The Role of Editors

There is no role more crucial to the writing process, save for the author, than the editor. They are the intermediary step between writing and publishing and often tip the scales on whether than goal is reached. In its most basic context, editing is preparing a manuscript, article, book, or some other written piece for publication, usually involving identifying and fixing mistakes in grammar, spelling, and narrative flow. While the actual practice and nuance behind it is far more complicated, this base process can be separated into two different professions centered around the material being edited. One is more administrative than hands on while the other can be incredibly personal.

Media such as web articles and newspapers often defer directly to their editor. In this context it can be thought of as a leadership decision due to the control the editor holds over what will appear in the next publication. In many senses, the editor of a paper is in charge of that paper. Larger organizations will often get dozens of stories every week written by their own reporters and freelance. The Linux Media guide states that “newspaper editors reject many more releases than they use. The larger the paper’s circulation or the more active the area being covered, the more releases the editor has to sort through.” More often their responsibilities lie with choosing the layout and content of a paper than making sure its grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. An editor gets the final call as to what is published in a newspaper, what gets onto the front page, whether something is thrown out or saved for a later edition, and how long each article can be. Space is particularly important as certain amounts have to be set aside for advertisements, meaning that the editor also makes sure the paper will meet its budget requirements.

Editors for more private works, books and poetry and the like, fit closer to the base definition. They are responsible for going over the grammar and form of a work as well as paying attention to the narrative flow of the piece. This is immensely important, especially for unknown or small name authors as they will not have very many roads into the industry and need to put their best foot forward. According to Annie Evett in her WordPress article, “A great editor makes the journey towards being published a pleasurable trip, a poorly chosen one will make the trip drag for eternity.” James Joyner, of Outside the Beltway, lists three major services an editor should provide the author they are assisting. To help the writer get a point across by making it clear exactly what the work is about, to make sure the piece is written in a way the common reader can easily understand and connect with, and to make sure the more technical aspects are up to par so the writer looks competent. All of this they have to balance with the writer’s own vision and to make sure their own views don’t override this.

To be as plain as possible, an editor’s role is to make a work, regardless of what format it has, presentable for publication. The reason authors approach editors with their work is to get help making it ready for publication. Though different types of writing may require different methods, it is the key idea behind the profession. Editors bridge the gap between writers and publication and they make bookshelves all the better for it.


The Importance of Page Design

Typography refers to the physical style of writing as opposed to narrative or grammatical style. It is the font used as well as the layout of words, pictures, and other images onto a page. While it is not as important as the written words themselves, it is still incredibly useful for providing readers with a first impression of a work. It can be called the ‘face’ of a paper. What is first seen and what will be judged before any other element. Typography, along with the layout, is essential for drawing in an audience and convincing them to give the paper a look.

Font can often be one of the first things that is looked at when browsing a work. It is the style and spacing between letters and often divided into two sets of two categories: serif or non-serif and variable width or fixed width. As David L. Simpson of Depaul university describes it, “Serifs are the distinctive finishing stokes (both horizontal and vertical) that can be applied to letters to produce a chiseled, lapidary look. Variable width fonts use proportional spacing between letters, bunching them together in certain cases (note, for example, the compressed “tt” in the word “letter”) while widening them out in others. In contrast, fixed width fonts use the same spacing between letters regardless of their size or shape.” While this is mostly an aesthetic choice, it is important to know the connotations behind certain fonts. Certain fonts have histories or meanings. Comic Sans MS developed a reputation for silliness and gradually became resented due to overuse.

Beyond font, style attributes such as italics, bold lettering, or underlined words are also rather common and are often used either in official documentation such as source citation or to denote certain lines of text to have different meanings, such as italics in novels often single out a character’s personal thoughts from regular text or audible speech.

Just as important as typography is the page layout. Both where and how certain elements and styles are used and how they relate to each other on the page. Many small things come together to make an attractive layout. The positioning of the title or chapter number, the indentation of a paragraph, what colors are used as a background, where any photos or infographs are placed in relation to the text, and where the names of the author and contributors are placed. Perhaps the greatest example to look toward in regards to layout is the front pages of newspapers. The front page is much like the cover of a book, it must attract an audience through looks alone and with very little information offered. Good page design, as well as a strong headline or title, can be a crucial asset when it comes to turning a profit.

