Monday, October 30, 2006

Catch bad copy

Boot Camp attendees brush up on editing style and techniques
By Jeff Geleski, board member, Kansas City chapter, ASBPE

Ron Johnson, an assistant professor of journalism for Kansas State University, said he took on the role of bad cop at the event. He put those in attendance in grammar school by serving a style quiz. Numerals, capitalization and even sexism — it’s police officer and not policeman — were covered in the quiz.

Johnson’s talk was called “Brushing up on AP style and advanced editing techniques.” He listed some of his pet peeves during his presentation. For example, major, unique, reaction and impact all are overused words, he said. Using parentheses inside quotes are problematic, Johnson said, for three reasons: The parenthetical detracts from the accuracy of quotes, it’s weak writing and it makes the source appear stupid.

Having taught at Kansas State since 1989, Johnson said he tells his students to know the difference between a colon and a semicolon, and then he tells the students to try to avoid using them. It upsets him when students fail to correctly use “its” and “theirs.”

“This drives me insane,” he said.

Johnson added he tells students to edit with a dirty mind, or know when readers might consider another meaning of a word. Saying someone will head a company may not be a good idea in a headline.

While most copy editors already know to use the Associated Press stylebook and dictionaries, Johnson said not all dictionaries are equal.

“Some are stronger than others,” he said.

The book Words on Words by John Bremner is another good resource for copy editors, he added.

Copy editors, he said in closing, should think of themselves as part of a team. They should be proactive in helping reporters make changes in any grammar or style weaknesses they have.

During the break following his session, Johnson critiqued design elements of attendees' magazines. A graduate of Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., Johnson is the editor of The Best of Newspaper Design, a 272-page book that showcases the nearly 1,500 winners in the Society for News Design’s international competition.


Bali High?

Note: Bali High? comes from the ASBPE Boston Blog.

Click image for video.

ASBPE associate director Robin Sherman is officially a media celebrity.

As Media Bistro's Fishbowl NY blog recently reported, Robin made a splash at the 2006 Folio:Show when he led audience members in a Balinese dance (see it on video).

Despite the antics, Sherman's purpose at the show was a serious one: To talk about ethics, and specifically the troubling results of ASBPE's exclusive research on ethics.

Among other findings, the 2003 survey found that 76% of ASBPE members had faced ad-related editorial demands — and as many as 30% of those who faced such pressure succumbed. Specific demands members confronted included:

  • providing advertorial space,
  • publishing special product sections,
  • printing corporate profiles of advertisers
  • killing stories or negative coverage,
  • softening a story objectionable story.

The research also examines the business case for strong ethical standards.

Related links:

Monday, October 23, 2006

A bit about blurbs

Boot Camp tips to tweaking headlines, blurbs and captions into shape.
By Jody Shee, secretary, Kansas City Chapter, ASBPE

In the editorial list of things to do, title-, blurb- and caption-writing often are at the bottom of the list. And that’s a shame since titles and captions are read five times more than body copy, says Don Ranly, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Columbia, MO.
“We write these at the last minute, and they often don’t get the time. These are the most important aspects of our publications if we really care about readers and getting our publications read,” he says. Ranly spoke at the workshop session “Writing Brighter Headlines and Captions” at the Kansas City ASBPE annual Magazine Boot Camp held jointly with the Missouri Association of Publications Oct. 19 at the Wyndham Hotel.

Don’t be afraid to write creative and clever headlines. They can even be a bit cryptic if you include a blurb or deck underneath that summarizes the article content, Ranly says.
Experiment with rhyming, alliteration, allusion, allegory and metaphor in writing titles for articles or ads. “Play with the readers. Award their intelligence. Make their day,” he says, adding, “We should have a title party. Bounce ideas off the wall.”
Ranly pointed out creative headlines from articles and ads:

  • “Say yes and know” (An AARP ad)
  • “It’s a lot of pun: How to throw your wit around on campus” (college newspaper article)
  • “Waking up to down: Tips on buying and caring for down comforters”
  • “Jim Salter battles plaque buildup” (an article about a man who wins a lot of awards)
  • “Close encounter” (an interview with actress Glenn Close)
  • “Lost innocents: It’s the babies that are dead and babies that did it” (about school shootings)
  • “Make womb for baby” (about infertility)
  • “The customers always write” (title for letters to the editor page)
  • “Getting a charge out of credit”
  • “Don’t call us… We’ll sue you” (about telemarketing)
  • “McDonald’s takes quarter pounding”

Blurbs come in two different types. External blurbs serve as a summary and can appear on the table of contents, while internal blurbs break up copy and draw the reader into the story.
Internal blurbs also give copy-heavy pages a visual break. However, designers shouldn’t run the blurb across the entire page, Ranly says, adding a few other blurb guidelines:
  • Write blurbs in sentences using periods.
  • Be consistent. If you have more than one internal blurb, either make them all sentences or make them all fragments.
  • Keep them short and avoid hyphenations.
  • Using pull quotes is fine, especially for internal quotes. Attribute them with a dash. Use single quote marks.

