UU Dictionary of Biography

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Unitarian Universalist Association

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Notes for Contributors


The DUUB is a specialized biographical reference work, for those specially interested in Unitarians, Universalists, or Unitarian Universalists. Subjects all belong, in some way, to one (or more) of these related categories. Although the full careers of all subjects is given brief treatment, special emphasis is given to a) the reason (if required) the subject properly belongs in this work, b) the person's contributions (if any) to the Unitarian and/or Universalist tradition(s), and c) the person's theology, philosophy, piety, and/or spirituality and its connection to his/her life accomplishments. Ultimately the DUUB will contain more than 1,000 articles and more than 1,000,000 words.

The planners intended that the DUUB would exist in two formats, as a printed volume and as an on-line resource. Although the dictionary will surely be used for apologetic purposes, the articles meet a high historical standard. We want the articles to portray the full humanity of the subjects, including limitations, flaws, and failures. (In other words, the DUUB is not to be hagiography.) All articles are specially written for this project. The style of writing is varied, lively, and accessible to the general reader. Bibliographical details follow the article in a separate section. The on-line version contain portraits and other relevant illustrations.

To help the editors maintain consistent quality and coverage of all the subjects, please, before you begin to write your article, fill out the included Standard Information Form. Do not be concerned about the necessary overlap between the forms and the article. Disregard questions not relevant to your subject. The forms are for our editors' use, not for publication. They will help editors prepare the bibliography and to work for consistency and comprehensiveness in the articles.

Because any dictionary of biography requires both consistency and brevity, dictionary entries are, by necessity, subject to considerably more editorial change than other types of published article. The authors, however, are asked for final revision and approval of the text. All DUUB contributions are signed by the authors. The author's name certifies the authenticity of the text.

The Assignment Process

The assignment of volunteers to subjects is cleared through the editorial committee. Authors are then provided with a word estimate for each article. This length excludes the bibliography. A time estimate (not a deadline) is solicited, though not demanded, for each article. Authors are encouraged to keep the editors up-to-date as to progress in their articles, advising them, in particular, of anything that will cause substantial delay. Authors should confirm any subjects offered to them by return e-mail.

Communication with the Editors

Contributions can be sent to the editors either by e-mail, attachment to e-mail, or mail. E-mail is the most flexible way to send your articles and forms. There need then be no worry about compatibility of word-processing software. Do not be concerned about loss of formatting-italics, etc.-during e-mail transmission. These features will be replaced by the editors before the article is put online (in HTML format). If you can send articles and forms by mail only, they will have to be scanned and pre-edited for scanning errors. Your formatting will be lost in any case. Therefore, if you send the editors any submission by mail, if it is at all possible send it by e-mail as well. The editors will use your formatted text for reference, but will do the editing on the electronic text derived from e-mail.

Some may wish to send their articles and forms in word-processor files by attachment or disk. Attached documents in Open Office (Open Document Format), Microsoft Word (97/2000/XP), and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) usually work. Check with your editor. When in doubt use e-mail.

You will be sent the edited text back by e-mail (or possibly both e-mail and Word). Further communication approving the text or negotiating alterations should be via e-mail as well. If you are in doubt as to whether e-mail can handle the size of your submission, break it into two messages. E-mail can, however, handle quite lengthy transmissions. The only items that absolutely require mail or attachment are illustrations. If you send photographs by mail they will be returned after the editors have finished with them.

Emphasis of Articles

The DUUB contains articles on two types of people: A) those who made a significant contribution to Unitarian/Universalist history and tradition and B) other U/Us whose contribution(s) in other fields have made them famous (or infamous). If your subject fits in category A, your article ought to be a straightforward biography. The U/U emphasis will come naturally. If your subject fits in category B, you are urged to stress three sorts of information: 1) the subject's accomplishments, in whatever field; 2) the person's U/U credentials, and 3) the person's theology (or system of religious values) or spirituality (or devotional life) and its relationship to the person's achievements.

In articles on persons in category B, information concerning the person's accomplishments and career ought to be told concisely, while doing justice to the subject; for such information is readily found in many other places. The DUUB does not wish merely to duplicate information given in other biographies and resources. Yet enough information should be included to tell a coherent and comprehensive story. DUUB articles should always emphasize the way the person's religious experience, convictions, ethics, etc. motivated, shaped or affected their life work.

Establishing the person's U/U credentials may, or may not, form a major part of the article. Some are easily proven to be U/U. (For example, Herman Melville signed the All Souls membership book.) Other's U/U connection will be problematic. A modest persuasive essay may be required to justify the subject's inclusion in the DUUB. These sections, of tremendous importance, will establish the seriousness and credibility of the DUUB. The editors will make the final judgment about the persuasiveness of the arguments. If you have doubts about whether a subject is U/U, or if the editors have indicated to you that a subject is marginal, do this section first and ask clearance from the editors before proceeding further.

Information regarding the person's religious experience, convictions, ethics, etc., may be hardest to find or to evaluate. Do the best you can with this. Any evidence you can display regarding the subject's theology, philosophy, piety, mysticism, spirituality, morality, closed or open-mindedness, tolerance (or intolerance), ecclesiatical polity, etc. would be very welcome. Demonstrated connections between the person's religion and the accomplishments would be not only a significant contribution to this project, but to scholarship since these connections are often omitted from other biographical writing.

