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


=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.

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