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Issue for December 2011

What Editors Expect in 2012

Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 9:42 AM

What are you expecting in 2012 for yourself professionally or for your publication? See the results of our survey.

By Denise Gable

Most editors agree that 2012 will continue to be a challenge both professionally and for their publications. The digital rage has only intensified and now includes devices beyond the traditional Web, ranging from tablets to smartphones. Editors believe that publications not already embracing new media will now have no choice -- and the ones already there may have to step it up.

Official Board Markets, Questex Media Group, LLC
Frequency: Weekly
Description: The definitive newsletter for the recovered paper and board converting markets.

Mark Arzoumanian, editor in chief: "I would maintain that any editor still putting out a print publication has to make his career move forward by coming up with new article ideas and new ways to approach the same subject. So I expect to continue to challenge and push myself simply by making certain that I keep on top of the subjects that matter to my readers. This effort has to come from within; relying on your boss to keep you stimulated is very dangerous nowadays because you probably know more about the industry you serve than your boss does.

"I expect the publication to continue to grow slowly and steadily in 2012. It has been around for 86 years and is devoured every week by faithful readers. That's not just me blowing hot air. Our reader surveys back it up. "

Food Product Design, Virgo Publishing, LLC
Frequency: Monthly
Description: The food product industry's leading source of industry information and product development content.

Doug Peckenpaugh, culinary editor: "I'm hoping to see a serious maturation of how information is shared online via social networking and community websites - not just making connections, but engaging in meaningful discourse online. "

Supermarket News, Penton Media, Inc.
Frequency: Weekly
Description: Trade magazine for the food distribution industry.

Christina Veiders, managing editor: "My goal for 2012 is to build an online and social media personality to drive more traffic to our publication's print edition and website and try to mine exclusive information for news. This means greater use of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Our publication will continue the transition to digital media while maintaining a weekly print edition that is distinctive from our online editorial. We will concentrate on measurement and effectiveness of editorial presentation and information to draw readers in both print and digital media. "

Massage & Bodywork, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
Frequency: Bimonthly
Description: Industry magazine for massage and bodywork professionals, published by Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP).

Leslie A. Young, Ph. D., editor in chief: "In 2012, we'll continue to fine-tune the print edition, launching a fresh look with our January/February issue and updated content, and we'll continue to enrich the digital edition with video and advertising extras. But because we're dedicated to strengthening the profession and not just our association, the digital edition of Massage & Bodywork is available online to everyone at ABMP. com.

"My goal is to continue to crack the code in understanding how best to effectively communicate with our readers and members. Broadly speaking, massage therapists, bodyworkers, and estheticians are not traditional consumers of information and technology, so it's my priority to stay in touch with them and their needs, so I can effectively cultivate content. Fortunately, I'm just one of a team of amazing coworkers who care deeply about our company and our allied professions. "

PT in Motion, American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
Frequency: 11 issues/year
Description: APTA's professional issues magazine.

Donald Tepper, editor: "What are we expecting in 2012 for PT in Motion? One major change will be a revamping of our digital editions. Currently, in addition to the print edition, we offer readers three electronic versions: (1) an HMTL version on our Web site; (2) a browser version generated from the PDFs we use to produce the printed version; and (3) a downloadable PDF version (higher quality than the browser version), also generated from the PDFs we use to produce the printed version.

"We're replacing Items (2) and (3) - the two digital editions produced from our magazine's PDFs - with a briefer, more interactive edition.

"We tried the two PDF-based editions because there's an association-wide (and profession-wide and perhaps nation-wide) push to 'go green. ' We wanted to give readers the opportunity to opt out of the print edition - presumably saving a few trees while allowing readers greater flexibility where and when they read the magazine. We also could add some value in the electronic editions - make URLs active links, for example, and embed videos. In addition, had there been a significant reduction in our print run, it would have resulted in some cost savings as well.

"The two PDF editions have not met those goals. They do precisely what we intended. But adoption by our readers has been minimal. They've spoken clearly: They do not want or need a digital replica of our print edition. So, instead, we'll be reworking some of our print content and making the resulting product far more interactive. It's an experiment; we hope that our new digital publication will attract reader interest and involvement.

"We know what doesn't work. In 2012, we'll be trying another approach. "

Denise Gable is managing editor of Editors Only.

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In Any Given Word: Part Two

Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 9:42 AM

More reference works.

By Peter P. Jacobi

We continue with word finders.

Word Combinations

You might consider another Roget's for your collection, Roget's Thesaurus of Phrases (MJF Books), put together by language maven Barbara Ann Kipfer. It holds more than 300 pages of word combinations that have come into usage for various reasons: as ways to verbalize changes in the way we live, as new means to express ourselves, as brighteners of language, and as acquired terminology needed to define societal developments be they in law and politics, science and technology, the arts and culture. Everything in this Roget's is alphabetically placed, starting with "abdominal muscle" and ending with "zoot suit."

