract. Setting these benchmarks will be a collaborative process between OVC and grantees.
120 Days Before Your Funding Ends
At least 120 days before your funding ends, you must submit your product to us for review. Build the 120-day product review deadline into your grant or contract timeline.
If you are unable to provide a final version of the product 120 days before the grant, cooperative agreement, or contract ends, you may request a no-cost extension to the grant or contract period. These extensions are approved on a case-by-case basis, and all requests must contain a substantive reason justifying the delay.
If substantive changes to the product are required, no additional funds will be made available.
30 Days Before Your Funding Ends
At least 30 days before your funding ends, you must provide us with a final submission package. This package should include all materials required to move forward with publishing.
You must deliver a submission package to your grant monitor 30 days before your grant, cooperative agreement, or contract ends. Properly preparing the package will save valuable time and effort during the publishing process and ensure a more timely final product. We will return submission packages that are incomplete or that do not meet formatting and policy requirements.
All packages should contain—
See Writing Tips and Developing an E-Pub for useful guidance about creating publications.
Charts and Photos
Charts, photos, and other graphic images must be submitted with specific information. These requirements include—
Submit tables and graphs in separate electronic files because they are often created in specialized software. Remember to provide data points for graphs.
Prepare your submission package according to the following guidelines:
Submit electronic files via e-mail or on a CD-RW.
We currently accept documents in Microsoft Word only. Submission of materials with design elements already incorporated will delay final production and availability of your work to victim service providers. Contact your grant monitor with questions about this requirement.
Follow these guidelines:
Do not use other formatting tools (e.g., different size text, tabs, columns, boxes). Text submitted to OVC will be edited and designed to develop the final product. Unnecessary formatting in draft text can delay the publishing of your grant product.
Generally, OVC prepares final artwork. If your grant or contract requires you to prepare camera ready art, check with your grant or project manager for our production standards (e.g., disclaimer use and placement, logos).
All packages should contain
See Producing a Video for some helpful tips on creating videos.
OVC includes as standard several accessibility features to assist blind, low-vision, hard-of-hearing, and deaf individuals. Keep these features in mind when developing your video.
This feature allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to read a transcript or dialog of the audio portion of a video, film, or other presentation. As the video plays, text captions are displayed that transcribe speech and other relevant sounds. Open captions are visible without using any special devices, such as a set-top decoder or a TV with a built-in decoder chip. They are a permanent part of the picture that all viewers see. See File Setup for submission requirements related to this feature.
The primary difference between open and closed captioning is that closed captioning means that not all viewers see the captions—only those who decode or activate them. The object in both types of captioning is to describe all significant audio content, as well as “non-speech” interpretative information, such as the identity of speakers and actions occurring on the screen. See File Setup for submission requirements related to this feature.
This feature reads DVD menu button labels aloud for low-vision or blind users and itemizes all the navigation options that appear on the screen, including the total number of buttons. Grantees are not responsible for creating this feature; it will be added as part of the production process.
This feature combines the audio portion of a video with a narrative description that interprets what is happening in the video and provides the names and titles of individuals appearing in it. This is an audio-only presentation, so it does not include the video but does permit us to edit the program audio track, thereby allowing as much time as is needed for new descriptive material. Please keep the following in mind when developing the enhanced audio script:
See File Setup for submission requirements related to this feature.
Prepare your submission package according to the following guidelines:
Due to ever-advancing technology and the time span of many grants, OVC does not accept DVD compressed files (masters) ready for duplication. Accessibility refinements, improved technologies, and OVC’s evolving best practices dictate that submissions be composed of the appropriate individual files so that any adjustments can be made economically and efficiently. Submission requirements for DVDs are subject to change, so be sure to check these guidelines periodically and discuss any issues with your grant monitor.
Submit the following:
Source video for closed- and open-captioned videos—
Audio files (standard)—
Enhanced audio script
TIME Description Caption 00:15:17 Kenneth Barnes, LAPD, speaks over images of a victim being interviewed by police and a team of people discussing issues at a table Justice must be equal. And justice for crime victims should be at the head of the table.
