OVC Publishing Guidelines for Print and Multimedia About OVC OJP seal: Innovation . Partnerships . Safer Neighborhoods Message From the Director OVC Publishing Guidelines for Print and Multimedia NCJ 229712 / March 2010

your guide for creating concise, easy-to-read, and effective products, including documents, videos, and online publications.

This guide outlines OVC publishing policies and submission requirements, effective writing principles for various publication types, video production tips, and copyright policies, including examples of plagiarism, to help you navigate the publishing process and share the results of your hard work with others in the field. Review these guidelines carefully while your project is in the early planning stage to save everyone involved—including yourself—time and money as you collaborate with OVC to bring your project to successful completion. These guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive; make sure to check with your grant manager for guidance on preparing specialized products.

We update these guidelines periodically, as requirements and best practices change. Check back for revised recommendations before starting a new product.

If you have questions or suggestions regarding the publishing process, contact AskOVC. Include "Publishing Guidelines" in your subject line so your email is addressed appropriately.

If you have questions about your specific product, please contact your grant manager.

Message From the Director

We are pleased to release this updated version of the OVC Publishing Guidelines. They provide important information that grantees and contractors should adhere to when developing written and multimedia materials for OVC to produce and release to the public.

OVC is committed to producing a variety of innovative products, from materials that inspire and inform, to those that teach and train. These products include electronic publications, toolkits, marketing postcards, and videos, to name just a few. The OVC Publishing Guidelines cover all of the major considerations in developing your product, no matter the type or format.

The guidelines contain some notable additions, including:

OVC wants to provide you with as much direction as it can to make the process of developing your written and multimedia materials as efficient as possible. We hope you find the latest edition of the OVC Publishing Guidelines useful, and we look forward to collaborating with you on developing products of the highest value to the victim advocacy field.

Joye E. Frost

Office for Victims of Crime

Table of Contents

Submission Deadlines
Submission Requirements
Publishing Process
Product Types
Writing Tips
Developing an E-Pub
Producing a Video
Copyright & Policy Requirements

Submission Deadlines

In an effort to assist you in preparing and submitting deliverables effectively and efficiently, your grant manager, with the assistance of OVC's Communications Team, will provide oversight and guidance throughout the development and submission of all materials approved for publication—or being considered for publication—by OVC.

At the outset of the grant period, you will meet with your grant monitor and a member of OVC's Communications Team to review the Publications Guidelines as they apply to your project and develop a schedule for the timely development, review, and final submission of all new materials. This schedule should include at least six benchmarks (e.g., planning, coordination, development, implementation, marketing, evaluation) that you are expected to meet in order to ensure the steady progress of product development throughout the grant period.

Before your grant, cooperative agreement, or contract ends, you must submit your product to OVC for review and, following that review, submit a final package that includes any changes requested as a result of that review. You must complete the following steps:

9 Months or 120 Days Before Funding Ends

Before your funding ends, you must submit your product, through your grant monitor, to OVC for review. OVC will return your submission to you for any needed modifications.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, OVC implemented a special condition requiring grantees to submit a product for review 9 months before funding ends. Fifteen percent of the grant award will be withheld until OVC returns the draft product to the grantee after its review and issues a Grant Adjustment Notice to remove the special condition withholding funds, to allow the grantee to make needed modifications. Applicants must be prepared to incorporate substantive and editorial changes into the product per discussion with the OVC grant monitor. If the applicant proposes to work with a video production company, OVC must grant approval before a subcontract/subgrant is awarded.

(Prior to FY 2015, the deadline for submitting products for review was 120 days before funding ends. Please review your award package for specific instructions regarding your grant.)

The following tasks will be completed during the initial review:

If you are unable to provide a draft version of the product 9 months or 120 days before the end of the grant, cooperative agreement, or contract, you may request an extension to the grant or contract period. These extensions are approved on a case—by—case basis, and all requests must contain a substantive reason justifying the delay.

