Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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(I do NOT buy or sell certificates on this website)

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Search the Coxrail database for descriptions of 23,700+ certificates from over 7,400 North American railroad companies.

Hints for writing

PLEASE, write about ONE AND ONLY ONE company at a time. If you have two company names in your article, you probably have two separate articles. Please separate them.

How to write articles. The thought of writing intimidates many people, maybe the majority. I will not try to fool you; writing is NOT AS EASY as it looks.

Fortunately, there are tricks.

Trick 1: Divide the task into logical parts. Do one - and only one - task at a time.

Your tasks are:

  • Research
  • Organize
  • Write
  • Edit

It is crucial that you do NOT combine steps.

Step 1. Research. Research is, of course, critical. You cannot write factual articles unless you know the facts. Never ever trust your memory.

Step 2. Organize. It should be obvious that you need to organize your thoughts before writing. It is especially necessary when writing non-fiction. Fortunately, when writing short articles about history, telling the story in a time-wise fashion makes the most sense.

Organization before you start is great, but don't go overboard. As you write, you ALWAYS think of new facts and new ways of looking at things. Be ready at any moment to reorganize, even if it is two days after you thought you were finished.

Step 3. Write. The better organized you are, the more your story will write itself. And, make sure you are telling a story. Facts are dry and readers tend to give up on pure facts. Tell a story and people will read all the way to the end.

Try to use active sentence construction. Active sentences are simple and powerful. They tell the story like this: "Investors organized the company in 1880."

Passive sentences look like this: "The company was organized in 1880." Passive sentences are unavoidable, but they are weak. Readers see the same information, but they are left to wonder who organized the company. Of course, it does not matter, but sooner or later, (usually, sooner) passive sentences put people to sleep.

Save space by using complete company names only once. After that, use typical company abbreviations.

PLEASE, write about ONE AND ONLY ONE company at a time. If you have two company names in your article, you probably have two separate articles. Please separate them.

Trick 2: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER edit yourself while writing. Just write. Turn your spell-checker off. Turn your grammar-checker off. Some people even turn their monitors off! If you are correcting yourself while you are writing, then you are not telling a story. You are editing. Don't do that!

Step 4. Edit. Editing is the most important part of writing. Editing is actually more important than writing.

Editing is a separate step, very distinct from writing. In fact, you actually use different parts of your brain! Writing is a creative effort. Editing is a technical process. The two tasks do not mix.

Trick 3: Put time between writing and editing. The more time, the better. Unless you are in a time-crunch, wait at least two or three days before editing. Once you try this, you will learn why this is such a dramatic trick.

Trick 4: Read out loud. Reading out loud makes editing easier. Yes, you will feel stupid the first time you do this. (Do it when no one else is in the house or you will really feel like a dork!) But, do it anyway. If your writing does not sound good to your ear, it will not work in print.

Trick 5: During editing, throw stuff out. Many of your words will not actually advance your story. Over-writing is inevitable. You will seldom go wrong by removing text. Remove words and sentences. Then go back and remove more. In most cases, you should be able to remove 10% to 20% of your original text. Never be afraid to delete.

Recommended lengths. For small companies or companies that only lasted a short while, one paragraph MAXIMUM. For very major companies (Union Pacific, BNSF, New York Central), four paragraphs MAXIMUM. For companies between these extremes, three paragraphs MAXIMUM.

If I need to cut down articles, I will. You may not like my decisions, so edit your articles to MAXIMUMS of two, three or four paragraphs so I won't need to disappoint you.

References. I require references, no matter how short your article. You need to let people know where you found your information. Interested readers must be able to cover the same ground that you did. I make exceptions for direct, personal knowledge.

I ask that all your references be published in hard form such as books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias. With rare exceptions, web references are not acceptable. Ideally, web references tell their sources.)

Why not?

Because facts discovered from web references are only ONE CLICK away from disappearing. As good as they are, web sources are ephemeral. A week, a month, or a year from now, your web references will change. Online references disappear all the time. Every site on the web is one missed payment from disappearance.

My rules, only a couple:

  • Write dates in standard American conversational form like this: Dec 31, 1899. Military dates are for the military. Change all European date style to month-day-year form.
  • Write about ONE AND ONLY ONE company at a time. I'm sorry, but I do not have time to rewrite articles. So, if two companies are closely related, then write two articles. If one company became another, then write two articles. If one company changed its name to another, write two articles.
  • Remember, ONE COMPANY AT A TIME. If you say that Company X changed its name to Company Y, then write another article and say that Company Y was originally Company X. Collectors interested in one company may not know about the other. And they may not care.

PLEASE, write about ONE AND ONLY ONE company at a time. If you have two company names in your article, you probably have two separate articles. Please separate them.

Save your file in usable form. Handwritten or typewritten text is fine for people without computers. If you write on a computer, then save as a text file or a Word document. PC format only! If you write on a Mac, then please send your article as either a plain text file or as an Acrobat file (PDF.) You do not need to zip (compress) your files.

And if you can't live with my restrictions? That's okay. You will not hurt my feelings if you cannot compress information into four or fewer paragraphs, I understand. I have a very hard time doing that myself. It's just that TIME, TIME, TIME, TIME is my major concern. I simply ask that you remember project is about collectible certificates from North American railroads and I give all that information away for free. The web has made it very easy for collectors to find other kinds of information about companies and personalities, so I am not terribly concerned if I do not include that here.

How to send. Email is the easiest way to send your articles.

Email me here.

Of course, you can always mail written pages or CDs to:

Terry Cox
4891 Independence St, Suite 130
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033

I will edit your article as little as possible to correct spelling, grammar, and consistency. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. I am here to help.

Oh, yeah, one more thing:

PLEASE, write about ONE AND ONLY ONE company at a time. If you have two company names in your article, you probably have two separate articles. Please separate them.

Send an email message with corrections or comments about this page.
(Last updated November 21, 2015)


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