Generally, OVC prepares final artwork. If your grant or contract requires you to prepare camera ready art, check with your grant or project manager for our production standards (e.g., slipcovers, cases, labels, disclaimer use and placement, logos). This applies whether or not the product will be printed or uploaded by OVC or the grantee.
OVC posts clips of the videos it offers online and, in some cases, other brief videos (e.g., NCVRW PSAs). In most cases, OVC uses the files you submitted as part of your DVD submission package to create the promotional clip. If you are creating your own clip, or if your full video will be online only, you will need to submit the following files to OVC:
When we receive your complete submission package, we can begin the publishing process. Steps include—
We may guide the product through an external peer review process after receiving it 120 days before the grant or contract end date. The OVC grant monitor will then return the productwith reviewers' commentsto you for revision. After receiving the revised product, we will submit it to individuals within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for review and comment. Based on the extent of these comments, we may again return the product to you for additional revision. When we receive the product with all comments incorporated, we will complete an editorial and/or technical assessment of the product and will estimate the production costs. The OVC director will then provide approval for the publishing and dissemination process to begin.
The OVC Publications Unit will complete initial work on the product. After the initial work is approved by the grant monitor, the product will undergo a quality control review and move forward to design, formatting, and production.
The final formatted version of the product, including all appropriate OVC documentation, will be forwarded through the OVC deputy director, the OVC director, and the Office of the Assistant Attorney General (OAAG) for final review and approval. Once approved, advance notification of the product's anticipated release date is sent to the U.S. Attorney General.
The product's dissemination plan will be reviewed and finalized by the appropriate OVC grant monitor and division director in conjunction with the OVC deputy director and director. As appropriate, the OVC Publications Unit will coordinate the press release process in conjunction with OJP's Office of Communications (OCOM), upload the product or a description thereof on our Web site, and coordinate any bulk mailings through the OVC Resource Center (OVCRC).
Below are the products we commonly publish. All materials, with the exception of some multimedia products, are available as electronic publications ("e-pubs") with downloadable, printer-friendly versions.
Brochures provide brief descriptions of programs or services in various formats. They may be available in print for broad distribution at events and via mail.
Bulletins provide information about training, promising practices, or findings and questions raised by symposia or focus groups. They may be components of informational or educational packages.
Fact sheets describe OVC's major programs and services in a brief format. Many of the subjects they summarize will be covered in more detail in other, longer format publications. They may be available in print to facilitate distribution.
Guides (e.g., replication guides, resource guides, handbooks) emphasize the practical implementation of demonstration projects, pilot programs, tools, and other systematic service enhancements, offering service providers and allied professionals specific strategies and actions.
Multimedia (DVDs, CD-ROMs) enhances public awareness of victim-related issues and provides information about training and technical assistance and promising practices to victim service providers and allied professionals who assist victims of crime.
Public awareness kits increase awareness of victims' rights and issues and promote services that assist victims. Components may include fact sheets; ideas to interest local news media; reproducible art for print ads, posters, and fliers; and public service announcements.
Reports may be produced to summarize agency program accomplishments or to document the proceedings of structured focus groups in which practitioners and experts share their knowledge, learn about related efforts, obtain feedback, and generate recommendations for OVC and the field. These reports define the issues under discussion; summarize literature findings; address methodologies used; discuss gaps, promising practices, and approaches; and recommend action for the field and OVC.
Training curricula contain materials for teaching victim service professionals how to enhance their capability to serve crime victims. Training packages include the following: participant manuals that describe basic concepts and specific practice-related information; and trainer's manuals that include material in the participant manual along with annotated source material, lesson plans and objectives, and notes on audiovisual aids.
For the best possible publication, follow these basic writing guidelines:
Remember: People want information that's short, simple, and to the point. Using the following techniques will make your manuscript a clearer and faster read. You may also want to refer to the Chicago Manual of Style and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, both of which we use in preparing products for publication.
Use the active voice. Active voice uses fewer words and is clearer.
|The rights of victims have gone unrecognized by the criminal justice system for a long time.||The criminal justice system did not recognize victims' rights for a long time.|
Use short words. Don't use a long word or phrase when a short one delivers the same message. Examples
Use short sentences. Make your point, then move on. Long sentences with many commas are difficult to read.
