CalRecycle Contractor Publications Guide

This guide was written to create consistent standards and procedures for contractors hired by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to write reports and other publications. This guide will help contractors produce clearly written, concise, high-quality documents for the people of California.

The purpose of the Publications Guide is to set high standards, to clarify roles and responsibilities, and to provide tools and references that contractors can use to make writing and formatting publications as easy and efficient as possible.

How Do I Use the Guide?

If you are writing or planning to write a publication, you should consider reading through the entire Publications Guide (though there may be sections you can skim over if they don’t relate to what you’re working on). Reading through the guide before you begin writing will help save time for you, your contract manager, and the CalRecycle editor.

You can use the navigation menu at left to find related information. Once you are familiar with the standards and procedures, as well as what’s in the guide and where the information is located, you should be able to easily find what you need.

Accessibility Requirements

All California state agencies must comply with federal and state laws forbidding discrimination against persons with disabilities, including accessibility of their website and all its documents. CalRecycle will publish an accessibility compliance certificate to the CalRecycle website on or before July 1, 2019 stating that we are compliant with AB 434 and Section 508 accessibility requirements.

Starting July 1, 2019, CalRecycle’s electronic and print content that is both internal and public facing and constitutes official business shall conform to the Section 508 accessibility requirements. After July 1, all contracts will reflect this requirement, and contractors must create and format documents for accessibility. CalRecycle staff will check documents prepared by contractors for accessibility and return documents to contractors for remediation if not fully accessible.

To learn more, check out our Guidelines for Contractors Regarding Accessibility.

Source Citations

One of the most important parts of a publication is the source citations section: the endnotes and bibliography. Endnotes provide the specific place in a document from which material is taken. Bibliographies provide just a listing of sources consulted and possibly other resource material not consulted. (Footnotes are reserved for supplemental information and are not used for citations.) CalRecycle follows the source citation style contained in The Gregg Reference Manual (William A. Sabin, New York, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill). The bibliography and endnote examples below are from this manual (ninth edition).

The credibility of your work depends on complete and accurate citations:

  • Author (first name or initial placed first for endnotes, last name first for bibliographies).
  • Title of article in quotation marks.
  • Title of complete work in italics.
  • Volume and issue number (include page range for bibliography).
  • Place of publication.
  • Publisher.
  • Date of publication.
  • Specific page number(s), for end notes.

For Web sources, include:

  • Author.
  • Document title or name of web page if source is not a downloadable document.
  • Title of complete work.
  • Date of posting.
  • Website address (create link to website).
  • Date you accessed the source, in parentheses.

Example of bibliography source citations:

Brooks, Bill and Jerry Powell, “How the Waste Paper Export Market Operates,” Resource Recycling, January 1990, pp. 16–19, 67–68.

Zelnick, Nate, “Wireless Net Access Gets Renewed Push,” Internet World, Nov. 16, 1998, (Feb. 26, 1999). [Date in parentheses refers to date accessed. Note: For online sources, create a link to the listing. Also, this article is no longer posted at the URL given, but the listing is provided as an example.]

Example of endnote source citations:

  1. Deborah Tannen, For the Sake of Argument, Random House, New York, 1998, pp. 61–62.
  2. Ibid., p. 94.
  3. Allie Goudy, “Continuing Education and Paraprofessionals,” Nov. 3, 1998, office communication (April 23, 1999). [Date in parentheses refers to date of access.]

Your audiences will benefit greatly if you will adhere to CalRecycle’s style of source citations, which usually consists of one note number per source cited (several sources may sometimes be grouped together in one note). Place the note number next to the appropriate paragraph in the text and create a corresponding endnote with the information specified above.

Do not use alternative styles that may be more appropriate for scientific journals or other specialized audiences. Some people without scholarly backgrounds will probably be reading your document, and they may need to look up sources quickly.

Legal Citations

Correct citation of legislation is also important.

  • For bills enacted into law, please adhere to CalRecycle’s style, which includes the chapter number, statute year, bill author, and bill number: “Chapter 764, Statutes of 1999 (Strom-Martin, AB 75),” or “The California Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939, Sher, Chapter 1095, Statutes of 1989).” In subsequent reference, do not use “AB 939” as a shortened reference for the bill; use “IWMA.”

