Style Guide

The key points specific to the style of our publication are:


The language of the journal is English.  Articles should be written in a popular science tone and free of jargon.


Urban Matters follows the Harvard referencing system.

Due to the online nature and format of our publication, we discourage the use of footnotes and endnotes in all submissions. Instead, we recommend in-text explanations and parenthetical references to external sources as needed.


Please send in submissions as Microsoft Word attachments. Submissions should also include a cover photo. This photo must be available in Creative Commons or be an original photo taken by the author.

Photos and graphic elements

Photos should be sent in a Word document, each with a cutline describing who is in the photo, when it was taken, what is happening in the photo, and who took the photo, as well as any other relevant details.

In addition to the Word document, photos should be sent separately as high-resolution (minimum 300 pixels per inch) files, in PNG, JPEG, or TIFF format. Submit image files as email attachments or via a file-sharing service such as Dropbox.


We seek ready-to-publish articles and commentaries written to an agreed-upon length. More information on submissions can be found here, but a general guideline of article type and length is as follows:

  • Research articles – minimum 2000 words, maximum 4000 words.
  • Commentaries – minimum 1000 words, maximum 2000 words.
  • Interviews with urban experts – minimum 2000 words, maximum 4000 words.
  • Photo essays should contain at least 10 photographs and start with a brief introduction outlining the theme of the essay. Each photograph should have a caption.
  • Book reviews – minimum 500, maximum 1000 words.

Tips to stay within a limited word count:

Limit the use of long, unnecessary wording in favor of short, easy-to-understand language.

Reduce the use of adverbs and adjectives (words that describe). Show, rather than tell, readers about your topic.

Tighten sentences by getting rid of unnecessary descriptions and try to keep sentences to 30 words or less. Too many ideas in one sentence makes writing less clear.

Use an active voice

Academic writing usually uses the passive voice minimize focus on the “doer” of an action.  In popular science writing, the active voice encourages a clear, direct tone, while also reducing the word count.

Passive voice: More interesting subdivisions must be approved by planners.

Active voice: Planners must approve more interesting subdivisions.

Titles and names

Use people’s full names the first time they are mentioned. In subsequent references, use their last name only (e.g., “Johan Andersson was drinking coffee. Andersson later said that…”).

The only exception to this rule is when two people have the same last name. In these cases, use first names to differentiate.

Acronyms and abbreviations

Avoid acronyms and abbreviations unless they are commonly used and easily understood (e.g., UNESCO, OECD, NATO). Even then, the first reference to an acronym should explain the full name, with the acronym or abbreviation included in brackets after the name.

Numbers and percentages

The numbers one to nine are written in full, while 10 and up are written numerically, unless the number starts a sentence (e.g., Twenty-five residents were displaced… or The accident caused 33 injuries…)

Percentages are written as “percent” not “per cent” or “%”.

Titles of publications

The Harvard Referencing System recommends that the title of a source be underlined or italicized, but not both. For in-text citations, Urban Matters recommends the consistent use of italics for titles of books, movies, magazines, and other forms of media.

Inclusive language

We capitalize the proper names of race, nationality and peoples (e.g., Black, South Asian, Indigenous Peoples).


Urban Matters uses the Oxford comma. In a series of three or more items, use a comma before the final “and” or “or”.