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#100 Publication editor’s jargon demystifyer, Part Two

In the previous blog post (#99) I set out the definitions of some terms used in publishing print and online publications. If you’re going to work in their world, it helps to be able to understand their language.

I originally planned to put all 40-something terms in one post, but it was too long, so I chopped it into two posts.

Kerning, leading: Both are typographical terms. Kerning is the horizontal distance between letters, and leading (rhymes with “sledding”) is the vertical space between lines of type. It used to be a thin strip of lead, back in the days of letterpress, hence the term.

Keyword spamming: Over-use of terms that you think are likely to attract search engines’ attention. Google and other search engines are getting really good at detecting tortured diction that’s intended to squeeze in as many keywords as you can. This means your content is more likely to be ignored, rather than boosted in search rankings.

Lede: (rhymes with “need”): The first sentence in an article. In a feature article, the lede must intrigue the reader and draw them into reading the rest of an article. In a news piece, the lede traditionally includes all the “five W’s and H” of the story – who, what, when, where, why and how.

Manuscript: From the Latin “manu” (by hand) and “script” (writing) – it used to mean the original text of the article, which was written by hand. In an electronic age, it just means the electronic file of the not-yet-published article.

Masthead: A column near the front of the publication, listing the names of the editors and other principal staff, the mailing and circulation address, phone number and other contact information.

Media kit: A portfolio of information about the publication – who reads it, how many readers, where they are, their titles – any information that the publication can provide to help its advertising salespeople sell ad space. It also contains the editorial calendar. The media kit used to be a printed thing in a folder, given to advertisers. Now it’s online, but sometimes you need to register for it before they’ll unlock the PDF, so that they can have an ad salesperson call you.

Monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, fortnightly, weekly: A monthly publication appears once a month; bi-monthly is every other month (six times a year), quarterly is four times a year, and weekly is once a week.

Mugshot: A head-and-shoulders portrait of the author. Yes, it’s a police term, but editors use it too. So if the editor asks you for a mugshot to go with your article, you’re not being asked for something from your most recent police booking, just a portrait is fine. Be sure it’s at least one MB in size.

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Narrowcasting: To create content on a niche topic, one that is not of interest to the wider population, but is of interest to one’s target market. Editors of niche publications like “narrowcast” content provided it is relevant to their audience.

Newsjacking: To write content that is based on a news item, so that the article analyzes the news and makes recommendations on how to either avoid problems resulting from it, or gain a benefit. In journalistic terms, the news acts as a “hook” for the article, something from which the article, well, hangs.

Press date: The date by which all the bits and pieces of the magazine – articles, pictures, captions, ads, and everything else – must be pulled together so that the pages can go on the press. The editor will determine the “copy deadline” – the date by which all the articles for the publication have been received – based on working back from the press date.

Proof: (1) a verb that’s short for “proofread” – “Can you proof this manuscript for me?” or (2) a noun meaning a page proof, which is a copy of the article after it’s been laid out on the page, sent to the author as a final check for errors and glitches before publication.

Proofreader:  A detail-obsessed person who quality-checks the text of an article for small but important stuff like spelling and grammar.

Query: A query letter (generally, by e-mail, although a DM on Twitter works too) that is a mini-proposal for the article you want to write. It should describe the proposed topic, reasons why the readers will be interested, the points to cover, and the editor’s qualifications. Also known as a “pitch letter.”

Review: Like a movie or book review, this type of content discusses a new product or service relevant to the reader. It works best if its subject is “narrow” – intelligent comments about it won’t be available from many other sources (see “narrowcasting”). Review content describes the new product or service, says what’s different about it, gives its good and bad points, and makes recommendations.

Sidebar: A short article that is published off to the side of the main article, maybe in a box with a color screen to help it stand out. Sidebars are great for adding content that’s sort of related to the main article, but not closely enough to be put into the main article.

Simultaneous submission: Sending the same article to two different publications at the same time. Editors don’t like it, because they don’t want to publish something another periodical has carried. You’re better to send the article to one publication, wait for a response, and if you don’t get a response, send a note to that editor saying you’re pulling back the article to send to another publication. Then it’s okay to send the article to the second publication.

Serif, sans-serif: Two major families of typefaces. “Serifs” are the little feet on the letters of fonts like Times Roman and Cooper Black. I understand that these marks are descended from the chisel marks made at the ends of letters set in stone. They act as visual cues to make the letters easier to read (say some typography geeks, anyway). Most print publications use a serif font; online publications usually use a sans-serif font like Arial or Helvetica.

Stock image: a photograph or other image from a central source like Shutterstock. Somehow, they always look like stock images – happy, multi-ethnic (which is a good thing) people, nobody over 30 except for one gray-fox dude in a suit. Or, it’s people in business suits climbing cliffs. I mean, whaaaaa? Most editors don’t like it if you send stock images along with your article, because they have no idea who actually owns rights to those images. They don’t want to get hit with a lawyer’s letter warning of a lawsuit unless they settle on a big amount for misusing a copyright image. Your best solution: build a library of your own images, and use those with your articles.

“Too promotional”: what the editor says if you’ve tried too hard to sell your services in your article. You don’t need to sell. As long as you’ve shown that you understand the issues facing the reader, and have good ideas to offer, your task as a writer is done.

Trendspotting: Content that describes a slow-moving trend that is going to affect one’s readers. It’s like “newsjacking” in slow motion – trends are slow and stealthy, and that means they sometimes don’t get noticed until it’s too late. Trendspotting content describes the trend, says why it matters, speculates on how the trend will evolve, and then makes recommendations on how to avoid a problem or gain a benefit.

Unique views: A number generated from web traffic statistics, indicating how many people see a page of the online publication, during a given period (generally, per month). This is analogous to “circulation” in a print publication.

Unsolicited manuscript: An article that the editor didn’t ask for. Most editors don’t like to take time to read them – they already get far too many of them, and if you send an unsolicited manuscript it probably means (1) that you’ve sent it elsewhere too (2) you don’t know what you’re doing, so whatever you’ve written can be safely ignored. Get the editor’s buy-in to your idea first, by means of a query letter.

Web-only, web exclusive: An article that goes just onto the publication’s website, not into the print publication. It used to be a second-class kind of alternative to having the article in the print edition, but I think that now, having it online can be better – a lot of people will cruise through the publication’s website, who don’t want to pay for the print issue.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

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