Sub editing is all about quality control in print journalism. The role varies depending on whether you are working in print, online, features…but many of the elements remain the same and the fundamental reason remains – quality is crucial for maintaining credibility.
A sub editor is responsible for:
Accuracy of facts and sourcing
Spelling, grammer and punctuation
House style (numbers, capital letters, swear words, titles…)
Re-writes to make articles more readable
Building ‘the furniture’: Page layout
By ‘Building the furniture’ we mean:
Headlines – needs to be arresting, witty, provocative. Must be written in present tense and use active verbs.
Sub heads – an expanded headline for newspapers and magazines – also to be written in present tense.
Stand firsts – an expanded sub head for papers, magazines, and websites.
Strap lines – these are found across the top or bottom of the page and often for marketing purposes
Bylines – e.g. ‘by Catherine Feltham’ – MUST be spelled correctly!
Crossheads – used to break up copy. One – three dynamic words used as a mini title part way down an article to show what’s coming up.
Pullout quotes and breakers – short and those that capture the story’s tone.
Fact boxes and graphics – to give background and extra detail.
Captions – underneath photos, factual but fun.
Footers – information about the writer, contact details etc.
I personally find headlines quite difficult to write. I don’t mind writing the broadsheet style ones (factual and not tabloid style so less creative in a way!) These are some tips we’ve been given about how to write a good headline.
Tell the story in a nutshell
Try to include a verb (should be active and in present tense)
Must be positive
Try to stimulate an emotional response
Must be aimed at the target audience
Simple + precise = impact
Be careful with punctuation – NEVER use full stops!
Avoid label headlines (i.e. stating something as fact rather than quoting it as opinion)
Be careful with compounding adjectives
Single quotation marks if using something that someone has said