Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Checklist for Writing about the Bible

By Katy Kauffman

Are you a word artist? Do you love painting with words? When we write about Scripture, we have the joy of illustrating how it relates to life today. The Bible is full of rich metaphors, life-changing stories, unwavering promises, and sparkling truths. As writers, we first admire what God has painted in the Bible, and then we work with Him to share the beauty of Scripture with others. But writing isn’t all art.

Writing is both art and science. I used to stumble over the laws of writing. When do I make block quotes? Does a period go before or after a Bible reference? Why can’t I remember the order of what goes in a citation? I just wanted to write. Do you ever feel the same way?

Use the following checklist to unleash your inner word artist and submit your writing to editors and agents with confidence. Editing doesn’t have to hinder creativity; it enhances the message we long to share. I have grouped similar items on this checklist into categories. Review each category before you submit your writing to industry professionals or your critique group.

Bible Translations and Formatting Quotes

Just as an artist’s name is given next to his or her painting in an art gallery, give the Bible translation with quoted verses. Then your readers can look up a verse on their own later if they want to. A few formatting details help our writing to be consistent with industry standards (based on CMS or the Chicago Manual of Style).  

  • Be sure to give the Bible translation for all of the verses you quote.
  • Use the following format when you quote a Bible verse in running text—“God is love” (1 John 4:8 NKJV).
  • If a Bible verse is more than three or four lines long, make it a block quote, indenting the whole verse and putting the period inside the ending quotation marks—“have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)


Writers, like artists, build a reputation with each work of art. Let your professionalism shine by making sure you have included the needed elements in your writing and omitted what detracts from it.

  • Stay knowledgeable about how much your favorite Bible translations allow you to quote without getting permission. (See the copyright page of each translation for that information.)
  • If you are writing a book, don’t forget to include on your book’s copyright page, the copyright information for every version you quote. Find those details on the Bible’s copyright page, or you may be able to find it on If you are using mostly one translation, make a note to that effect on your copyright page. Then you don’t have to cite the translation every time you use it in the book.
  • If an insight you have written is a summary of someone else’s definition or commentary note (and not even verbatim), it is courteous to cite that source. Citing a book in an endnote or footnote has the following order: Author’s first and last name, Book Title (Publisher’s City, State: Publisher Name, Copyright Year), page number.  
  • Double-check the submission guidelines for the editor or agent you are submitting to. This will show that you care about the publication and their editorial needs.
  • Don’t forget your biography with the proper word count, along with a good headshot.
  • And your name. Be sure to put your byline in the body of your writing, underneath the title. (It’s surprising how many writers forget this. But please do it for the sake of your editors. It will save them some valuable time.)

Application and Content

Be sure to paint in some application. Show how Scripture relates to life today, to your audience’s needs and challenges. Emphasize the encouragement, comfort, or promises of Scripture. It will reap richness in understanding for your readers.  

  • Work with the Master Artist long enough that you understand the picture He has painted. Understand what Scripture is saying, and make sure your insights are backed by cross-references and definitions or
    substantiated commentary notes.  
  • Give enough application for your Bible passages, instead of just paraphrasing a story.
  • Be sure to introduce a familiar Bible passage in a fresh way or with a unique slant.
  • Weave definitions and notes into your paragraphs as conversationally as possible, and only use the ones that are directly related to the main point.

Just as artists give great care to creating their masterpieces, we make our writing better by double-checking our content and formatting. This will result in a beautiful work of art that blesses those who read it.

What part of this editing checklist is the most helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments, and keep painting, writer friend.

(Photos courtesy of, Stuart Miles, and kanate.)


Just as artists give great care to creating their masterpieces, we make our writing better by double-checking our content and formatting. This will result in a beautiful work of art that blesses those who read it. via @KatyKauffman28 (Click to tweet.)


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She has the privilege of working with writers and the Lighthouse team to create Bible study compilations and magazine issues. She has a monthly newsletter for writers called The Lighthouse Connection, and she contributes to three blogs on writing. Connect with Katy at her blog, Winning the Victory, and on Facebook and Twitter.




  1. Katy, your metaphor is a perfect one to help us focus on the overall truth we’re writing and how it is embellished with proper form and attribution. Thank you!

  2. As an art teacher, I sure love your metaphor comparing our writing to an art masterpiece! Great practical tips, too! Thanks, Katy.

  3. Katy, I love how you have mashed together your love of art and writing. You are so creative! These are great lists to ensure the final product will bless the readers.