“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” -Marcus Tullius Cicero
Any literary endeavour – whether a biography, novel or report – is assiduous in its very nature. And the lengthier it is, the more the blood, the sweat and the tears shed towards its execution. Then comes the rewriting, the vigorous editing, the re-editing as suggested by one’s agent or publisher… and finally, the nth draft that makes it to the press. But before that…
Granted, writing is largely a solo undertaking, by and large. Perhaps, the exception being that of a study or report and which may call for the collaborative efforts of multiple authors. Yet, beside the author and behind the scenes, there are numerous other people involved in having any literary endeavour published successfully.
The question then begs, who are these people and what role did they play towards the success of the said publication? In the case of a biography, they may include people with intimate or passive acquaintance with the subject – spouse, children, friends, relatives, classmates, neighbours, colleagues, teachers, business and political rivals and so on.
For a novel, one may have modelled one’s characters after a friend or teacher, perhaps magnifying a quirk as a signature trademark of the character, or the author leading a solitary life may be thankful for her paw-y pet that kept her company on many a lonely night as she strove with her writing. For a report, there could be the assistant researcher, the librarian, experts consulted, staff of the national or regional archives… Of course, not leaving behind one’s agent, editor and publisher as a matter of record and a measure of goodwill.
Obviously, some people play a greater role than others and are more directly involved with the project than others. These are the ones to be given prominence in the acknowledgement section. As to the acknowledgements itself, a few basics need to be observed.
First things first, the length. Here, brevity is key – usually, a page will suffice, more so, for a work of fiction. On the other hand, a study or report, being technical in nature, may have benefited from the shared knowledge and insights of many an expert. As such, the acknowledgements may spill over to a second page, perhaps a quarter of a third. Of note is that it should not get in the way of the reader- after all, it is merely the announcement heralding the main act and which the audience came to watch. In our case, the reader interested in the actual content of the publication at hand.
Then again, the acknowledgements do not serve as some kind of shout-out to one’s “fam”. On the contrary, they enunciate the role played by the particular individual mentioned and which needs to be substantial, hence justifying this. This means that the author’s furry friend should not be included here, rather, if the author feels strongly about it, the said pet can be mentioned in the dedications. The acknowledgments need to look and sound professional, more so, for non-fiction work, else, it risks jeopardising the whole publication.
It is also imperative that he author seek permission from the individuals he or she has in mind for inclusion in the acknowledgements section. This is so as some information may have been given out in confidence, or perhaps, the individuals may want to have their privacy protected. And lastly, it is here that the author owns up to errors of omission or commission concerning the contents of the publication.