Dictionary Article Style

The opening sentence of each article should begin with the subject's name, using the most recognizeable form. Birth and death years, enclosed in parentheses, should follow the name. The opening paragraph should be a short and concise overall evaluation of the subject's importance. There is no need for a summary or overall conclusion at the end of the article. Material of that nature should be considered for the beginning only. In rare cases some longer articles may need more than one paragraph for this material.

Tell the subject's life story in as close to chronological form as possible. Some topics or themes may have to be allocated special sections out of sequence in order to make them clearly understood. Topics that can be considered for special themes are 1) exposition of one or more principal life works, 2) religious affiliation, 3) theology or spirituality, 4) application of theology or spirituality to life accomplishments, 5) character flaws or limitations, and 6) changes in the subject's reputation over time. Other special themes, depending upon the subject may be appropriate. For any given subject, only a few of the above may be relevant. If one of the above topics is relevant, but not amenable to discussion at length, the material should be included in the chronological section. If there is an important subsidiary life, for instance a partner for whom no separate dictionary article is planned, that person should receive special consideration in a separate section towards the end of the article (they may, of course, be introduced earlier).

There are many possible closings to an article. It may end with a notice of the subject's death. It may be ended with a consideration of posthumous reputation or some other special topic. While an author summary should not end the entry, an anecdote, story, or brief quotation, demonstrating the essence of the character of the subject often makes a fitting closing.

Do not bother with footnotes. Include your documentation of sources in the Standard Information Form. Do not use block quotations in the article (they are fine in the form). While quotations are encouraged, they should be short and well-integrated within the text. All persons so cited should be identified, together with work and date. If it is not convenient to include all this information in the main text, it should be available to the editors in the notes. Avoid quotation from secondary sources. An exception to this rule is brief quotation from a noteworthy commentator as part of the section on the evolution of reputation. In general, distrust the judgments of others; make your own. These articles are meant to be new works. We encourage new scholarship and fresh opinion.

The articles for the DUUB are to be written in as personal, lively, and entertaining a style as possible within the limitations of a self-consistent reference work. The editors will do their best to leave evidence of the author's individual imprint as they revise, even when they find they must revise heavily. Be sure to give us the exact form you want for your "signature" at the bottom of the text.

Editorial Alterations

You can expect that your article will go through an editorial process of correction and revision. Some of our editors' changes will be minor. Others will be major, if the style is inappropriate for the Dictionary, misleading in any way, or omitting any large feature of the subject's life or significance. The editors may also identify major sources that have been neglected. When dealing with omissions the editors may either reject the piece, ask the author to supply new information, or supply some new text themselves (if this seems convenient).

It is our experience that most finished articles are a collaboration between the author (or authors) and the editors. Working on a dictionary entry is more like contributing to a screenplay than writing a novel. The finished product is usually the result of a group process. The named author may not have penned every word, and in some cases only a portion of them, but he or she will ultimately stand behind the facts and interpretations presented. And the author will have engaged with the editors in a process whose aim is to ensure that the article is the best it can be.

When you receive back from the editors your revised text, it may or may not be almost ready for posting, with only a few, very small changes needed. If that is the case, the author should make these changes and return the article at once for posting. If that is not the case, the author should make larger revision of the editors' work. The editorial process will then continue. Or, if the author believes even substantial revision would not make the editors' work satisfactory, the author may elect to re-write the entire article, for a second pass through the editorial process. Several fine articles, already posted, have gone through the editorial process twice, to the entire satisfaction of their author and our editors.

No article will be posted over any author's signature without explicit author approval. If your article, as revised, does not please you entirely, make all the changes and suggestions needed and engage in conversation with your editor until the article is satisfactory to all parties.

If an author refuses to engage in this editorial process and declines seriously to consider the editors' recommended changes, another author may be sought for the article on the subject.

This process-we cannot emphasize this too strongly-is highly collaborative. Editors who are also contributors are subject to the same discipline.


The bibliographical appendix will be prepared by the editors using material selected from answers to the Standard Information Form and other available references. It will be offered to the author for revision and review.

Author Autobiography and Picture

If you are completing your first article for the Dictionary, please send by e-mail a short autobiography, consisting of no more than 250 words. It can be much shorter. The usual length is one or two paragraphs. This text will be edited, but only lightly (for typos and house style) unless it is too long. Make sure, therefore, that it represents what you wish to see written about you before you send it in. You may include ordering information about any relevant writing you may have had published.

Your picture is optional, but would be much appreciated. Send it by attachment to e-mail if you can. Otherwise use mail. The photographs will be returned to you.

Thank you very much for your participation in the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. We hope that your article(s) will make you proud and pleased to have been able to contribute to this comprehensive presentation of Unitarian and Universalist history.

Peter Hughes, chief editor
Revised and updated on June 23, 2011 by Jim Nugent

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All material copyright Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society (UUHHS) 1999-2014

CREDIT LINE: From the biography of _______ written by ________ in
the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography, an on-line resource of the Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society.