Swing Dancing/East Coast Swing/Guidelines for Editors
Want to write about East Coast Swing?
That's excellent. I certainly don't know all there is to know about any kind of dance, and I don't pretend to. Add knowledge. But you would be well-advised to glance over these guidelines, and indeed the rest of the book, before you do.
We need moves, vocabulary, and technique details. There's plenty of stuff we need. Don't be afraid to add stuff, even if you haven't read this entire thing, you, or someone else, can always fix it up later.
Follow the structural conventions of the book
Choose a chapter
In this book, there are two main chapters: Beginner, intermediate. This is to make a distinction between moves that are the basics and essentials of East Coast Swing, and moves that are for people who have the basics and essentials down, but want to expand their repertoire or heighten their ability. Think of it this way:
- A beginner is assumed to be someone who doesn't know how to do swing dance. At all.
- An intermediate swing dancer is someone who's taken a good few lessons, maybe they've spent a total of 7 hours learning swing, but they certainly doesn't have the dance anywhere near down - there are many moves, styles, particulars they do not know.
These are the people that the different chapters of the book should be written for. Before you enter anything into the book, consider which kind of dancer you are writing for, and decide to put the information into that section.
A side note as to planned chapters
Because intermediate means "middle," in the future, the chapter should be renamed to something more appropriate, much like beginner has been moved to "getting started", intermediate should have its name changed or be broken into separate chapters. In the future, a new chapter should be created for non-essential moves, and a chapter should be created and devoted entirely to swing history, trivia, and custom (perhaps called "What is Swing?" or something to that effect). Finally, a new, and very short chapter should be written dedicated entirely to body positioning and movement. Although this is a small subject, it is absolutely essential to dance. Perhaps this book could share a chapter of that nature with the other swing books, as they share many characteristics in that respect.
Are you teaching a full move, some vocabulary, or general technique?
Each chapter is divided into sections. A section may cover three possible things: A single move, multiple vocabulary, and dance technique. But a section may cover only one of those subjects, and not multiple.
- A single move is an entire move. Something that you could do all on its own when dancing, as a substitute for one, or multiple basics.
- Vocabulary sections are arrays of short, simple explanations of what different terms mean in terms of dance.
- Technique is an extended or detailed look into the movement of the body during a particular part of the dance.
If you are writing a vocabulary section, please make the first part of the title 'Vocabulary:'.
As to organizing the book:
Teach core knowledge first. Then teach dance moves which use that knowledge.
Why? This book introduces knowledge progressively, on a step-by-step basis: knowledge which is introduced is (preferably) soon used in the context of another move, so the knowledge is useful and sticks in the dancer's head. But that does not mean essential knowledge should be thrown in while a move is being taught. The essential knowledge should be taught earlier, and then the move should be introduced.
Follow the word-use conventions of the book
This is less important than good organization, and easier to maintain, so it is number 3.
Do not use "the guy" or "the girl" to refer to different roles in the dance; use "the lead" and "the follow" if those are what you are referring to. You may also use the full versions ("leader" and "follower"). Although it is fine to use gender-related pronouns to refer to the leader and the follower ('his' referring to the head, 'her' referring to the follower), those are used as a matter of ease of communication, not out of sexism or a belief that a male will always be the lead, and a female always the follower. Guys can make good followers, girls can make good leads, and to be able to dance well it is important to have tried the opposite role a few times.
In every chapter: Describe turns relative to a person as "clockwise" or "counter-clockwise."
Do not say "the lead turns left," because that is ambiguous whether he is turning to his left or the follow's left. Clockwise and counter-clockwise is the same from both the lead's and the follow's perspective. If you wanted to say, "Steve turns to his left," you could just say "Steve turns counter-clockwise." If you wanted to say, "Betty turns to her right," you could just say, "Betty turns clockwise."
In the intermediates chapter only:
Refer to clockwise as CW and counter-clockwise as CCW.
A book on dance must have a consistent tone, good spelling, grammar, and clear language. These are all things that other editors can take care of should you be lax in including them yourself. This section is for those editors who wish to clean up and organize the book.
The tone should be cheery and peppery. But the focus should be, without a doubt, on the moves. When discussing a move, do not sacrifice clarity for a joke or jibe. The most important thing is that the reader understand what is going on in the move. That said, in between describing move or techniques, or when introducing one or closing another, it would be best for the tone to be friendly, encouraging, and/or playful. While some teachers can make learning to dance a drab subject, by nature, dance is usually fun and exciting. The personality expressed in the writing should be of a similar bent. Newcomers are scared away by a cold or overly-technical author. The only way to get the reader interested in the subject is for the author to sound interested in the subject themselves. Make the writing passionate, energetic, and full of good nature at different parts of the book.
All spelling should be correct, and in American English. East Coast Swing originated in America, and most of its practictioners are Americans. Britain may be a nice country, but using its spelling here would be out of place.
English brand aside, there are no reasons that there should be typos in this book. Outside of move names and dance slang, all english should be proper Merriam-Webster approved (www.m-w.com).
When the individual parts of a move are described in a list format based on counts, or in the title of a chapter or section, you do not have to adhere to using complete sentences.
That is the only case in this book when we do not have to adhere to good grammar. In every other part of the book (and when possible in titles and in lists describing parts of a move): all text should be in complete, grammatically correct sentences.
Use Strunk & White here. If you don't own The Elements of Style already, buy it. The book is fantastic for your writing, and will make you very good at editing, too. All of Strunk and White applies to this Swing Dance book, and apply its grammatical and stylistic precepts to the book when possible.
Subject-Verb Agreement and Tense usage
Each sentence should have a subject (the noun that performs an action), and a verb (the action that the noun performs). For example, examine this sentence:
"The dog walked down the street."
The subject in this case is 'dog', and the verb is 'walked'. Note that there is an exception that is important to note in dance books: "You" can be implied in a sentence. For example:
"Remember to lift your knees."
Is a valid sentence. The subject is the reader, and the verb is 'remember.' Each sentences verb should agree with its subject. This is not a valid sentence:
"The lead jump to their right."
The verb "jump" does not agree with the subject "lead," which is singular. The singular form of "jump" is "jumps."
Also, one important part where writers of Dance books can often slip up is tense usage.. Examine the same dance instructions in separate tenses:
- Present: "After the lead turns, the follower steps forward,"
- Present Perfect: "After the lead has turned, the follower has stepped forward,"
- A mix: "After the lead has turned, the follower steps forward,"
- Past: "After the lead turned, the follower stepped forward,"
- Past Perfect: "After the lead had turned, the follower had stepped forward,"
- Future: "The lead will turn, and the follower will then step forward,"
- Imperative: "The lead should turn, and after the follower should step forward,"
The past should only be used when describing a story or past event. In this book, most of the time, we will not be doing that often. Most of this book will be spent describing dance moves. Which tense do you think would be best for describing dance moves? The future tense sounds very stilted, the past is out of the question, and the imperative has too much of a sense of urgency and would be tiring to read over long durations.
The present tense sounds somewhat awkward when trying to describe recent events, and the present perfect finds it impossible to describe current action. The best approach is to use a mix of the present and the present perfect tense, using the present when describing the action, and using the present perfect when describing things which recently happened in the dance. The Imperative is the best alternative, but in almost all cases when instructing dance moves in this book, you should use the present and the present perfect.