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In this course, author Tom Geller explores the process of writing articles and publications for businesses large and small. The course begins with a look at the preparation you'll need to do, best ways to find assignments, and smart strategies for determining your article approach. Next, the course dives into techniques you can use to brainstorm angles, research, interview experts, finish a piece, and build your portfolio.
- Adopting technical tools
- Gathering reference materials
- Defining an article
- Finding assignments
- Determining your approach
- Conducting interviews
- Managing revisions
- Following up
Skill Level Appropriate for all
After you hand in your article, there's usually some back and forth among you, editors, and maybe some other folks. Some publications will just skip this step and run your article as it is without any revision process. That's one more reason to double-check your draft. It might be exactly what represents you in print. Before talking about the kinds of edits you're likely to see, let's review some of the jargon that editors might throw at you. At the top of your story is the hed, or headline. There might be a secondary headline as well, known as the dek.
Then comes the lede, that all-important leading sentence. It usually launches the nut graf, which summarizes the article's main point. The nut graf could also come later, as is the case in our example article. Longer articles will be broken up with subheads, a term that sometimes used for the dek as well. Finally, stories end with a kicker or a conclusion. If any information is missing, you mark its place with TK, which stands for to come. Now, the funny thing about these terms is that almost all of them are misspelled.
It's just a little editor's humor that's passed down through the generations. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's move on to common types of edits you'll get. I have included examples of all of these in the exercise file. But the simplest is copy editing, where editors change such things as punctuation and word usages to bring your writing in line with their expectations. It's comparatively minor stuff and editors often won't think it's necessary to let you approve or even see their copy edits. Slightly more serious are the rephrasings, where editors change sentences to make them clearer.
Restructuring edits happen when editors move or cut entire sentences and paragraphs. Now, at this point, the editors should check with you to make sure that these changes don't destroy the cloth that the article's made from. But ultimately, once the article is out of your hands, it's out of your control. You can only protect your article in two ways. Check it as much as possible before sending it in and establish good communication with the editors so they feel free to contact you during the revision process.
Finally, we come to the most serious kinds of edits. A redirection happens when the editor comes back and says something like, "This article should also cover such and such," or "This should be written with a more neutral tone." Redirections, whether to cover new material or to change your article's tone, mean you'll have to do some heavy rewriting. Again, dialogue with the editors to help you get it right the second time. If they asked for more than two rounds of revisions, there might be a problem that requires either some negotiation or an agreement to simply disagree.
You might find that you just can't deliver what an editor is looking for and you may need to part ways. It's a painful process and it's something I've had to do before. It happens. Some assignment contracts include a provision for partial payment if an article gets killed. In fact, it's called a kill fee. But I try not to worry about such things. I prefer to trust editors to know what they want, and then I make a good-faith effort to give it to them. Experience and the advice of other writers can guide you in deciding what revisions are fair and reasonable.
And indeed, most editors I have worked with have been both thoughtful and judicious with their requests. Even when I disagreed with them, I've been happy to do their revisions, because to me, requests for revisions are a sign that I'm working with a professional organization that takes my writing seriously.