    Refer to specific parts of the law by statute: “Public Resources Code (PRC) section 42500.” Do not capitalize “section” unless it is capitalized in a source you are quoting.

  • For bills that have not been enacted into law, follow these examples: “AB 84 (Woods)” (if introduced during the current legislative session) and “AB 84 (Woods, 1995-96 Legislative Session)” (if introduced during a previous legislative session but not enacted into law).

Copyright Permissions

Permission is required to reproduce any source material the author uses from external sources. These could include:

  • Substantial portions of text.
  • Graphics.
  • Photographs.
  • Videos from either printed or web sources.

Contractors are required to obtain permission from the copyright holders of this material and submit the original copy of the permission award to the contract manager before editing begins. (If the contractor conducts original research and creates the material, no permission is needed since the contract usually assigns copyright to CalRecycle).

To obtain permission to reproduce something in a CalRecycle document:

  • Send or e-mail a request to the owner of the copyrighted material.
  • State that you are requesting permission on behalf of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and include the title of the document in which you plan to use the material.
  • Give the Office of Public Affairs’ mailing address and other contact information, provided below.

    Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery
    Office of Public Affairs, MS 22-B
    P.O. Box 4025
    Sacramento, CA 95812-4025
    Phone: 341-6300

  • Indicate whether you plan to alter the material or use it as is.

Note: CalRecycle holds copyright to all its publications and provides information on use of CalRecycle materials. Contact the Office of Public Affairs for more information on copyright regulations.


Most of the contractors hired by CalRecycle will be writing reports on a specialized topic, such as the following:

In general, contractors should follow the Gregg Reference Manual for style and usage.

Some particular style conventions or rules from the Gregg Reference Manual that CalRecycle uses are:

  • Only capitalize “State” in full references to California State government (as in “State of California,” but not when used as a standalone term, as in “The state requires counties to revise land-use regulations…”). Lower-case “state” when referring to California as a land mass (such as “All the jurisdictions in the state will file electronic annual reports on diversion rates.”)
  • “Legislature” is always capitalized when referring to the California State Legislature.
  • Minimize use of capital letters. Save them for proper names only.
  • Minimize use of acronyms in the report.
  • Spell out “percent” in text. Using the figure (%) in tables and charts is acceptable. The same rule applies to “and” and “&.”
  • Use “smart” (italicized) quote marks throughout your report, rather than straight up-and-down “dumb” quote marks.
  • Capitalize the first word of a each bulleted or numbered item in a list.

In choosing paragraph and sentence length, remember to give the reader a break visually and mentally. Following is an example of a good paragraph and sentence length:

“This report is based on Waste Board’s statewide survey of do-it-yourself (DIY) oil changers conducted in 2001. In that survey, respondents described in great detail their oil changing and disposal for the year 2000–01. All totals estimated directly from the survey data have been projected forward to the number of households in California on Jan. 1, 2004.”

Clarity and Content–Plain Writing

Contractors should write in a clear, concise manner free of jargon and bureaucratic language according to the State law. Section 6219 of the California Government Code states that “Each department, commission, office, or other administrative agency of state government shall write each document that it produces in plain, straightforward language, avoiding technical terms as much as possible, and using a coherent and easily readable style.”

Executive Summary

Each report must include an executive summary that includes the findings of the report and the recommendations. This section is vital to legislatively mandated and CalRecycle-requested reports because some decision-makers read only this section of your work. It must be succinct and interesting, containing the essence of what is presented in the report, and it must be in plain language so those with nontechnical backgrounds can understand it.

The executive summary will probably be more difficult to write than other parts of the report. Plan a day to write it and a time when you are most alert and creative. Give it the time and attention it deserves, even if it comes at the end of the report-writing process and is the last thing you feel like doing.

