Step5h: How to Write an Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment is defined as recognition of the importance or quality of something. In a book, it is the section where you recognize and thank everyone who helped you with your book or life’s milestones that led to your book. It’s a way to express your appreciation to these people and institutions in a public and permanent forum.

In previous session, we established that a dedication is targeted, personal, and brief, often only a single line or two. In this session, we will establish that an acknowledgment provides the space to go into lenghty details in thanking people who were sources of inspiration and support for your book and life.

How to Write This Section:

Imagine that you are doing an acceptance speech for a great award. Think about the people as though they are sitted with you in the awarding event’s hall. What would you want to tell them as you are looking at their faces? What do you think they would want to hear from you as you thank them? What would you like the world to know about them and their contribution to your life’s milestones?

That done, start by listing down all the people you want to thank and group them in categories. This will enable you to see them all together and ensure that everyone is on the list who should be there. Categorizing would look like – family, friends, church A, church B, workplace, residential estate, publisher or book experts/collaborators, financiers, mentors etc. This way, you are less likely to leave anyone out.

In this section you can include personal or intangible supporters, like friends, family, or even pets. Mention people by names, titles, and thank them for something specific. Mentioning, “I thank my sister” seems impersonal and not well thought through. Instead, mention, “I thank my sister Kainos for encouraging me to keep writing in the wee hours of the night’.

Write in first-person and maintain your voice. In this section, you have an opportunity to go “off script” and reveal your personality or sense of humour to forge a deeper bond with the readers. They like to get a little glimpse of who you are as a person, and the book’s acknowledgments page provides those insights. First-person helps you to express your gratitude to those concerned.

Be sincere, personal and utilize emotional appeal. This section provides significant emotional value to those who are mentioned. They will treasure your book, as well as their memories of participating in the process as a source of support. When recognising them, be honest and sincere when noting their contributions, but try to avoid overdoing it to the point that it begins to sound insincere. Expressing gratitude is a skill – find a balance to be genuine in your appreciation without overdoing it.

Don’t worry about length when drafting. Appreciate everyone first and then go back to that draft to revise it. If you end up with more than two pages you can cluster the people in categories. For instance, while thanking family – instead of having a paragraph for dad, another for mom, another for your sister and another for your brother, you can compress them into one paragraph that will thank family as a unit.

The length of the final acknowledgment. A short acknowledgment section is best, so keep it to one or at most two pages. Do not be afraid of offending anyone you leave out – this will often happen as you cannot mention everyone who has impacted your life. You can thank more people in the next book or a different event in your life.

Don’t re-invent the wheel. Taking a look at other acknowledgment pages of authors you esteem or books in the same genre will help. As a general rule, the best acknowledgment is one that is personal, professionally casual, and descriptive. Always share with the readers why the people deserve to be mentioned.

Private and Confidential. Once you are done with drafting this section, share with the people mentioned to seek their permission to be included especially if you are not very close to them. This is especially so for nonfiction authors or authors whose topics may be controversial; some interviewees you’d like to acknowledge may wish to remain undisclosed because of privacy issues. We’ve had a book recalled because a person wished not to be acknowledged by the author because of a controversial event that happened in their lives. If you’re not completely sure, it’s better to ask first than to have to republish and reprint the book.

Placement. The Acknowledgment section is traditionally placed within the front matter of books – we call this the preliminary pages. However, it occasionally appears in the back instead. If it is a stand-alone page, it should follow the preface according to The Chicago Manual of Style. Alternatively, some authors choose to place it either before or after the table of contents. Discuss the placement with your editor or publisher as different publishing houses have different house rules.

Acknowledgement ot Acknowledgment? Technically, both spellings are correct. It is spelled ‘acknowledgement’ in British English and ‘acknowledgment’ in American English. Whatever English you used for the main content, ensure it is consistent in your acknowledgment as well. The best way to do this is by setting your word processor or whichever platform you are typing on to the preferred English. Do not rely on your mind as some words make more sense in one English than the other – you do not wat to end up mixing two English options as it makes your book look less professional.

Next we will look at Table of Contents.

Training by: Dr. Muthoni Mercy Omukhango

Publisher in Africa | National Director @CLC Kenya |Authors’ Manager @African Christian Authors Book Award-ACABA | Marketplace Minister | Patron at CLC Kids and Teens | Advancing God’s Kingdom through literature.

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