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Handling Copy





=1. Definition
Copy is any manuscript prepared for printing, and is
written according to the individual style rules of each newspaper. The
first thing for a reporter to do on beginning work in an office is to
ask for the style-book, the manual for the guidance of reporters,
copy-readers, and compositors. The chances are nine to one that the
paper will not have such a book, since only the larger dailies print
their rules of style, and that the reporter must study the columns of
the paper and the changes made in his own stories for the individual
office rules. If the paper happens to be the tenth one, however, the
reporter should employ every spare moment studying the manual and should
write every story, even his first one, as nearly as possible in accord
with the printed rules, as the copy readers will insist on a strict
observance of the regulations. Many of the rules will be mere don'ts,
embodying common errors of diction. Others may be particular aversions
of the editor or the head copy-reader and may have little regard for or
relation to best usage. But such rules must be observed, even though
they may be as absurd and contrary to all custom, as that of one
metropolitan paper which makes its reporters write "Farwell-av," a usage
peculiar to that journal. All such requirements may be found in the
style-book, which, whenever in doubt, the reporter should consult rather
than the columns of the paper, as the paper is not always reliable.
Uncorrected matter is frequently hurried into the forms, causing
variations that the rules of composition forbid.

=2. The Typewriter
The first requirement in preparing copy is a
knowledge of how to handle a typewriter dexterously. In all offices the
reporters are furnished with typewriters, and one is helpless until one
learns how to use a machine. Longhand copy rarely is sent to the
compositors nowadays. If such copy comes into the office, it is
generally given to stenographers or reporters to type before being
dispatched to the composing room.

=3. Longhand Copy
At times, however, when away from the office, one
cannot obtain a machine and must write in longhand. In such cases, write
with painstaking care for accuracy. Other things being equal, it is the
legible copy that survives. Unusual proper names and technical words
that are liable to be mistaken in copying should be printed letter by
letter. If there is a possibility at any time of confusing an o with
an a, or a u with an n, the u and a should be underscored and
the n and o overscored. Quotation-marks should be enclosed in
half-circles--thus, "/jag"/--to show whether they are beginning or end
marks. And instead of a period, a small cross should be used, or else
the period be enclosed in a circle.

=4. Paper
Writing paper is always supplied in the office. Even when
one is a correspondent in a neighboring town, stationery, including
self-addressed envelopes, is frequently furnished by the journal for
which one corresponds. Some newspapers, however, do not provide writing
supplies. In such cases the correspondent should choose unglazed paper
of a neutral tint--gray, yellow, or manila brown. The paper most
commonly used is unruled print paper 6 x 9 or 8-1/2 x 11 inches in size
and of sufficient firmness to permit use of either ink or pencil.

=5. Margins
Except for the writer's name in a ring at the extreme
left corner of the page, the top half of the first page of copy should
be left blank, so that the headlines may be written there by the
headline writer. All the sheets should have a margin of an inch at the
bottom and at each side of the paper, and all other sheets than the
first should have a margin of an inch at the top. The side margins are
necessary for the corrections of the copy editors; the margins at the
bottom are for convenience in pasting the sheets together; and the top
margins are necessary for paging.

=6. Paragraph Indention
All paragraphs, including the first, should
be indented an inch, irrespective of where the preceding paragraph has
ended, and should be marked with the paragraph sign, a rectangle (=L=)
placed before the first word. If two paragraphs have been run together
thoughtlessly and it is necessary to separate them, insert the paragraph
symbol () immediately before the word beginning the new paragraph and
write the same symbol in the margin. If the paragraph completes the
page, a paragraph sign also should be put at the end, to indicate to the
compositor that he may conclude his "take" with a broken line. No other
lines than the first lines of paragraphs--quotations and summaries of
course excepted--should be indented.

=7. Consolidation of Paragraphs
When it is necessary to consolidate
two paragraphs that have been written separately, draw a line from the
end of the first to the beginning of the second and mark No in the
margin. Use the same method when several lines or sentences have been
canceled and the matter is meant to be continuous. Or when a new
sentence has been indented unnecessarily, no paragraph being needed,
draw a line from the first word to the left margin and mark No
there. If a sentence ends at the foot of a sheet, but the paragraph
continues on the next page, draw a diagonal line from the last word to
the right corner at the foot of the page, and on the next sheet draw a
diagonal line from the upper left corner to the first word of the new
sentence. These lines indicate to the compositor that any "take" ending
with the first page or beginning with the second is not complete and may
not conclude with a broken line or begin with an indented one.

=8. Crowded Lines
Do not crowd lines together. When the copy is
typewritten, adjust the machine to make triple spaces between lines.
When it is necessary to write the copy in longhand, leave a quarter-inch
space between lines. Crowded lines saddle much extra trouble upon
copy-readers, compelling them to cut and paste many times to make
necessary corrections. Exception to the rule against crowded lines is
made only when one has a paragraph a trifle too long for a page. It is
better to crowd the last lines of a page a trifle than to run two or
three words of a paragraph over to a new page.

