LAST WEEK’S HINT drew quite a few emails and comments. Here are notes from some…with my responses below each:
THERE WAS A TIME, more years ago than I care to count, when I was a young editor, sitting on the copy desk of The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY.
During that time, I would occasionally edit a piece written by Gus. Gus was a fine reporter. His stuff was always correct. And if you needed a reporter you could count on to get an important story, Gus was t-h-e guy.
But Gus had a problem. He just couldn’t seem to use the word “said.”
Among the words Gus used for attribution: “Commented.” “Opined.” “Responded.” “Insisted.” “Retorted.”
“Opined”? Really? “Retorted”? You’re kidding, right?
When I edited Gus’ stuff, first thing I’d look for is all the “commented, opined, responded, retorted” words.
I did that because, even then, I knew those words got in the way. They’re “stopper” words. They make a reader stop to wonder if they really work in the context of the sentence. As in: “It’s going to be a great piece of legislation,” Murphy opined. Or: “I like the look of this bill,” he insisted.
My solution? “Said.” It’s short, it works in most contexts and it’s a word that never gets in the way.
12.21.17: Readers want you to decide
AS AN EDITOR and designer, you’re faced with many decisions–in each issue.
Do I play this photo…or that one? What’s my lead story? Should I jump that piece on the school levy? Have I overplayed/underplayed that article on the Christmas parade? Did I do justice to the photos of the high school scholarship winners?
Yes, many decisions, but it’s your job to make them.
Don’t waste your time second-guessing yourself, asking over and over again if you did the right thing. Make your best decision, given your experience and your effort to be fair, balanced and a servant of your readership.
Your readers expect you to make those decisions. They want you to decide what the best story is…what the best photo is. They trust your judgment. They respect you. They want you to decide.
And…they’ll occasionally disagree with a decision you’ve made.
It’s OK. That’s how it works.
From more than 50 years ago, the words of Sgt. Klein come back to me from a sweltering summer day at ROTC camp.
“Decide!” he said. “Decide right…or decide wrong. But, dammit, decide!”
Yes. That’s how it works.
GRANTED, I don’t know how things work at your newspaper. I don’t know if you charge for wedding/engagement notices or not. So, I could be way off base here.
Given that, I’ll offer that the top placement of such notices isn’t well-designed. And it leads to questions about why the couple at the top left got a larger photo than the others on the page. Perhaps they paid extra for that, but you and I know that the mothers of some of the other couples on the page are not going to be happy with you—unless you’ve made it clear to them that they, too, could have had a larger photo if they had paid for it.
My recommendation: set a policy that all wedding/engagement photos will be the same size (as at bottom), but that the text of such notices—if you charge for them—can be as long as the customer wants at your going rate.
Certainly, the package at the bottom is better designed…and all players get the same size photo, so mama won’t be calling in and giving you a hard time.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Do you have a policy governing photo size/text length on weddings and engagements? How do you handle these notices in your shop? Send me a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do a follow-up on this hint.
MAYBE IT’S JUST ME. Maybe I shouldn’t let the little things bother me. But then, I remember that all the “little things” really matter when it comes to news design.
That’s why I always find it distracting when I see a round peg in a square hole, like the drop initial at top left.
And it’s why I take the time on feature packages to select that letter, create an outline, then place it at the start of the text, making the text wrap to the right of the letter.
This works especially well with other letters like P and L.
Yes, it takes a bit of extra work, and I wouldn’t bother doing it on regular columns and the like. But I think it’s worth the effort for a drop cap in a feature package.
Try it. I think you’ll find it improves the look of your feature designs, too.