STUDY FOR A CAREER IN JOURNALISM AND PUBLISHING
The face of journalism and publishing is changing rapidly. With the the booming popularity of the internet, and online information, there is a rising need for writers - many businesses have blogs or online publications that they employ journalists to write, also copywriting for internet sites, e-newsletters and more.
Another big change in the world of writing is the dramatically increasing popularity of ebooks. This has changed the way the publishing industry, but for the savvy publisher and writer this has increased the scope for producing books, as there are more and more people wanting to write their own ebook, and the practical side of producing 10,000 hard copy books, versus 10,000 ebooks.
Course Content and Structure
Note that each module in the Associate Diploma in Publishing and Journalism is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
SAMPLE COURSE NOTES
Start your assessment of structure by looking at the Chapter Headings or Contents page.
If the author has not supplied you with a contents page (or pages) containing headings and sub-headings, you will need to create one. This will allow you to see the framework of a publication more clearly and make broad structural changes if needed.
Some authors write in a very systematic way, creating chapter headings first then creating sub-headings within those chapters, and perhaps sub-sub-headings under each sub-heading. When a book (fiction or non-fiction) has been developed this way by a skilled author, there will be a logical structure. This makes the book easier to read and flow effortlessly for the reader.
Other authors organise their work in a less structured way so that, despite the overall quality of writing, a manuscript may simply not flow because there is no logical sequencing of the various passages of writing.
The editor needs to consider the following and make changes to the structure accordingly:
Are they necessary? Delete whatever is not needed.
Are headings in the best sequence, reflecting logical progression? If not, rearrange them.
Structure can sometimes be disjointed if a book has had input from a different author. Co-authors might even format their writing differently to each other.
Do headings accurately reflect the content below? If not, reword them.
Are headings as brief as possible? If not, redesign without compromising important content.
Is the heading relevant to the text below? (For example, does the following text warrant a heading, and is that the appropriate heading for it?) If not, alter it, delete the heading, or adjust the content.
Are the headings consistent with each other and with the headings used in the text? If some sub-headings are used, provide all sub-headings. If more than one person or author is involved, inconsistencies can occur.
MORE ON WRITING STYLE
Style refers to the way in which words are used to convey images to the reader. Any document may be presented in a range of different styles. Consider a Shakespearian play being rewritten using modern language; this would be a change in style, but otherwise, the story could remain unchanged.
There are many different types of writing styles: formal, laid back, intense, old-fashioned, modern, youthful, descriptive, spare, instructional…to mention just a few.
Style often reflects aspects of the writer’s personality and character, and readers often identify with a particular writer’s style. If they like the style in one article or story, they will come to expect the same style in other article or stories by the same writer.
Most writers have a natural tendency to follow a particular style, and there is nothing wrong with maintaining a consistent style. Some writers will, however, develop an ability to vary their style according to the market they are writing for.
Some authors are concise and informative, but tend to be frugal in their use of adjectives. Such a style may be appropriate in a non-fiction book; or even fiction that demands conciseness (eg. a children’s story or a short story). Some writers tend to use simpler words. Others may choose to use more complex and challenging words, perhaps including words that not everyone would understand.
It is the editor’s role to ensure the writer’s style of writing is appropriate for the publication, and to ensure the style is consistent throughout the document. In most cases is not the editor’s role to change the style. The style should be neither too formal nor informal for the audience. If the style does not fit the concept of the book, it must be changed, and such changes would normally be the responsibility of the author.
The editor must be impartial, judging a style according to whether it is appropriate, not according to whether they personally like or dislike it.
Language refers to the choice of words and the way those words are combined. It also includes correctness, including spelling. Computer grammar- and spell-checking tools may not take into account subtle differences between countries or regions, and cannot be relied upon to catch homophones or other spelling errors.
The level of language used can also be important. Academic university-level texts obviously require a different level of language to those used for a children’s book. Language level is judged by three things:
1. Length of sentence
Sentences that are too long and complex are generally avoided in any book if possible. Take care that conjunctions or adjectives are not used too much (for example, when combining several different phrases with conjunctions, the word “and” should not appear multiple times in the same sentence).
2. Structure of sentences
Sentences that are too short (such as ‘John can jump’) may be appropriate for pre-school children’s books, but are inappropriate in most adult publishing.
3. Complexity of vocabulary
In general, it is best to keep the vocabulary simple enough for the average reader (ie. generally, monosyllabic words are less complex than multi-syllabic words with the same or a similar meaning).
Less complex language:
Farms grow animals or plants. In general, farms succeed by growing quality products without high cost.
More complex language:
Agricultural enterprises produce animal or plant products. In general, these enterprises attain successful outcomes through a combination of cost effective management and quality control processes that result in the most economical production of high quality products.
The more words you find in a sentence, the more complex the language is likely to be, and the more syllables you find in a word, the more complex the word is likely to be. If most paragraphs average 15 words per sentence and three syllables per word, the writing style is likely to be relatively uniform. If one paragraph varies greatly though, having almost all one or two syllable words and an average of six words per sentence, the style will appear different. Style should be relatively consistent. Some variation is, of course, desirable, to avoid boring the reader.
Many publishers have established procedures and conventions in place to guide the editor to the desired style (known as a House style). Such documentation may specify requirements such as preferred spelling, punctuation and layout. Often, government departments also produce style manuals to guide employees how to write within that department.
A house style can simplify decision-making for an editor. It can create more work though, particularly if the editor is not very familiar with the established conventions and, as a result, needs to continually cross-reference to the style manual.
An editor may create a style sheet to aid with editing.
Obvious inconsistencies are the first and most important issues to be dealt with. These include such things as inconsistencies in the appearance of tables, headings or layout. Such inconsistencies will be noticed at a glance, and even in minimally edited manuscripts, they must be attended to. Less obvious inconsistencies such as spelling will have a greater priority if the word is used more frequently in the text. An incorrect spelling of a word that appears only twice in a 150,000-word book may hardly be noticed, whereas a frequently-used word that is incorrectly spelled will probably be quickly noticed.