Avoid jargon. Steer clear of terminology specific to a field unless the intended audience is only members of the field.
Make sure to cite all sources, using the author-date style (e.g., Smith, 1999), in the text. In your references, include the following when providing the full citation:
Whenever possible, include links to cited works.
We will format all citations according to OVC guidelines once we receive your document; we would appreciate receiving a consistent citation style to speed up the formatting process. It is imperative that complete and accurate citations are provided. Incomplete information will delay the publication of your product.
Developing an E-Pub
Writing for the Web differs from writing for print media, but not so much in the writing itself. The difference lies in how you conceive and present the information. This section includes tips on effectively writing for the Web:
In addition, always remember to use good grammar and punctuation. Correct grammar is essential to establishing and maintaining online credibility.
For more guidance, check out the guidelines at www.usability.gov.
(Note: The U.S. Department of Justice, of which OVC is a part, does not permit the use of social media tools (e.g., blogs) in its products. Please keep this in mind when developing your e-pub.)
Write for the "Scan Reader"
Online audiences tend not to read word for word. Instead, they scan subheads, links, and lists for information that applies specifically to them. Therefore, you should
Place the key overall ideas first on each Web page. Then go into detail. Again, explain the most important details first.
This writing style is often called the inverted pyramid. It ensures that no matter where on the page users stop reading, they will have read the most important information.
Subheads make text more readable and point readers to specific information. This means subheads should be used often (every 13 paragraphs), and they should be more specific than "Introduction" or "Project History." Such generic subheads tell online readers little and encourage them to simply scan over the material.
Examples of specific headlines
The most effective subheads provide enough information that reading the section becomes optional. Don't let your readers wander. According to Rachel McAlpine (http://www.webpagecontent.com/arc_archive/8/5/), an online content consultant, online readers "skim the page looking for clues about content. As soon as they have enough clues, they can decide whether to bookmark, download, or print the page—or abandon it forever."
Effective bulleted lists are brief:
To shorten a bulleted list that is too long
When possible, limit the content of main navigation pages (e.g., the home page) to what can appear on one screen. Content pages, such as those appearing in this e-pub, can run a bit longer, but it is still preferable to minimize scrolling.
To write short copy, use short sentences and simple words.
|A survey of victims was conducted by the interdisciplinary team in order to determine the impact that existing programs and services had on them.||The interdisciplinary team surveyed victims to find out how existing services affected them.|
Chunking and Linking
If you still have too much copy after shortening sentences, break the text into smaller chunks and use links to direct readers to that information.
Secondary pages feature background information that explains concepts introduced on an e-pub's main pages. These pages can be longer than the document's main pages. However, you should use subheads and bulleted lists to make long pages easier to read. Jump links, which link you to different sections of the same page, also are useful tools.
"Chunk" Your Content
"Chunking" is the process of dividing information into small, clear pieces. It is the most difficult part of the Web writing process because it requires deciding which information is important, what information to present, and how to organize it.
Organize Material by Category or Concept
Organize information before writing:
Avoid Linear or Narrative Organization
Linear and narrative formats—in which information must be presented in a specific order—generally don't work well online. Of course, some exceptions apply, such as online learning tools and sequentially based instruction.
Use Links Appropriately
Incorporating links to background material is an excellent way to chunk information. However, never use an embedded link at the bottom of one page simply to link to the top of the next page (e.g., "Continued on Next Page"). Instead, divide the information into smaller chunks on more pages.
Incorporate Links Into Content
Construct sentences in ways that allow you to link to related information. For example: Subheads help readers navigate a document quickly.
Links are most effective when they are obvious and the user does not have to think about them. Offer easy-to-find text links instead of URL addresses by hyperlinking a word or phrase in a sentence.
|For more information about OVC publications, visit the OVC Web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc.||Visit the OVC Web site for more information about OVC publications.|
Don't overuse links. Too many links on a page will distract readers and make the page more difficult to understand. If you find yourself in this situation, rethink how you are chunking information onto individual pages.
Develop Keywords for Search Purposes
Effective keywords—that is, the terms and phrases in HTML code that describe an e-pub's content—help Web users find your publication using search engines like Google™ or Yahoo.