If you are granted an extension and substantive changes to the product are required, no additional funds will be made available.

30 Days Before Funding Ends

At least 30 days before your funding ends, you must provide OVC with a final submission package. This package should include all materials required to move forward with publishing your product. The package you deliver should not be considered the final version that will be published/produced. In many cases, OVC will edit and reorganize the submitted piece, and may modify the delivery format (e.g., video, multimedia).

Submission Requirements

You must deliver a final submission package to your grant monitor 30 days before the end of your grant or cooperative agreement. Properly preparing the package will save valuable time and effort during the publishing process and ensure a more timely release of the final product. OVC will return submission packages that are incomplete or that do not meet formatting and policy requirements. Requirements vary by the type of end product you are producing (e.g., hard copy, electronic, multimedia). Review the following requirements carefully.


All packages should contain—

See Writing Tips and Developing an E-Pub for useful guidance on creating publications.

Charts and Photos

Charts, photos, and other graphic images must be accompanied by specific information, including:

File Setup

Prepare your submission package according to the following guidelines:


Submit electronic files via email or on a CD-RW.


OVC currently accepts documents in Microsoft Word only and tables and graphs in Excel. Do not submit materials with design elements already incorporated because it will delay final production and availability of your work to victim service providers. Contact your grant monitor with questions about this requirement. Follow these software guidelines:


When preparing your document for submission, do not use formatting tools such as tabs, columns, or boxes. OVC will edit and format submitted text when developing the final product. Unnecessary formatting in draft text can delay the publishing of your grant product. Follow these formatting guidelines:


Generally, OVC prepares final artwork. If your grant or contract requires you to prepare camera-ready art, check with your grant manager for OVC's production standards (e.g., image use policy, copyright information, disclaimer use and placement, logos).


All packages delivered to OVC should contain the following:

See Producing a Video for some helpful tips on creating videos.

Accessibility Features

OVC includes as standard several accessibility features to assist individuals who are blind, low vision, hard-of-hearing, or deaf. Keep these features in mind when developing your video.


Subtitles collect all of the audio information from a video and describe it using text. They include not only spoken content but also non—speech sounds such as sound effects, music, and speaker or location identification. Subtitles appear transposed over the visual elements in a video, and are synchronized so they appear at the same time as they are spoken or sounded. Subtitles can be turned on and off using a button on the user's remote control or a menu on the DVD. View the videos associated with OVC's Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma project for examples of subtitles.

Subtitles should be used instead of Open or Closed Captioning. See File Setup for submission requirements related to the Subtitles feature.

Audio Navigation

Audio navigation reads DVD menu button labels aloud for low—vision or blind users, and itemizes all the navigation options that appear on the screen, including the total number of buttons. Grantees are not responsible for creating this feature; it will be added as part of the production process.

Enhanced Audio

Enhanced audio combines the audio portion of a video with a narrative description that interprets what is happening in the video and identifies the individuals who appear in it. This is an audio—only presentation for blind and low—vision users. While it does not include the video, the program audio track can be edited to allow as much time as needed for visually descriptive material. Computer—synthesized narration is used to set up the visual elements, actions, and individuals involved in each scene. Please keep the following in mind when developing the enhanced audio script:

See File Setup for submission requirements related to this feature.

File Setup

Prepare your submission package according to the following guidelines:


Due to ever—advancing technology and the extended lifecycle of many grants, OVC does not accept DVD compressed files (masters) ready for duplication. Accessibility refinements, improved technologies, and OVC's evolving best practices dictate that grantees submit the appropriate files individually so that any adjustments can be made economically and efficiently. Submission requirements for DVDs are subject to change, so be sure to check these guidelines periodically and discuss any issues with your grant monitor.

Grantees must submit the following:

Source video

Audio files (standard)

Subtitle files

Enhanced audio script

TIME Description Caption
00:15:17 Kenneth Barnes, LAPD, speaks over images of a victim being interviewed by police and a team of people discussing issues at a table Justice must be equal. And justice for crime victims should be at the head of the table.