People judge books by their covers. It may only be until they open up the work to take a more detailed look, but until they do, the typography and design is the only foot a written piece has going forward. A professional or eye-catching look can go a long way towards making a connection with people, even if it is just a passing glance.


Guide to News Articles

A news story is the backbone of any good paper. Comics, puzzles, and the like provide a small distraction, but the majority of people purchase and read newspapers for the informative articles. Good articles spell the difference between a successful paper and one that goes out of print. To make a high quality news story requires fulfilling several requirements, as well as finding a story that is worth sharing with the readers.

To make sure that story really is worth the time spent, research is often the first step and the most important. A good article will, at the very least, answer six basic questions about the event. Who, what, where, why, when, and how. As media college states, “Any good news story provides answers to each of these questions. You must drill these into your brain and they must become second nature.” Before writing even starts, these areas must be covered to ensure that all the facts are ready to be presented. A story without proper research runs the risk of being exposed as incorrect and this reflects poorly on an author’s career. Interviews and quotes can also be gathered and used to add extra weight to the article’s words.

When the field work is complete and the actual writing beginning, the next piece that can be looked at is the lead. “The lead, or opening paragraph, is the most important part of a news story…audiences simply are not willing to read beyond the first paragraph (and even sentence) of a story unless it grabs their interest. A good lead does just that,” Purdue Owl describes. It, and any pictures that are printed alongside, is the face of the article. The lead should answer the six questions quickly and efficiently so the rest of the article can expand upon them. The lead can be a summary of the story while the rest contains the details.

These details should be provided clearly and concisely. In newspapers, page space can be precious. Using as little of it as possible may make the article more attractive to editors. It is best not to mince words and make sure the facts are told in an easy to understand manner. About Education recommends to “Detail any events in chronological order. Use active voice—avoid passive voice when possible.” This will give the story a clear beginning, middle, and end which will go a long way towards its flow.

The ending especially should be a point of focus. A good conclusion will reaffirm the main points of the news story and wrap things up with any additional information. Often a story can be ended on a quote from someone involved to sum things up and give a little perspective on the details given, however, this may not always work and at points simply restating the facts and leaving the audience to create their own opinions on the matter will be better for the story in the long run. There should always be an attempt to end a piece strongly with a good, clear, memorable conclusion. Much unlike this paper does.


Guide to Feature Stories

Feature stories can be compared to news stories, but where the news exclusively talks about events that have recently occurred, features can often focus on specific people, places, or things that have happened in any timeline and go more in depth into their single chosen topic than a news article. They generally fall under the banner of human interest, being less sensational or dramatic than regular news. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke describes them as “Covering topics in depth, going further than mere hard news coverage by amplifying and explaining the most interesting and important elements of a situation or occurrence. “ Often the writers of features are given far more time to put together their research and arguments.

A good feature story answers much the same questions and requires the same research as harder news. They must still tell who, what, where, when, why, and how, yet can be more focused about their approach. The details in a feature can be delivered more in depth and with longer explanations than the news. Authors can be looser with their descriptions and have somewhat better control over what is told and how. As such, more in depth reasoning and information may be needed to make the most out of the allowed freedom.

An interview may be one of the better ways to get a good deal of insight on an event and is often the focus of a feature story. It adds a distinct human element to the piece by having it all fed through the eyes of another human being as opposed to being listed plainly. However, an interview will always contain a bias from the person being interviewed and there are certain steps involved in the process, such as informing the subject that they are talking to a reporter and that anything they say could appear in a public newspaper. A section of the New York Times Website ‘Student Voices’ recommends “Prepare for interviews. Come to any interview armed with a basic list of questions you hope to ask.” This will keep inquiries to the point and help insure that much of the information gained is relative to the article. The more there is to work with, the more creative the story can become.

That creativity can be where a feature truly stands out. The extra writing time can provide ample opportunity to show what is happening rather than dryly telling. Descriptions can be more extravagant and interesting than stating a room is mess or clean or that a person is surly or friendly. A feature story is allowed to flourish where a news story must be concise. Granted, page space is still a limited commodity and the feature will compete for it. The most must be made of the space, but the author will have more time to make it so.

A feature is not something that will appear on the front page unless the person writing it is very well known, but they often show up throughout and issue. They add a softer touch to the news that fills the pages and can provide more of a human element than traditional news stories can. They make the papers they appear in better even if they are not the reason papers are sold.