These notes are designed to enhance the prospects for your contribution being accepted by The Independent or Independent on Sunday.

Since the inception of The Independent in 1986, the travel pages have followed a fresh and distinctive agenda, creating successful and much-imitated strands such as the 48 Hours city guides, In the footsteps of ..., and Complete Guides to an eclectic range of travel topics.

We work hard to try to stay ahead of the competition in delivering the best and most authoritative writing, backed by first-class pictures and graphics. Our travel pages include the unbiased information readers need to maximise value from travelling time and money. Whether a reader is aiming for Bournemouth, Barcelona or Bolivia, we aim for them to turn first to The Independent for the best package in travel.

OUR NEEDS

We welcome contributions, on an on-spec basis, from a wide range of writers. Regrettably, we receive far more stories than we are able to use. We are obliged to decline the majority of offers. To maximise the chances that yours will be accepted, the first task is to make sure that it matches our needs - which are ultimately the needs of the reader for fresh, exciting copy within a familiar framework.

Our readers are an amazingly diverse bunch, much more widely travelled than the norm. They are keen to be inspired by off-the-beaten-track destinations, but have a definite appetite for staples such as France, Italy, Spain, Greece and the US. They generally take three or more breaks a year, and are keen on city breaks - which helps to explain the success of 48 Hours.

Naturally, the best way to understand our style is to read the section closely, but these notes set out briefly our intentions for each strand.

THE TRAVELLER - SATURDAY

The Complete Guide

The centre spread of The Independent is usually occupied by a 2,500-3,000 word Complete Guide to an aspect of travel; it could be Air Rage, Peru, Travels with Peter the Great or Wessex. The key is that it should be a readily understood concept that lends itself to the question-and-answer format, and can acquire extra value with two or three boxes.

48 Hours in ...

These city guides are enormously popular, and are written to a rigid brief. They must be absolutely up-to-date and watertight - we want to guarantee to readers that if they follow our advice they will have a great weekend.

24 Hour Room Service

We pioneered the hotel review capsule, which has been widely imitated. This is an unashamedly upmarket look at a hotel with style and character. See the separate brief.

Trail of the unexpected

This is a close-focus 750-800 word feature on a journey or destination with a strong and surprising connection with a phenomenon, a person or an event. Examples: Laredo, Texas - the capital of the Rio Grande; Pachuca - Cornish pastie capital of Mexico; the Himalayan Mountain Railway to Darjeeling ...

Something to declare

Our "news in brief" section is full of stories that are dug out, rather than supplied by PR companies. The section is normally written in-house, but there is always space for a 150-word Destination, Warning or Bargain of the week by other contributors.

Winter sports stories

We are fortunate enough to have retained Britain's finest ski writer, Stephen Wood. He meets most of our needs for stories; in a typical winter season, we might run half-a-dozen others, but rarely more. Therefore the competition for winter sports stories is even more intensive.

Destination-based features

We use fewer of these than you might imagine. They fall into three broad categories:

Travel fronts: These open the section with a powerful image and strong opening paragraph, then continue to fill page three. They tend to be 1,500-1,800 words, and are usually planned a long way in advance.

Page leads: When we have room and flexibility, we will often run a destination piece at the top of a page, sometimes as part of a package, sometimes on its own. These stories are usually around 1,000 words with a 200 word Traveller's Guide.

Supporting stories: We have a wide range of needs from a 400-word sidebar to a 900-word secondary piece on a topic related to the main story. As an example of how these work: a page entitled Lake Constance might have a page lead called Sailing to Switzerland, about taking a boat across from Germany or Austria; it could be supported by a story on the Zeppelin associations of Friedrichshafen on the north shore, and a sidebar on the marvellous three-country transport ticket that takes you around the lake.

Traveller's Guides

It is essential that all facts are checked and correct - and useful. Instead of the usual "prices from ...", The Independent quotes a range ("a fortnight in Madeira costs between £500 and £1,200, depending on season - Christmas and summer are most expensive") or, in the case of flights, typical prices ("the lowest fare from Stansted to Carcassonne on Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair.com) is £60 return, but on a summer weekend a more typical price is £130.

All prices must include all pre-payable taxes (as advertisements are required to do); you do not need to add the words "including tax". If a company has provided transport or accommodation, we will usually mention this fact, but will also include other, competing companies if, in our view, they provide good value. As with all editorial content, the final decision rests with us.

INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

The Compact Traveller

An aspirational travel section, with less emphasis on news and consumer topics than Traveller. Long-haul and luxury travel feature fairly heavily, though we do offer reading for travellers who like to go off the beaten track, albeit in a comfortable way. Every week we publish a 2,000 word destinational lead feature, with a selection of strong images, plus two or three 1,000-word destinational features. Each feature has an additional factbox (ranging from 50 to 200 words, depending on available space and subject), basic subheadings being Getting There (flight details, transfers) and Being There (accommodation, tourist info etc). Please include your name, contact telephone number/s and email address at the start of the copy. E-mailed copy should be pasted on to the e-mail as well as being included as an attachment.

Our formatted regular features are Walk Of The Month; Hotel Of The Week; 24 Hours In. We do not generally accept unsolicited copy but prefer a short proposal submitted via e-mail, plus background and cuttings (photocopied from publication, by post) if the writer is unknown to The Independent/Independent on Sunday travel team. We sometimes use contributors' photographs if they are particularly good and/or we are unable to source suitable images; information about our picture rates is available from the IoS picture desk.