DVD content


Generally, OVC prepares final artwork. If your grant or contract requires you to prepare camera-ready art, check with your grant or project manager for OVC's production standards (e.g., slipcovers, cases, labels, disclaimer use and placement, logos). This applies whether or not the product will be printed or uploaded by OVC or the grantee.

Online Video

OVC posts clips of the videos it offers online and on YouTube and, in some cases, posts the full-length videos (e.g., public service announcements). OVC uses the files you submit as part of your DVD submission package to create the promotional clip. If you are creating your own clip, or if your full video will be online only, you will need to submit the following files to OVC:

Publishing Process

Once your complete submission package has been received, OVC can begin the publishing process. The OVC Communications Team has oversight of the process and the multiple grantees/contracts that may be involved. Throughout the publishing process, you may hear from members of the OVC Communications Team, in consultation with your grant manager. The publishing process involves the following steps:

Initial Review

You must submit your product to OVC for review either 9 months or 120 days before your grant or contract ends, depending on your grant's special conditions. During this initial review, OVC will determine if the product will be published by OVC or the grantee/contract. OVC may guide the product through an internal and external peer review process after receiving it. If OVC plans to move forward with publishing the product, your OVC grant monitor will return the product-with reviewers' comments-to you for revision. Once OVC has received the revised product, it will be submitted to individuals within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for review and comment. Based on the extent of these comments, OVC may again return the product to you for additional revision.


After OVC receives the product with all comments incorporated, it will complete an editorial and/or technical assessment of the product and estimate the production costs. The OVC Communications Coordinator, in consultation with OVC senior management, will then review and either approve or disapprove the publishing and dissemination process. If the product is disapproved, the publication will not be published by OVC and your grant monitor will contact you regarding alternative options.


Upon approval from OVC management, the OVC Communications Team will produce the final product. Steps include editing, designing, and formatting the product and conducting quality control. Your product will receive varying levels of edits during this stage, and you may receive questions from your grant monitor or members of the OVC Communications Team. You may be asked to—

OVC understands that these questions may be an additional burden; your input is necessary for delivering an effective product to the field, and we appreciate your support throughout final production.

OVC/DOJ Approval

The final formatted version of the product, including all appropriate OVC documentation, will be forwarded through the OVC Deputy Director, the OVC Director, and the Office of the Assistant Attorney General (OAAG) for final review and approval. Once approved, advance notification of the product's anticipated release date is sent to the U.S. Attorney General.


When applicable, and unless otherwise directed, the OVC Communications Team, in consultation with OJP's Office of Administration, will coordinate printing of the product through the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). Product specifications, quantities, and, at times, a hard copy mock-up will be prepared by the OVC Communications Team and delivered to GPO for printing cost estimates. Quantities will be determined based on marketing and dissemination efforts and will vary by product. The printing cost estimates will be presented to the OVC Director for final approval.

OVC uses barcoding to maintain and track its inventory of published products. Every item received into inventory will be assigned a product number that will be printed in barcode format on the document.

Marketing & Dissemination

Once a product is finalized by the appropriate OVC grant monitor and division director in conjunction with the OVC Deputy Director and Director, marketing and dissemination take place. OVC will develop a plan that defines how it will disseminate the product and what content will support each marketing effort. Examples include email and newsletter copy, graphics and language for the OVC website, social media content, and collateral for conferences and events, such as one-pagers, marketing postcards, and brochures. Regular social media promotion via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is a key component of OVC's marketing efforts. By using engaging language, graphics, and relevant tags and hashtags, OVC ensures publications reach their intended target audience of professionals and victim service providers. OVC also collaborates with its OJP partners and other key constituents to coordinate promotional opportunities and facilitate deeper community engagement and education. When applicable, OVC will conduct bulk mailings of hard copy products as well.