You'll find "Cross the Rubicon," and "diplomatic immunity," "early bird" and "easy mark," "garage band" and "kill time," "naked ape" and "namby-pamby," "pax romana" and "radiocarbon dating," "saving grace" and "theory of everything."

Less Popular Word Options

The self-educated lexicographer Eugene Ehrlich, who died about three years ago at 85, left us The Highly Selective Thesaurus and Dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate (self-published, then issued by Quality Paperback Book Club). Ehrlich explains in a preface: "My goal in preparing this work for those who already know more words than they need to know was to help them jog their memories when they are searching for a special word."

That means when you look up a well known or fairly well known word or term, the thesaurus/dictionary offers you lesser known options. "Cut across" can be replaced by "transect," "daddy-longlegs" by "harvestman," "gravedigger" by "fossarian," "nobleman" by a list of substitutes ("boyar, grandee, hidalgo, magnifico, marchese, marquess, marquis, ritter, viscount"), "present occasion" by "nonce," "pretentious" by an extensive list ("affected, bombastic, flatulent, florid, grandiloquent, inflated, la-di-da, magniloquent, orotund, ostentatious, overblown, papier-mache, recherché, tumescent, turgid"), "spelling" by "heterography" and "orthography," and "word-related" by "lexical."

All of the above appear in the first half of Ehrlich's book, the thesaurus. The second half, a dictionary, provides definitions. "Amphibology" refers to "ambiguous speech or wording, quibble." "Impecunious" means "having little or no money; penniless, needy." "Sang-froid" boils down to "calmness in the face of danger or difficulty; composure; self-possession." I'm not sure how much of all this you really need in the day-to-day crush of editing or writing, but the collection contains some fascinating possibilities. Ours is quite a language.

Word Origins

Ehrlich also left us The Highly Selective Dictionary of Golden Adjectives for the Extraordinarily Literate (Harper Collins), which supplies more of the same: definitions for "coltish," "frangible," "klutzy," "pellucid," "stridulous," and hundreds of other words covering 250 pages.

If you want to know where 12,000 of our words come from, turn to The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories, edited by Glynnis Chantrell. Since I used the word "fascinating" in the paragraph above, let that word serve to show what this reference work does. The entry says: "fascinate [late 16th century] 'Bewitch, put under a spell' was the first sense recorded for fascinate. It comes from Latin fascinare 'bewitch', from fascinum 'spell, witchcraft'. The figurative use meaning 'attract and hold spellbound' developed early in the word's history." Perhaps this dictionary, with its emphasis on the origin of words, is designed more for the satisfaction of curiosity than for everyday practicality, but you never know. Sometimes, where language comes from is important. As for me, I love the search.

Words Arranged by Topic

Word Menu (Random House), by the late lexicographer Stephen Glazier, arranges words by topic areas and sub-divisions. Under "Science and Technology," for instance, one finds a series of categories from "Physics" to "Computers." The "Physics" section gives us eight lists of and definitions for words you might wish to know about more precisely than you do ("Branches and Disciplines," "Principles of Mechanics, Waves, and Measurement," "Electricity and Magnetism," "Nuclear and Particle Physics," "Cosmology," "Heat," "Optics," and "Acoustics"). Word Menu supplies about 800 separate categories covering the span of human knowledge and endeavors.

Commonly Confused Words

The Wrong Word Dictionary (Castle Books), by Dave Dowling, attempts to de-confuse us about the "2,000 Most Commonly Confused Words": adjacent versus adjoining; capitulate and recapitulate; enormity and enormousness; hanged and hung; paltry and petty; spiritual and spirituous; whither and wither. I find this a go-to book, in some cases, for distinctions in meaning and, in others, for spelling.

Proper American English Usage

Mark Davidson, a California-based professor of communications, has come up with Right, Wrong, and Risky, A Dictionary of Today's American English Usage (Norton). This excellent source answers our questions about word choices, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Alphabetically, you can go to "capitalizing titles of people" or "double negatives that are a no-no" or "gibe or jibe" or "it and there can hurt or help the start of a sentence" or "leitmotif, leitmotiv, or motif" or "octopi or octopuses" or "quotations within quotations" or "wean from or wean on." Every entry is explicitly and sufficiently explained.

Dictionary of Slang

From Barbara Ann Kipfer again, along with Robert Chapman, there's the Dictionary of American Slang (Collins), a terrific collection of just that (chow hound, fuzz-face, knock it off, movers and shakers, muck around, queer fish, sit in the catbird seat, welcome to the club, and enough others to fill more than 550 good-sized pages).

Foreign Words and Phrases

Finally, I give you the Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases, which boasts 8,000 words and phrases from more than 40 languages. In our day of word compression, the ability to recognize what these verbal expressions mean becomes increasingly important. Do you really know what "caveat emptor" means or "doppelganger" or "ex cathedra" or "guru" or "meerschaum" or "polonaise" or "summa cum laude" or "vers libre"? Well, in case you don't, this is the place to find the answers.

