MEDIAdome

All about the MEDIA!

Why does a newspaper need a stylebook?

When students begin working on their lab journal, they often ask, ”Why should we use only a set of fonts and colours? It makes the newspaper oh so boring!” In other words, what they are asking is, why should we follow a stylebook? Is a stylebook written in stone? This introduction should help answer some such queries.

Look at some brochures, fliers, film magazines and advertisements. They look quite different from newspapers. You would have noticed that newspapers use only a set of fonts and colours, often limiting them to just about four or five. A stylebook is a set of guidelines that help staff to bring out a newspaper that is homogeneous, coherent and credible. It also provides guidelines on use of language, particularly those concerned with grammar. A stylebook is a guide for a writer or editor for a specific publication. It gives guidelines for usage of terms, typefaces, highlighting, etc. Each good newspaper has its own stylebook and follows it to the tee. Ever wondered why?

* Staffs in a newspaper are always strapped for time. Even the friendliest editors may neglect informing the layout staff about a story until it is too late. One hardly has the time to sit and experiment with different fonts, sizes and colours.

* Some papers tend to look chaotic because everyone on the layout desk wants to experiment with their page designs. While this might be fun, it detracts from the professionalism of the publication.

* Copy for newspapers come from a variety of sources– its own reporters, agencies, freelancers etc. Each source has its own style of writing. Everyone’s ultimate goal should be to create a coherent look for the overall paper. Pursuing one’s own creative muse is nice but it should fall under this umbrella.

Having a stylebook helps reduce questions relating to design and production for newcomers and old-timers alike and reduce inconsistencies in the paper. A stylebook will also allow the staff to focus on more important issues, like writing better headlines, selecting and cropping photos better and originating better ideas for illustrations and graphics.

Despite all these precautions, newspapers continue to contain mistakes. Journalism is writing history in a hurry all right, but that should not be an excuse to present a chaotic, incoherent newspaper to the readers.

When an editor was asked about the philosophy of his newspaper’s design, he said, ”We want our content to drive our design, because design and design elements are meant to orient and signal the eye, prioritise the news and ultimately, provide easy entry points into our stories and packages.” Therefore, one may conclude that a style sheet is written in stone.

This stylebook for has been organised into two sections. Section One deals with use of language to help maintain consistency. This section will prove helpful to both trainee reporters and sub-editors. Section Two gives you tips on writing and subbing copy.

This stylebook is dedicated to all those students, who in their innocence have felt restricted at being asked to adhere to it but will realise its relevance once they step into the industry.

S E C T I O N O N E

WRITE IN BRITISH ENGLISH

Your computer offers English of several countries. However, WRITE ALL REPORTS IN BRITISH ENGLISH ONLY. Thereby you avoid writing color for colour, favor for favour, leed for lead etc. A simple way of doing it would be to RESET YOUR COMPUTER TO ENGLISH (BRITISH). 1) Click the TOOLS icon on your word page. 2) Select LANGUAGE and click SET LANGUAGE. Another window opens. Select English (British) and click DEFAULT & OK.

WRITING DATES

Write all dates as March 13, September 15 and NOT 5th of March, 8th of October etc. Also, it is March 15-18 (meaning March 15th to 18th) and NOT March 15- March 18, but it should be March 15- April 15 (meaning for one month). You don’t have to mention the current year. However, write the date as March 15, 1947, September 15, 1968 etc if it is anything before the current year.

CONTRACTIONS

DO NOT write govt., commn., advt., adml., etc. Write them out completely as government, communication, advertisement, admiral etc. However, if a company is called The Producers’ Company Ltd. write it that way. By the way, most students write percent instead of per cent. Notice the space between the two words.

DESIGNATIONS

All designations in small caps, i.e. president, prime minister, vice-president, chairperson (not chairman), major, general, captain, vice-admiral, vice-chancellor, director, dean, executive officer, chief justice, doctor, physician, psychiatrist, head of the department etc. When you actually refer to a doctor, say Dr. Ajit Jogi.

COURTESY TITLES

DO NOT use courtesy titles such as Shri, Smt, Mr, Mrs, Ms, ji etc. Some newspapers use them, some do not. However, most newspapers that do, are inconsistent. They use them in some pages/columns and do not in others. The soundest option, therefore, is to do away with them.

NAMES

It hurts to see one’s name spelt wrongly. Double check for spellings and be careful with names that are tricky. Ex: Anaida (for Anaeida), Dang (for Daing) etc.

BEING POLITICALLY CORRECT

Today’s perfectly normal word can be tomorrow’s flagrant example of sexism, racism or other abuse. Be careful when you identify/ address people by certain words (handicapped, housewife, coloured) etc. They may be more comfortable being addressed as physically challenged, homemaker, blacks etc. Remember, in time, these labels may also fall out of favour.