Product Types

Below are the products that OVC commonly publishes. All materials, with the exception of some multimedia products, are available online and, in some instances, are developed as e-publications. E-publications are designed to be read using a computer or handheld device and are typically more elaborate than a PDF or a printer-friendly version of an online document. The majority of the products that OVC develops, aside from multimedia pieces, can be published as e-publications. For tips on writing e-publications, see Developing an E-Pub.

Brochures provide brief descriptions of programs or services and are published in various formats. They may be available in print for broad distribution at events and via mail.

Bulletins provide information about training, promising practices, or findings and questions raised by symposia or focus groups. They may be components of informational or educational packages.

E-books are electronic versions of printed books that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Fact sheets briefly describe OVC's major programs and services in a succinct format. Their subject matter will often be covered in more detail in other, longer-format publications. They may be available in print to facilitate distribution.

Guides (e.g., replication guides, resource guides, handbooks) emphasize the practical implementation of demonstration projects, pilot programs, tools, and other systematic service enhancements, offering service providers and allied professionals specific strategies and actions.

Multimedia Products (DVDs, CD-ROMs) enhance public awareness of victim-related issues and provide information about training and technical assistance and promising practices to victim service providers and allied professionals who assist victims of crime.

Public awareness kits increase awareness of victims' rights and issues and promote services that assist victims. Components may include fact sheets, ideas of interest to local news media, public service announcements, and reproducible art for print ads, posters, and fliers.

Reports may be produced to summarize agency program accomplishments or document the proceedings of structured focus groups in which practitioners and experts share their knowledge, learn about related efforts, obtain feedback, and generate recommendations for OVC and the field. These reports define the issues under discussion; summarize literature findings; address methodologies used; discuss gaps, promising practices, and approaches; and recommend actions for the field and OVC.

Toolkits provide practical resources for a variety of entities seeking to implement programs and other broad responses to crime victim issues. They often offer long-term strategies, guidance, and a variety of sample plans, checklists, and protocols that can be used as models for developing similar programmatic materials.

Training curricula contain materials for teaching victim service professionals how to enhance their capacity to serve crime victims. Training packages include participant manuals, which describe basic concepts and specific practice-related information, and trainer's manuals, which include material in the participant manual along with annotated source material, lesson plans and objectives, and notes on audiovisual aids.

Writing Tips

To produce the best possible publication, follow these basic writing guidelines:

Plain Language

President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PDF 124.57 kb) on October 13, 2010. The law requires that federal agencies use "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." OVC is committed to producing publications that follow the guidelines developed by the Plain Language Act and Information Network. Review the guidelines at plainlanguage.gov, in addition to writing tips, word suggestions, and grammar sites.


People want information that's brief, easy to understand, and to the point. Refer to OVC's Style Guide, (188 kb) which incorporates guidance from the Chicago Manual of Style and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual. OVC uses all these materials to prepare products for publication. Use the following techniques to make your manuscript clearer and faster to read:

Use active voice. Active voice uses fewer words and is more easily understood. For example:

Don't Say

Do Say

The rights of victims have gone unrecognized by the criminal justice system for a long time. The criminal justice system did not recognize victims' rights for a long time.

Use short words. Don't use long words or phrases when short ones deliver the same message. For example—

Don't Say

Do Say

in order to
as well as
with the exception of
conduct a survey
make a decision

except for

Use short sentences. Make your point, then move on. Long sentences with many commas are difficult to read.

Avoid jargon. Steer clear of terminology specific to a field unless the intended audience is members of the field only.

Avoid colloquialisms. Write in plain language, but avoid using words or phrases that are considered informal or specific to a region or local dialect.

Avoid common grammatical errors. These errors are easy to make; be mindful of these while writing to reduce editing efforts during final production.

Affect vs. Effect

"Affect" means to influence or produce an impression—to cause an effect. "Effect" is the thing produced by the affecting agent; it describes the result or outcome.