Consider any and all of those I wrote about last month and of the above. They can be mighty helpful. After all, aren't clarity and precision what we consistently aim for? These reference works are the tools to achieve our goals.

Oh, but, regardless of the opportunities for word exchanges provided, when I say that we aim for what's clear and precise, I do not want to opt for the words "luculent" and "finical." Clear and precise will do.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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The Fog Index

Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Assessing the readability of a Mediabistro.com article.

This month, we assess the Fog Index of a December 16 article from Mediabistro.com ("New Union-Tribune Owner Defends 'Cheerleader' Journalism" by Matthew Fleischer):

"The obvious distinction these two should have made, even it [sic] was only lip service, was that there is a difference between the paper's editorial pages and its news pages. News is news, editorial is for cheerleading. Manchester seemed like he was going to go there, but then backed off and spoke generically of news stories he remembers seeing that he thought should have taken different angles. The fact that this distinction was never clearly outlined last night tells us one of two things: either Manchester and Lynch have absolutely zero media savvy (as this is what every media watcher in Southern California has been waiting to hear) or they're so against the idea of newsroom independence they're willing to publicly torch the credibility of their paper."

--Word count: 126
--Average sentence length: 32 words (29, 7, 30, 60)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 15 percent (19/126 words)
--Fog Index: (32+15)*.4 = 18 (18.8, no rounding)

What weighs down this sample is sentence length. While we have a fairly modest percentage of longer words, the mean sentence length is 32 words. Let's see if we can bring our score below 12:

"These two should have made it clear that the paper's editorial and news pages differ. News is news; editorial is for cheerleading. It seemed like Manchester was going to make this distinction last night, but he backed off. Instead, he spoke vaguely of stories he thought should have taken different angles. Either Manchester and Lynch have zero media savvy (as this is what every media watcher in southern California has been waiting to hear), or they're so opposed to newsroom freedom they're willing to damage their own paper's credibility."

--Word count: 89
--Average sentence length: 18 words (15, 7, 16, 13, 38)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 9 percent (8/89 words)
--Fog Index: (18+9)*.4 = 10 (10.8, no rounding)

The bulk of our work involved trimming word count (from 126 to 89) and dividing longer sentences. We were able to cut the mean sentence length nearly in half, and we were able to reduce the percentage of longer words by one-third. These edits reduced the Fog Index from 18.8 to 10.8, a full eight points.

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Editors and Information Overload

Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 9:42 AM

In the news: Paul Bradshaw of the Online Journalism Blog discusses how magazine editors can overcome information overload.

In a December 19, 2011, article, Paul Bradhaw of the Online Journalism Blog shares some tips to help magazine editors overcome information overload. With today's editors inundated with information from every cyber-direction (e.g., social media updates and various newsfeeds), it can sometimes be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Bradshaw advises editors to expose themselves to a wide range of sources, but to organize that content into folders according to what is most vital. Editors on Twitter can organize their "follow" list into subgroups to collect important sources in one place. Social bookmarking sites (e.g., Digg, Stumbleupon, etc.) provide yet another means of organizing preferred websites and newsfeeds. Read more tips about overcoming editorial information load here.

Also notable:

AP's Style-checking Software

The Associated Press has just announced the release of AP StyleGuard, a software program that will sweep documents for AP style violations and inconsistencies. The software is only in the beta phase, but that hasn't stopped a rash of speculation. On its main page, EditorandPublisher.com asks readers, "Do you anticipate staff reductions due to the new AP style-checking software, AP StyleGuard?" The bar graph of responses shows that a majority of readers anticipate just that. Read more here.

On the Rise: Magazine Launches in 2011

According to Mediafinder.com (as reported on Foliomag.com), new magazine launches rose 23.8 percent in 2011. The news gets better: The number of magazine closures fell by almost 14 percent. Leading the new magazine pack was the food category. Hardest hit were the regional and bridal categories. Read more here.

Also on the Rise: QR Codes in Magazines

Now that smartphone use is so mainstream, magazine editors are working overtime to engage their smartphone-using subscribers. As a result, use of QR codes (which we discussed in the September 2010 issue of our sister newsletter, STRAT) are popping up in more magazines, including several Meredith Corp. titles. These scannable smartphone codes first started showing up in U.S. magazines during the past few years, but with smartphones overtaking the mobile market, they are bound to become even more widespread. Read more here.

Reader's Digest Association Layoffs

Although Reader's Digest brands have recovered somewhat this year, the company is looking to consolidate where possible. As a result, Reader's Digest Association has laid off 150 employees both in the U.S. and overseas in hopes of focusing future efforts on its most successful brands. Eliminated staffers will stay on until the end of the year. Read more here.

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