Step 1—Brainstorm a List
Write down words and phrases that describe the content and purpose of your document. Include search terms that your target audience might use to find this type of information and, if possible, keywords used on similar publications and Web pages.
Step 2—Refine the Entries
Step 3—Prioritize the List
The first keyword or phrase should be the most descriptive, and so on down the list. Limit the list to the 20 most descriptive keywords or phrases.
Step 4—Test the List
Search the Web using the keywords you selected for your e-pub. Do the search results correspond with similar content? Do they yield too many results? Too few?
Producing a Video
Advance planning is key to successful video production. A detailed preproduction plan can enhance the quality of your video, save time, and prevent escalating costs. As you undertake your video project, use the following planning tips to make your production process more efficient. OVC has also prepared a list of submission requirements for you to keep in mind when finalizing your video (see Submission Requirements).
Filming and Editing
Copyright & Policy Requirements
Follow these usage standards:
Incorporation of material protected by copyright. Material from works that are protected by copyright—such as written or audiovisual materials or images—may not be incorporated into products created under an OVC grant or contract without advance written approval from OVC (and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) contracting officer, if applicable). Contact your OVC grant specialist or contracting officer's technical representative (COTR) for this approval. Expect that OVC and OJP will require you to obtain written permission from the copyright holder (a written license) sufficient as to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) rights. In general, a license must be sufficient to ensure that DOJ's ability to use (and authorize others to use) the grant or contract product is not impaired by inclusion of the copyrighted material. You are responsible for acquiring any required license and for paying any necessary fees.
Subgrants and subcontracts. If you intend to incorporate materials developed under a subgrant or subcontract into a grant or contract product, contact OVC in advance of the agreement to discuss flow-through requirements regarding copyright and the DOJ license that must be incorporated into the agreement.
Notice of copyright. If your product incorporates material from other works that are protected by copyright, incorporate notice of copyright in the product's text, captions, footnotes, or legends, as appropriate. Notice of copyright should be consistent with any requirements set forth in the license from the copyright holder.
Authority to copyright a work. In general, unless specified otherwise in the award, you may copyright any work that is subject to copyright and is developed, or for which ownership is purchased, under an award. Any such copyright is subject to a broad royalty-free, nonexclusive, and irrevocable license retained by DOJ to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the copyrighted material (including in the creation of derivative works) for Federal Government purposes, and to authorize others to do so.
Contract provisions may vary with respect to copyright and retained licenses and may differ from those that apply to grants. Contact OVC and your OJP contracting officer for information as to a particular contract.
Agreements with outside publishers. If you propose to offer materials developed under a grant or contract to a publisher for publication or distribution, you must contact OVC in advance to discuss applicable requirements with respect to the DOJ license.
The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 require that electronic data and information technology provided by the Federal Government be accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 of the Act, which focuses on information disseminated through the Web, requires that "alt" (alternative) text be supplied with all graphics. These brief descriptions of graphic elements (20 words or fewer) allow visually impaired people who use special text-reading software or people who view the site without graphics to understand what the images convey. OVC complies with this and all standards of section 508. In addition, OVC requires that all DVDs include closed captioning and visually described files (see Submission Requirements, Videos, File Setup section).
OVC's logo is the exclusive property of the Office for Victims of Crime. All products produced by OVC must include the OVC logo as well as the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) seal and tagline. You must obtain OVC permission to include the OVC logo and OJP seal and tagline on reproduced products and must obtain OVC approval regarding their correct placement. Under no circumstances shall you reproduce and release a product that duplicates the official U.S. Department of Justice header or Oxford rule. Please contact your grant monitor or contracting officer's technical representative for more information.
OVC uses barcoding to maintain and track its inventory of published products. Every item received into inventory will be assigned a product number that will be printed in barcode format on the document.
All OVC publications and videos must include standard funding information and a disclaimer.
For most products/publications—
"This product was supported by grant [or contract, cooperative agreement] number _____________________, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice."
For products/publications produced by another organization, such as a video production house—
"This product was produced by [name of production company] and supported by grant [or contract, cooperative agreement] number _____________________, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice."