As a managing editor, I spend every day of the newspaper cycle ensuring the content we produce adheres to the quality standards we and other community members expect from The ReMarker. That doesn’t just mean producing interesting stories and eye-catching design. Rather, it means catching even the smallest errors, ensuring every word is spelled correctly and every page conforms to our design plan for the year. And to top it off, even more importantly, we always must adhere to Associated Press and publication-specific style.
In order to ensure we meet those standards every time a newspaper or magazine is sent to the printers, every story sees at least five sets of eyes before being approved, twice in draft form and another three times once on the page. And fully-designed pages see another three sets of eyes in addition to getting a last look over by me or another one of the editors before being finally checked off.
Before Pen Meets Paper
Both The ReMarker and AirlineGeeks.com adhere to AP style in addition to other publication-specific rules. In both cases, those rules ensure continuity between articles, even though they come from dozens of authors and, in the case of AirlineGeeks, from numerous countries across four continents.
Because of the vast expanse of AP style, I have found there are two ways to ensure writers adhere to all of the small details that catch many non-journalism-focused writers out when learning. The first is that every writer on The ReMarker staff is given an AP Stylebook, while another two dozen are kept in various places around the publications suite for easy access should questions arise. We also recommend every writer for AirlineGeeks.com purchase one to keep beside them whenever they write. In addition, for AirlineGeeks.com staff writers who don’t receive the intense training ReMarker staff do in beginning journalism, I created a comprehensive sheet of the pieces of AP style that are used most by writers on staff, which I provide to every new writer as I begin to teach them news writing.
Even as AP style largely rules how I write my stories both for The ReMarker and AirlineGeeks.com, differing publication-specific style continues to be a large piece of how we cater to our specific audiences.
Below on the left is a sheet I’ve prepared entitled called “Style Rules: St. Mark’s Journalism.” It deals with common school- and community-specific areas of style our writers often have questions about, namely numbers, titles and names.
Below on the right is a packet of AirlineGeeks.com-specific style, which is a late-2018 addition to adhere more closely to AP style as we have continued to grow. One recent change we decided to enact was getting rid of the Oxford comma, an AP style-mandated rule that we had previously made the decision to ignore. Click through the gallery on the right to see all the AirlineGeeks.com style rules, many of them dealing with specific aviation terms for which the AP does not even have a defined spelling or punctuation.
Knowing those rules means very little if you can’t apply it as you work with stories, seeking improved diction, varied syntax and the smooth flow that is crucial in any story, whether a personality profile or issue-driven feature. So on deadline day, I — alongside a dozen upperclassmen on the newspaper staff — sit down around our Harkness table and edit the pile of stories turned in that day.
The below image shows edits I to a story for our end-of-year sports magazine, a publication for which I’m an editor. See the corresponding numbers below for my reasoning. Click the images to enlarge.
Here I advise the writer to a common mistake for sports writing, using the plural “they” to refer to a team instead of the singular “it.” The writer made that mistake multiple times, and I took the opportunity to understand a key piece of information I learned as a sophomore that helped me greatly over my time writing on sports.
In the second paragraph, I make a correction in accordance with AP style regarding the punctuation of cities and how to pair them with states.
Here, I question the writer’s word choice and challenge him to find another word to better represent the thought he was trying to convey.
On the edge of the page, I commend the writer for a strong opening that sticks to the format all stories in the sports magazine should follow.
On the second page, I make the first correction to the writer’s use of “they” to refer to “team” and refer him to the note at the top of the first page. I also correct a few incorrect uses of commas and add in missing commas.
Here, the writer made the error again, and I refer him back to that note.
In a quote, the writer neglected to follow our style regarding the titles of students. I ask him to add the grade level and last name in the format [grade] First Name [Last Name] because the person speaking only used first names.
The image below shows edits I made to a page during the design editing phase of a recent newspaper cycle, which takes place before we sent the pages to the printer. See the corresponding numbers below for my reasoning for each of the edits.
Here I advise the writer to follow the recently implemented AP style guidelines for events happening the day of or after the paper's release. Instead of using "today" or "tonight," we should use the date of the event regardless of the date of release of the paper. This is one of the more recent changes to AP style, so I have found this error appears more often than most others in the newspaper.
Here I advise the designer that this brief does not follow the inverted pyramid style of news writing and that the lead should more closely follow the principles of news, giving the most important details first and highlighting the results of the event rather than event itself in the lead.
Here I advise the writer to fix the punctuation in this sentence, replacing a comma with a period and bettering the flow of the story. Although the story is only a news brief, it is important to edit each sentence as thoroughly as I would if I were looking at a cover or centerspread story.
Here I advise the designer to rethink the wording for the teaser to the photo story page. The "Inside" section serves as the table of contents for the paper, so I want to make sure the wording serves to draw readers to each page.
Here I advise the designer he is using the incorrect spot color. He used an old green instead of that month's orange.
Here I advise the writer to follow AP style guidelines with regard to date and time.
Here I add a word to ensure accuracy in the pull quote's explanation in order to provide the reader better context for the story the quote references. In the same place, I recommend the designer lighten the shadows of the photo to ensure the highest possible print quality.