=9. The Pages
If a paragraph would normally begin on the last line of
a page, leave the line blank and start the new paragraph on a fresh
sheet of paper. One may not write on more than one side of a sheet, not
even if there are only two or three words to go on the next page. In the
offices of the big dailies each sheet is cut into takes, numbered
consecutively, and sent to as many different compositors. Irremediable
confusion would be caused for a foreman who tried to handle copy written
on both sides, for each take would contain a part of some other
compositor's copy. The new page, too, should be numbered at the top with
an arabic, not a roman, numeral. And in order to prevent the figure from
being mistaken for a part of the article, it should be enclosed in a
circle.

=10. Insertions
The reporter should make as few corrections as
possible. But where any considerable addition or insertion is found
necessary on a page, instead of writing the addition in the margin or on
a separate sheet, cut the page and paste in the addition. The sheet may
be made the same length as its fellows by folding the lower edge forward
upon the written page. If it is folded backward, the fold is liable to
be unnoticed, and therefore may cause confusion.

=11. "Add Stories."=--When a story is incomplete, either by reason of
the end of the page being reached or because all the story is not yet
in, write the word More in a circle at the foot of the page, the
purpose of the circle being to prevent the compositor from mistaking the
word for a part of the story. "Add" stories,--stories that follow others
already written or in type,--are marked with the catch line and the
number of the addition. Thus the first addition to a story about a
saloon robbery would be marked, "Add 1, Saloon Robbery"; and the second
would be, "Add 2, Saloon Robbery." An insert into the story would be
slugged, "Insert A, Saloon Robbery"; and the precise place of the insert
would be indicated at the top of the inserted page: "Insert after first
paragraph of lead, Saloon Robbery." Such directions are always enclosed
in rings so that the compositor may not set them in the story.


If cuts or illustrations are to be
printed with the copy, indicate as nearly as possible where they will
appear in the printed story by "Turn rule for cut." That says to the
compositor, "Make in the proofs a black ruled line for later insertion
of a cut." The make-up editor may change the position of the cut to
obtain a better balance of illustrations on the page or to avoid putting
the picture where the paper will fold, but the direction will be worth
while as an aid in placing the illustration accurately. Clippings
included in the story should be pasted in the copy. Pins and clips slip
easily and may cause loss of the clipping.

=13. Underscoring
Underscore once for italics, twice for SMALL
CAPITALS, and three times for CAPITALS. Use wave-line underscoring to
indicate =display type=. Many newspapers have abandoned italic type and
small capitals altogether, because their linotype machines carry only
two kinds of type, and black-face type is needed for headlines, etc.
Because of this, where one formerly might underscore a word for
emphasis, it is necessary now to reword the sentence altogether.

=14. Corrections
When it is necessary to strike out letters or words
from copy, run the pen or pencil through them and draw a line between
those to be set up together. Do not enclose in parentheses words to be
erased. A printer will not omit, but will set up in type, parentheses
and everything enclosed within them. When a letter or word has been
wrongly stricken out, it may be restored by making a series of dots
immediately beneath and writing the word stet in the margin. Two
letters, words, or phrases that one wishes transposed may be so
indicated by drawing a continuous line over the first and under the
second and writing tr in the margin. A capital letter that should be a
small letter may be so indicated by drawing a line downward from right
to left through the letter. Because of the haste frequently necessary in
writing copy, it has become a trick of the trade to enclose within a
circle an abbreviation, a figure, or an ampersand that the writer
desires the printer to spell out in full. Do not "ring" a figure or a
number, however, without being sure it should be spelled out. It is much
easier for a copy-reader to ring a number that needs to be spelled out
than to erase an unnecessary circle. If it is necessary to have the
printer set up slangy, misspelled, or improperly capitalized words, or
ungrammatical or poorly punctuated sentences, put in the margin, Follow
Copy. For illustrations of these corrections, the reader may examine
the specimen proof sheet on page 276.

=15. The End
Mark the completion of the story with an end mark, a #,
or the figure 30 in a circle, the telegrapher's sign indicating the
end of a day or a night report. Then read carefully every page of the
copy, correcting every error, no matter how slight. Finally, give it to
the city editor, unfolded if possible, but never rolled. If it is
inconvenient to keep the pages flat, they may be folded lengthwise.
Folding crosswise makes the copy inconvenient to handle. The sheets
should not be pinned together. The pin betrays the novice.

=16. The Story in Type
A reporter should read his story with
painstaking care after it has appeared in print, to detect any errors
that may have crept into it since it left his hands and to note what
changes have been made at the city desk. It is told of a reporter, now a
star man on a leading New York daily, that he used to keep carbon copies
of all his stories and compare them word for word with the articles as
they appeared in the paper. Only in this way can a writer change his
style for the better and learn what is expected of him.





Next: Punctuation

Previous: Correspondence Stories



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