Loose vs. Lose

"Loose" is an adjective meaning the opposite of tight or contained. "Lose" is a verb that means to suffer the loss of, to miss.

Complement vs. Compliment

"Complement" is a noun and a verb that refers to something that completes or goes well with something. "Compliment" is also a noun and a verb that means the offering of praise or flattery to another person.

Which vs. That

Use "which" with commas to set off nonrestrictive (unnecessary) clauses. Use "that" to introduce a restrictive (necessary) clause.

Your vs. You're

"Your" is the second person possessive adjective, used to describe something as belonging to you. "You're" is the contraction of "you are" and is often followed by the present participle (verb form ending in -ing).

There vs. Their

"There" refers to a place. "Their" means belonging to, or associated with, a group of people.

It's vs. Its

"It's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has." "Its" is the possessive form of "it."


Make sure to cite all sources, in the text using the author-date style (e.g., "Smith, 1999"). In your references, include the following when providing the full citation:

Whenever possible, include links to cited works.

OVC will format all citations in your document according to OVC guidelines; therefore, using a consistent citation style will expedite the formatting process. It is imperative that you provide complete and accurate citations. Incomplete information will delay the publication of your product.

Writing Resources


Data Visualization

Writing for the Web and Other Media

Download the OVC Style Guide

People want information that's brief, easy to understand, and to the point. Refer to OVC's Style Guide, (188 kb) which incorporates guidance from the Chicago Manual of Style and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual. OVC uses all these materials to prepare products for publication.

Developing an E-Pub

Writing for the Web differs from writing for print media, but not so much in the writing itself. The difference lies in how you conceive and present the information. This section includes tips on effectively writing for the Web, such as:

In addition, always remember to use good grammar and punctuation. Correct grammar is essential to establishing and maintaining online credibility.

For more guidance, check out the guidelines at Usability.gov.

Write for the "Scan Reader"

Online audiences tend not to read word for word. Instead, they scan subheads, links, and lists for information that applies specifically to them. Therefore, you should—

Lead With the Main Idea

Identify the key overall ideas first on each web page; then go into detail. Again, explain the most important information first.

This writing style is often called the inverted pyramid. It ensures that no matter where on the page a user stops reading, they will have read the most important information.

Use Subheads Frequently

Subheads make text more readable and point readers to specific information. They should be used often (every 1–3 paragraphs), and should be more specific than "Introduction" or "Project History." Such generic subheads tell online readers little and encourage them to simply scan over the material.

Examples of specific headlines:

The most effective subheads provide enough information that reading the section becomes optional. Don't let your readers wander.

Use Bulleted Lists To Itemize Information

Effective bulleted lists are brief. List items should be concise and relate to one another. Generally, lists should never be longer than the length of the screen. To shorten a bulleted list that is too long—

Be Brief

When possible, limit the content of main navigation pages (e.g., the home page) to what can appear on one screen. Content pages, such as those appearing in this e-pub, can run a bit longer, but it is still preferable to minimize scrolling.

To write short copy, use short sentences and simple words.

Don't Say

Do Say

A survey of victims was conducted by the interdisciplinary team in order to determine the impact that existing programs and services had on them. The interdisciplinary team surveyed victims to find out how existing services affected them.

Chunking and Linking

If you still have too much copy after shortening sentences, break the text into smaller chunks and use links to direct readers to those sections.

Secondary Pages

Secondary pages include background information that explains concepts introduced on the main pages. These pages can be longer than the document's main pages. However, you should use subheads and bulleted lists to make long pages easier to read and navigate. Jump links, which link you to different sections of the same page, also are useful tools.

"Chunk" Your Content

"Chunking" is the process of dividing information into small, clear pieces. It is the most difficult part of the Web writing process because it requires deciding what information is important, what information to present, and how to organize it.

Organize Material by Category or Concept

Organize information before writing:

Avoid Linear or Narrative Organization

Linear and narrative formats—which present information in a specific order—generally don't work well online. Some exceptions apply, such as online learning tools and sequentially based instruction.