It’s important to make sure photo captions say something the photo does not say. Give useful information, which means you must demand more information from photographers.
“Every picture needs a caption, and you should write captions as if no one is going to read the copy,” Ranly says, adding several additional guidelines for caption writing:
  • Write sentences. Occasionally a fragment will do.
  • Use transitive verbs in the active voice and present tense.
  • Make captions a minimum of two lines, optimum three lines and maximum four lines.
  • Write the most complete captions under the largest or dominant photo.
  • Place the captions under the photos.
  • Use legible type, preferably bold face, sans serif, at least 10 point.
  • Give simple, consistent directions. “From left” works fine, written out and without adding, “to right.”
  • Have fun. Bright and entertaining captions communicate better.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Boot Camp success

A full workshop summary will be posted later. But here are some highlights:

Joe Sweeney
  • Are we producing a product with integrity and purpose?
  • Do we encourage senior editorial or independence decision-making?
  • How do you maintain independence?

Ron Johnson on editing
  • Terrible verbs: host and head
  • Overused words: major, unique, reaction and impact
  • Lazy attribution: believes, thinks and feels
  • Lazy quotes: Parenthetical addition or exchange of words in a direct quote. It shows poor writing and makes the speaker look stupid.
  • A copy editor has to edit with a dirty mind to prevent unintended double meanings.
  • Resources: “Words on Words” and “Working with Words”

Don Ranly on writing
  • Ask the writer to suggest titles and to write a summary, benefit blurb.
  • Ask the editors to suggest titles and have a title discussion party.
  • Great headlines quantify the benefit or command action.
  • Ban italic and reverse type.
  • You’re allowed to be creative. You’re allowed to have fun.
  • Don’t stretch callout blurbs across the page.
  • The dominant picture gets the dominant caption.

Larry Lannon on new media
  • You must be willing to fail.
  • It is possible to take a productive brand and break it by doing too much.
  • Labor is a finite resource.
  • Online you must have dynamite heads, images and information.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Today's Boot Camp!

The ASBPE/MAP Boot Camp begins today at 11:30 a.m. at they Wyndham just off of I-435 and Metcalf Ave. We're excited to be able to bring such an excellent slate of knowledgeable speakers. If you're looking to brighten your headlines and captions, make your print and web content work with each other and freshen up your editing skills, this is the workshop to attend.

If you want to come but haven't registered, your best bet is to call Amy Fischbach at (913) 967-1807 before 10:30 a.m. You can also come to the Wyndham and we'll do all we can to fit you in. We don't want anyone to miss out!

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Early Bird Gets a Discount on the Boot Camp Registrations

Don't miss your opportunity to reserve your spot for the 2006 Magazine Boot Camp at the early bird rate. To make it easier for our attendees to sign up for the event, we will be accepting credit card registrations this year. Please write the cardholder's name, type of card, expiration date, and amount to be charged on the registration form and sign it. You can then fax it to Amy Fischbach, KC ASBPE president, at 913-514-6611.

We will be accepting early bird registrations until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Send in your registration form and check by that date to receive the special pricing of $70 for members and $85 for non-members, or fax your form to Amy if you are using a credit card payment.
As a special bonus, the companies that sign up five or more employees will only have to pay the member rate for all of their attendees.

The event is sponsored by the Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) and the Missouri Association of Publications (MAP).
We will be offering a magazine design critique during the networking breaks and a magazine swap this year, so remember to bring copies of your magazine to the workshop.

Here are the details.

11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19

Wyndham Garden Hotel, 7000 W. 108th St., Overland Park, KS 66211 (The Wyndham is located just north of I-435 on the east side of Metcalf Ave.)

11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Introduction, luncheon and keynote
Speaker: Joe Sweeney, editor-in-chief and publisher of Ingram’s magazine in Kansas City

12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Topic: Brushing Up on AP Style and Advanced Editing Techniques
Speaker: Ron Johnson, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications for Kansas State University (He will also offer design critiques during the breaks, so bring copies of your magazine!)

1:45 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Networking break and magazine design critique

2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Topic: Writing Brighter Headlines and Captions
Speaker: Don Ranly, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-Columbia

3 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Networking break and magazine design critique

3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Topic: How to Expand Your Web Coverage Without Cannibalizing Your Print Publication
Speaker: Larry Lannon, e-media director of content for Ascend Media

4:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closing and magazine swap (please bring 10 copies of your magazine to share)

Coming in from out of town? Rooms are available for $79 at the Wyndham. Call the Wyndham at (913) 383-2550, and ask for the Magazine Boot Camp discount.

Early bird registration is $70 for members and $85 for non-members.
Late registration is $80 for members and $95 for non-members.
Download the registration form attached to this e-mail, fill it out with your pertinent information, and include it with your check made out to the Kansas City chapter of the ASBPE to reserve your spot.
Please send your RSVP forms and payment to:
Amy Fischbach
9800 Metcalf Ave.
Overland Park, KS 66212

Call Amy Fischbach, ASBPE Kansas City chapter president, at (913) 967-1807. You can also visit the Kansas City chapter blog at or the MAP Web site at

Thank you to our sponsors!

*PR Newswire
*Prism Business Media
*Ascend Media
*Vance Publishing

*Modern Litho
*Ovid Bell Press