  • Length. An executive summary must be short, but not so short that it fails to capture key points and recommendations. Generally, for a paper of about 50 pages the executive summary should be three to five pages; for a 100-page report it could extend to 10 pages.
  • What to Include. All executive summaries should present findings of the report (drawn from the main sections, or body of the report) and recommendations (if included in the report). Almost always, it will be written after the first draft of the report has been completed. You will be summarizing the body of the report, so it is best to wait to be sure what course the report will take, what recommendations will be made, etc.
  • How to Proceed. One way of looking at writing an executive summary is to consider what you would tell the reader or decision maker if you had five minutes with them to present the findings of your report. Your outline should help you identify key findings and key recommendations of the report. A few paragraphs describing each may be all you need.
  • General Structure. This will be determined by the nature of the material you present. Some reports are best summarized with a few descriptive paragraphs, followed by bulleted findings and recommendations. Others may present a brief description of the “problem,” followed by ways of addressing it, and ending with concrete recommendations. The important thing is to find a way of presenting the most pertinent information in the briefest form. Use secondary headings to divide text, including recommendations (the last secondary heading) if a recommendations section is included in the report.
  • What You Shouldn’t Do. Do not begin with material more appropriate for an introduction or preface. This is a common error. Instead, jump right in with both feet. If you’ve taken journalism courses or paid attention as you read the newspaper, you understand the “pyramid” structure. This is important for an executive summary because this structure says the most important material comes first.

    Don’t “bury” your lead by telling who asked for the report, what mandate it is meeting, who worked on it, etc. This material will be covered elsewhere. And don’t edge into it with over-explaining your subject matter. The audience for your report is likely to have at least rudimentary and possibly exceptional knowledge of the subject matter; regardless, you don’t have time for explanations in the executive summary. Save them for the body of your report.


After writing the text, contractors will format these documents according to the CalRecycle templates for contract reports and fact sheets listed below. Please direct questions about these templates to Public Affairs. Please adhere strictly to the template design. Do not change point sizes, type styles, or any other formatting attributes in headings or body text. The templates for pages within a contract report are based on instructions applicable to early versions of Word; updated versions of the software may enhance Word’s abilities but should be compatible with instructions used in the templates.

  • Contractor Report Template (Word, updated October 2019): Contains key sections of a report, such as front outside/inside cover, table of contents, executive summary, report body, notes, and bibliography. Includes instructions for creating each section and for using specially designed paragraph styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, Body Text, etc.).
  • Fact Sheet in Arial Font (Word): Body Text style is Arial 12 point.

Most contractors, upon completion of a first draft of their report, will submit formatted electronic documents to their contract managers.

In addition to reports, CalRecycle publishes fact sheets, such as Food Waste Diversion at Special Events. CalRecycle uses these documents for outreach publications targeted to general or specialized audiences.

Other types of contract documents may include guidance documents or handbooks, such as How Anaerobic Digestion Fits Current Board Regulatory Structure. This guidance manual is formatted using CalRecycle’s report template.

Final Publishing

Any art work adds to the total file size of a document. Try to keep your Word file size under 10 megabytes (MB) to keep download times reasonable for users with dial-up Internet access. If this is not possible, contact Public Affairs to discuss splitting the file into smaller pieces.

CalRecycle publications are posted in the Publications Catalog.

Other Resources

  • Leigh F. Stevens, 12 Steps to Clear Writing: A Concise Guide for Writers and Editors, Sacramento, CSU Sacramento Journalism Department.
  • Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions: A Practical Guide, edited by David F. Beer.
  • Judith and Daniel Graham, The Writing System Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Business and Technical Writers.
  • James E. Vincler and Nancy Horlick Vincler, Engineering Your Writing Success: How Engineers Can Master Effective On-the-Job Communication Skills.
  • Diane C. Reep, Technical Writing: Principles, Strategies, and Readings.
  • William Strunk and E.B. White, Elements of Style, available at
  • Rene J. Cappon, The Word: An Associated Press Guide to Good News Writing.
  • William Zinsser, On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Non-Fiction.

What If I Can’t Find What I Need?

If you can’t find something, please contact the Office of Public Affairs for assistance.

If you have suggestions for how to make this guide more complete or more user-friendly, please contact the Office of Public Affairs.

Contractor FAQs