Use Links Appropriately

Incorporating links to background material is an excellent way to chunk information. However, never use an embedded link at the bottom of one page simply to link to the top of the next page (e.g., "Continued on Next Page"). Instead, divide the information into smaller chunks on more pages.

Incorporate Links Into Content

Construct sentences in ways that allow you to link to related information. For example: subheads help readers navigate a document quickly.

What Text To Link

How To Label Links

Links are most effective when they are obvious and the user does not have to think about them. Offer easy-to-find text links instead of URL addresses by hyperlinking a word or phrase in a sentence.

Don't Say

Do Say

For more information about OVC publications, visit the OVC Web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc. For more information about OVC publications, visit the OVC Web site.

Avoid Overuse of Links

Don't overuse links. Too many links on a page will distract readers and make the page more difficult to understand. If you find yourself in this situation, rethink how you are chunking information into individual pages.

Develop Keywords for Search Purposes

Effective keywords—that is, the terms and phrases in HTML code that describe an e-pub's content—help Web users find your publication using search engines like Google™ or Yahoo.

Step 1—Brainstorm a List

Write down words and phrases that describe the content and purpose of your document. Include search terms that your target audience might use to find this type of information and, if possible, keywords used on similar publications and Web pages.

Step 2—Refine the Entries

Step 3—Prioritize the List

The first keyword or phrase should be the most descriptive, and so on down the list. Limit the list to the 20 most descriptive keywords or phrases.

Step 4—Test the List

Search the Web using the keywords you selected for your e-pub. Do the search results correspond with similar content? Do they yield too many results? Too few?

Producing a Video

Advance planning is key to successful video production. A detailed preproduction plan can enhance the quality of your video, save time, and prevent escalating costs. As you undertake your video project, use the following planning tips to make your production process more efficient. OVC has also prepared a list of submission requirements for you to keep in mind when finalizing your video (see Submission Requirements).


Filming and Editing

Peer Review

There may be an extensive peer review process prior to final production for which there need to be contingencies in your production budget, because you may be asked to makes changes to the production based on peer review comments. For more information, see Publishing Process.

Copyright & Policy Requirements

Follow these usage standards:

Copyright Policy

Accessibility and 508 Compliance

The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 require that electronic data and information technology provided by the Federal Government be accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 of the Act, which focuses on information disseminated through the Web, requires that "alt" (alternative) text be supplied with all graphics. These brief descriptions (20 words or fewer) of graphic elements enable people who are visually impaired to listen to the document using special text-reading software, and allow people who view the site without graphics to understand what the images convey. OVC complies with this and all standards of section 508. In addition, OVC requires that all DVDs include subtitles and an enhanced audio script (see Submission Requirements, Videos, File Setup). For more information, see the Summary of Section 508 Standards.

Logos and Disclaimers


The OVC logo is the exclusive property of OVC. All products produced by OVC must include the OVC logo and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) seal and tagline. Grantee products that are produced with OVC funding but not published by OVC should not include the OVC logo but should include a disclaimer (see Disclaimer).

You must obtain approval from OVC to include the OVC logo and OJP seal and tagline on reproduced products; OVC also must approve the placement of the logo, seal, and tagline. Under no circumstances shall you reproduce and release a product that duplicates the official DOJ header or the Oxford rule. Please contact your grant monitor or COTR for more information.


All OVC publications and videos must include standard funding information and a disclaimer, as written in the special conditions for your grant.

Use the following disclaimer for most products/publications:

“This product was supported by grant [or contract, cooperative agreement] number _____________________, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Use the following disclaimer for products and publications produced by another organization, such as a video production house:

“This product was produced by [name of production company] and supported by grant [or contract, cooperative agreement] number _____________________, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Use the following disclaimer for mobile apps:

“This app is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime. Neither DOJ nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse this app (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).”