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One of the most interesting things about this project is the series concept. After 1,600 books in the For Dummies series, Wiley knows EXACTLY what it’s doing. It’s called “The Dummies style.”

The Author Guidelines is a massive 53-page doc covering everything from language to structure to procedure. You want to be conversational but NOT condescending. Lots of contractions, no royal “we” (“Now we will look at the development of blah”). Use “I” and “you” instead, like you’re talking to a friend. No citations, no academic style.

Readers aren’t assumed to be “dummies” in general, just less knowledgeable in this one area than they’d like to be.

There’s also a strong preference for the present tense — which is a challenge when you’re writing historically. Not “Socrates said,” but “Socrates says.” Keeps the text more active. They like gerunds in headings for the same reason: Exploring X, Thinking About Y, Challenging the Z.

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.