HOW TO WORK WITH US

You should submit proposals or completed stories to travel@independent.co.uk, together with your address and telephone contact details.

How long will I wait for a response?
We aim to respond within two weeks, but our focus is always on the impending edition and so we cannot always guarantee to meet this target.

Should I send photographs?
No, thanks - neither by mail nor e-mail - but please let us know if images are available. If we accept a story, our picture desk may contact you, but please bear in mind that we have relationships with a number of photographic agencies, and these are always our first ports of call. Payment for photographs is made at standard Independent space rates.

Should I send my cuttings of previously published work?
No, thanks. We prefer to focus on future work.

Can I claim expenses?
No.

Do you accept stories on paper?
Yes, either posted to Travel, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or faxed to 020 7005 2428 - but our response times tend to be slower than with e-mail.

DEADLINES

If you are sending in a story on spec, there will not normally be a deadline. If we have asked to see a story for publication on a specific day, normal deadlines are as follows:

Saturday publication: 10am on the Friday eight days before the Saturday of intended publication (so if the piece is going in on Sat 21, we need it by Fri 13).

Sunday publication: 10am on the Friday 10 days before the Sunday of intended publication.

PAYMENT

If we decide to publish your piece, we will inform you of our payment rates.

RIGHTS

We can only accept submissions of written material from freelance writers, whether unsolicited or commissioned, on the following terms, which will not be varied in any way.

You as the writer retain copyright in the material. However we require that when you submit work to us you are giving us certain rights over it. Apart from point 1, our rights in the material are all non-exclusive which means you can also do these things yourself.

1. The exclusive worldwide right to first publication in newspapers/magazines.

2. The right to publish and distribute the material, whether in print, electronic, online or any other medium. If your material is syndicated by us in print as an individual piece of work, you will receive 50% of the net revenue attributable to that sale.

3. The right to include the material on any website and in any database, archive or library, on- or off-line, and in any media

4. Reprographic rights: By submitting any written material to us you are agreeing to give us the rights specified. No variation in these terms will be accepted.

TERMS

Please read the following terms. By agreeing to submit copy you are deemed to have accepted them.

Original material
We want our readers always to get fresh copy, so we insist that the article has not been previously published in the UK; if it has been published anywhere in the world, you will tell us where and when.

Your safety
The Independent expects anyone writing for it, whether on spec or otherwise, to take a thoroughly responsible attitude to personal safety and the safety of others. Therefore, before we can consider a submission, we need to know that you have read and agreed to the following before travelling.

I am aware of the health hazards in the places to which I am travelling, and have taken medical advice to minimise the risks.

I have consulted and noted the current travel advice from the UK Foreign Office and the US State Department.

I am fully insured for the destinations in intend to visit and the activities I intend to pursue.

I have researched locally available medical facilities, and taken appropriate steps - such as taking medical supplies or tracking down high-quality hospitals.

Before engaging in adventurous or dangerous pursuits, I will satisfy myself that the people who are conducting the activities are properly qualified and that any equipment is in good condition and adequately maintained.

Acceptance of stories
While the travel desk may ask for material to be submitted on the basis of a synopis or a telephone conversation, this does not guarantee acceptance for publication. If we accept a piece for publication, we will endeavour to give you a planned date (which may be some months ahead). This can change at any time up to the day before publication; we will try to let you know if the date changes, but we cannot guarantee this.

STYLE

Prices: in local currency first, in the form EUR1.40 (£1). The euro should be written EUR, and the conversion rate applied at EUR1.40 = £1, rounded up or down where necessary for clarity (e.g. a hotel room costing E67 would be rounded to £45, not the more accurate £44.67).

Telephone numbers and websites: All company details (airlines etc) are in the form: Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair.com)

UK phone numbers: are written in the style 01234 567890, 0161 123 4567 or 020-1234 5678; note that only London numbers (020) are awarded a dash.

Foreign phone numbers: should always have the international dialling prefix from the UK, in the form 00 33 1 23 45 67 89 for France, 001 212 123 4567 for the US and Canada

Imperial or metric units? In general, in the UK and USA, it will be most usual to express distances in miles, and in most other places kilometres and should be written in the following style; 32km or 20 miles. We do not convert them. Never mix metric and Imperial in the same piece.

Accents: Please do not use accents in copy because they get mangled by our systems, which are incompatible with the standard Word for Windows format. A list of accents should be added at the start, eg: SUBS: THIS WEEK'S ACCENTS, Kitzbuhel has an umlaut over the u; Trois Vallees has an acute over the first e

Quotes: We always use double quotes, except for quotes-within-quotes

Exclamation Marks: Think carefully before using an exclamation mark about whether it adds impact. We tend to use them only in direct quotations.

Numbers: One to nine are spelled out, 10 upwards are in figures; where a time or price is quoted, eg 3pm or £5, we use figures even for one to nine.

Opening times: Good practice: "The museum opens 10am-6pm daily except Monday"; "Opening hours are 9am-12noon and 2-4pm from Monday to Friday and 9am-12noon on Saturday; it is closed on Sundays."

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