Writing for ;login:

So you want to write for ;login:.

Writing is not easy for most of us. Having your writing rejected, for any reason, is no fun at all. The way to get your articles published in ;login:, with the least effort on your part and on the part of the staff of ;login:, is to submit a proposal first.


In the world of publishing, writing a proposal is nothing new. If you plan on writing a book, you need to write one chapter, a proposed table of contents, and the proposal itself and send the package to a book publisher. Writing the entire book first is asking for rejection, unless you are a well-known, popular writer.

;login: proposals are not like paper submission abstracts. We are not asking you to write a draft of the article as the proposal, but instead to describe the article you wish to write. There are some elements that you will want to include in any proposal:

  • What's the topic of the article?
  • What type of article will you be writing: case study, paper-as-article, opinion, tutorial?
  • Tell us who is the intended audience? System administrators/SREs, systems researchers, programmers, security specialists, etc.
  • Tell us why your topic is important right now.
  • What, if any, non-text elements (illustrations, code, diagrams, etc.) will be included?
  • Tell us how long you think your article will be. Articles work best if they are six pages (3000 words), while opinion pieces need to be under two pages (1200 words).

Start out by answering each of those six questions. In answering the question about length, bear in mind that a page in ;login: is about 600 words. It is unusual for us to publish a one-page article or one over eight pages in length, but it can happen, and it will, if your article deserves it. We suggest, however, that you try to keep your article between two and five pages, as this matches the attention span of many people.

You want to sell us your proposal idea when you tell us why your topicis important right now. Provide us with the motivation, what excites you about your topic. We do not want marketing, but your most eloquent explanation of why this article is important to the readership of ;login:, which is also the membership of USENIX.

Unacceptable Articles

;login: will not publish certain articles. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Previously published articles. A piece that has appeared on your own Web server but not been posted to USENET or slashdot is not considered to have been published.
  • Marketing pieces of any type. We don't accept articles about products. "Marketing" does not include being enthusiastic about a new tool or software that you can download for free, and you are encouraged to write case studies of hardware or software that you helped install and configure, as long as you are not affiliated with or paid by the company you are writing about.
  • Personal attacks


The initial reading of your article will be done by people using UNIX systems. Later phases involve Macs, but please send us text/plain formatted documents for the proposal. Send proposals to login@usenix.org.

The final version can be text/plain, text/html, LaTeX, RTF, or Microsoft Word/Libre Office. Illustrations should be PDF or EPS if possible. Raster formats (TIFF, PNG, or JPG) are also ­acceptable and should be a minimum of 1,200 pixels wide.


For our publishing deadlines, including when you can expect to be asked to read proofs of your article, see the online schedule.

You are encouraged to turn in accepted articles early, so that the editor can work with you on improving your article. This method reduces the amount of last-minute work for everyone involved.


You own the copyright to your work and grant USENIX permission to publish it in;login: and on the Web. USENIX owns the copyright on the collection that is each issue of ;login:. You must grant permission for any third party to reprint your text; financial negotiations are a private matter between you and any reprinter. Reprints should include the text "Reprinted from ;login: The Magazine of USENIX, vol. XX, no. YY (Berkeley, CA: USENIX Association, [year of publication]), pp. nn-nn."