USING NUMBERS

Spell out ALL NUMBERS below 10. However, you don’t have to write March eighth (March 8).

In the case of currency, write them as Rs. One lakh/crore…. upto Rs. Nine lakh. Those beyond Rs. 10 lakh, mention thus. In the case of writing currencies write them as Rs. Two lakh but 50,000 dollars/ pounds etc. When writing the age, write as one-year old, two-year old,…upto twenty-year old. However, after 20 write 21-year old, 22-year old, 100-year old etc.

TIMINGS

Write all timings as 6 a.m. , 9 p.m. and NOT 6.00 P.M. but 6.30 p.m.

ABBREVIATIONS

Expand all abbreviations and write their acronyms in brackets when you’re using them the first time in your copy. You may abbreviate them later in the copy. Remember STD can mean both straight trunk dialling as well as sexually transmitted diseases, and IT can mean income tax and information technology.

USING OFFICE NAMES

Remember to write the name of the office/ department correctly. Write the official name always. Avoid using other forms such as the psychology department (when it’s called Department of Psychology), sericulture department (Department of Sericulture). NOTE THE USE OF CAPS WHEN THE NAME IS OFFICIAL. However, you can use university, department (with a small cap) in isolation. For example: A university has many departments.

USING ITALICS

All UNENGLISH words such as pooja, jatra, swamiji, ad hoc, bon voyage, de facto, de jure, faux paus etc. must be italicised. However, you DO NOT need to italicise PROPER NOUNS like Madhvacharya, Raghavendracharya etc.

All BRANDS (Coca Cola, Maruti, Bajaj, Clinic All Clear)/ NAMES OF FILMS (Silence of the Lambs)/ SONGS (Wherever you go…)/ ALBUMS (Lamhe)/ BOOKS (Animal Farm)/ REPORTS (India: A Development Report, 2001) / BIOLOGICAL & ZOOLOGICAL (mimosa pudica) must be italicised. Also italicise The if it is part of the title: The Hindu. Using single quotes is redundant in this case.

QUOTES

Quoting people: Says John,”I have not ….away from college.” Notice that the quote begins with a capital letter and the end quotation mark comes AFTER the period/ BEFORE question mark.

Say a person is quoted as quoting another person: Says John, ”I have not heard anyone who says ‘I don’t attend college’.” Note the use of single quotes within a quote and the use of period BEFORE the double quote.

Use double quotes only when you are quoting somebody. Otherwise, use a single quote. Take this example: Laloo firmly believes in ‘making hay while the sun shines’. Also note that the period in this case comes AFTER the quote.

USE OF ITS AND IT’S

Always remember, its means belonging to. It’s means IT IS. Therefore, it would be It’s time the group found its way back home.

APOSTROPHES

When writing plural forms like MPs, MLAs and years/decades like ‘in the 60s and 70s’ DO NOT USE APOSTROPHE. However, when you refer to them as belonging to write MP’s/ MPs’, MLA’s/ MLAs’ etc.

EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS

Write educational qualifications as B.A. , B. Sc. , M.A. , M. Sc. , B. Com. , M.B.B.S. , M.D. D. Litt. etc.

USING ARTICLES

Days DO NOT take an article. Therefore, you write Black Day, Flag Day, Teachers’ Day etc. NOTE THE USE OF CAPS IN THE INITIAL LETTERS.

Weeks DO take articles. Therefore, you write Railway officials are expected to behave well during the courtesy week. However, it would be The Traffic Police Department will observe a courtesy week beginning this year.

DO NOT USE articles with All India Radio, Radio Pakistan but it is always the British Broadcasting Corporation. Also, if the article is part of the name DO NOT FORGET to use it.

WORDS THAT CONFUSE

Check out for words that confuse. For example advice (noun) and advise (verb). Also, affect (to have an influence on) and effect (the influence), aid (help), aide (attendant) etc. CONSULT A DICTIONARY (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary) WHEN WORDS CONFUSE YOU.

follow this cardinal principle

‘WHEN IN DOUBT, CHECK IT OUT’

_____________________________________________________________________________________

S E C T I O N TWO

ALWAYS write your name//folder name/sub-folder/file name/ file name of photo OR illustration and the word count at the top of your copy. All rewritten copy should be marked rewritten/name of the rewriter. A typical copy would look as under:

Name / lab No. / folder / sub-folder/ file name /photo file name

vineeth/ lab 13-d/ amplus/ articles/ Big B’s victory/ bachchan

Word count:

Rewritten by:

THE ACTUAL COPY

To survive, a newspaper has to win the respect of its audience. Readers must believe that what you print is accurate. Moreover, they have to be able to follow every story. If you misspell the name of your prime minister, or get your facts wrong, your credibility will crumble.

As trainee reporter/ sub-editor, your job is to make sure every story is clear, tight and accurate. This process has three parts: copywriting, editing and proofreading. Let us tackle each part separately.

TIPS ON GOOD COPY WRITING/ EDITING

Any reporter/ copyeditor should have as many of the following on hand as possible:

* A stylebook

* A good dictionary (preferably Oxford Advanced Learner’s)

* Files of current issues & sources

Accuracy

* Double-check the spelling of people’s names and titles
* Check the facts in a story
* Check dates
* Check the quotes
* Make sure you can reach the reporter if you have any questions

Concision

Every writer and editor would do well to study and follow these rules:

• Never use a long word where a short one will do

• Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print

• If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it

• Never use the passive when you can use the active

• Avoid jargon word if you can think of an alternative

Grammar

• Are the tenses consistent?

• Does the article contain spelling mistakes?

• Does the writer always use the active voice?

Finding story flow

An article is like a jigsaw puzzle, where the lead, quotes and background information come together to produce a complete picture. However, it’s not uncommon for sub-editors to receive stories wherein the lead does not make sense, context is missing and the quotes are redundant. What do you do? The answer is simple: find clarity.

To achieve this goal, you must have a clear idea before you start editing. Ask yourself this question, “In one sentence, what is this article about?” If you, or the writer, cannot come up with this sentence, chances are the story is not a story but rather an idea without focus. The distinction between a story and an unfocussed idea is crucial. A story deals with an issue by describing something, be it an event or topic. An article on pay equity, for instance, might describe how women construction workers earn less than their male counterparts. An unfocussed idea, on the other hand, raises an issue without answering it. Before you start editing a piece, make sure you understand what the story is about. The lead will revolve around this story-thesis. From then on, the article builds on what appeared in the lead.

Watch for context and background

* Look for holes in logic. Watch for over-sensationalism and under-sensationalism.

* Is something outrageous being presented in a bland fashion?

* Is something fairly routine made to sound like the apocalypse?

Read the piece over once and make a mental list of questions for the reporter – things that need to be checked, things you really do not understand and things you think should be in the story but are not. Get the questions answered, and muddy passages reworked, preferably by the reporter.

Check if the lead is accurate, or could it be restated in a more effective way? Do the paragraphs that follow flow logically, or should some be moved up or down? Are important pieces of information buried near the bottom? Are nasty things said about people or institutions backed up, and have they had a chance to respond? Remember objectivity.

Is anything missing? Does the article take for granted that readers possess pieces of information they probably do not know? Is there a historical context to the story, whether it is last week or ten years ago?

It sounds like all this will take hours per story, and at first it might. But given practice a lot of it becomes almost automatic. You must train your eye to read words letter by letter, and your brain to question everything it registers as you read.

Proof-reading

Proof-reading refers to the process that occurs after an editor has finished looking at an article. A proof-reader is responsible for making sure no grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or flaws appear in the story. Proof-reading is a time-consuming task and requires concentration. Therefore, do not try to do this in the middle of an argument or with the music blasting. Do not resort to the spell-computer check. It does not point out use of words with the wrong shade of meaning. For example, my computer suggests that keyline should be replaced by Ceylon/ Ceylonese!

Proof-reading should happen BEFORE layout. Remember, if there are lots of corrections and additions, the length of the story may change. Therefore, work systematically.

Printouts

Before you make a final print out of your story (either after it’s written or edited) make sure to:

* Write the final word count

* Check the headline of the copy/ caption for the photograph/ graphic/ illustration

* Print them in the proper font and size, say Times New Roman, font size: 12.
* Complete ALL modifications to a story BEFORE you take them on to the PageMaker.

After you have done the page, check the following:

* Are all the stories aligned properly?
* Are they all placed in the proper font? Has a story in bold been marked so and okayed by the executive editor?
* Spelling mistakes in headlines. Nothing can be more irritating than a bloomer in 40 pt. Bold.
* If a story has jumped from an earlier page, is there continuation in the story?
* Is the page number right?
* Is the date right?
* Is the page folio in order?
* If it is the first page, is the date/ place line, volume number in order?
* If it is the last page, is the imprint in order?
* Are all photos/ illustrations/ graphics in CMYK?
* Are the colours used on the page in harmony?
* Are words in boxed items ‘leaking’ on/ outside the box?
* Are all the ‘items’ on the page ‘locked’?
* Has the page been saved as an appropriate file?

ENDS

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August 6, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. this was really helpful!!!

    Comment by Deepti Dogra | December 15, 2013 | Reply

  2. Perfect post till now! Superbly written.

    http://www.theprettycitygirl.com

    Comment by Rutuja Bhagwat | October 8, 2014 | Reply


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