Every industry has its own lingo and the writing field is no exception. Here’s what those words mean.
Advance – Money a writer gets paid from a publisher before his or her book comes out. The money is repaid to the publisher from the book’s royalties once it goes on sale.
All rights – When magazines own all rights to your work, they can use it as often as they wish and in whatever manner they wish. A writer must give written permission to a magazine for this to occur.
Assignment – An oral or written contract between a writer and an editor, usually detailing the specifics of the writing project including deadline, fee, rights purchased, and such.
B&W – Black and white photos.
Book outline – Usually sent to an editor before he or she requests an entire manuscript, a book outline is a summary of each chapter of a book project.
Byline / by–line – Writer’s name on a published piece of work.
Clips – Articles or stories you’ve had printed in newspapers, magazines, or elsewhere that show your work.
Column inch – This denotes one inch of column space in a printed piece of work. Some magazines and newspapers pay according to how many column inches an article turns out to be.
Content editing – Editing a piece of work for overall flow and substance.
Contributor’s copies – Usually complimentary, copies of a magazine or newspaper that are sent to a writer who had work published in that edition.
Copy editing – Editing a piece of work for grammar and style issues.
Copyright – The legal ownership over a piece of writing from the moment it is created. This protects people from using it without the author’s permission.
Cover letter – A one-page letter that accompanies a manuscript. It gives the editor a brief (emphasis on brief!) summary of the project and details who it is from.
Creative writing – Fiction, poetry, or nonfiction writing that goes beyond the normal writing bounds, resulting in a unique piece of work.
CV – The initials stand for curriculum vitae. The document is basically your writing resume; it lists your writing history, qualifications, writing accomplishments and/or awards, and a bit of personal history.
Deadline – The day an article or writing project is due.
Draft – A completed copy of an article or book; there are often many drafts of a writing project before it is ready for publication.
E-query – A query letter that is sent via e-mail.
Edit – Going back over a manuscript or document to check it for errors.
Editor – A person who edits. In terms of publication, the editor is the person who oversees the editorial side of a magazine, book project, or writing document.
Editor–in–Chief – The one person who is charge of the editorial at a magazine or newspaper. They may have a number of editors working with them.
Electronic rights / Internet rights - The right to use your work in any type of electronic or Internet-based medium. This vague term needs clarification with an editor or publisher before you give up your electronic rights.
Fact checker – A person who works for a magazine, newspaper, or book publisher and checks the facts in the writing projects.
Fair use – The provision that copyrighted works may be briefly quoted from without infringing on the owner’s rights.
Feature – An article that is longer than most others in a publication.
Fiction – A writing project based on imagination, not fact.
Filler – A short item (often a joke, puzzle, anecdote, or blurb) that fills empty space in a publication.
Final draft – A fully–edited manuscript.
First draft – The first copy of a completed manuscript or article.
Ghost / ghost writer – A writer who writes speeches, books, articles, or any other document, which is then credited to someone else’s name.
Honorarium – A small token payment made to a writer who submits work to a publication.
International Reply Coupon (IRC) – A postal certificate for snail mailing that allows someone in another country to send an envelope to you without stamps on it; the IRC is the postage.
Kill fee – Money paid to a writer for an article that was assigned but will no longer be published.
Interview – Done in person, over the phone, via e-mail or Skype, an interview is a conversation with someone who provides you with information for a writing project.
Lead time – Length of time from when a magazine or book is planned to when it is published.
Manuscript – A written or typed document that contains an author’s words/text.
NA - North American
Nonfiction – A writing project based on fact.
One–time rights - Editor has the right to use your work one time.
Op–ed – An article that expresses the writer’s opinion, not necessarily any facts.
Pay on acceptance – You get paid for your submission when it has gone through the editorial process and is accepted, often long before publication.
Pay on publication – You get paid for your submission within 30-60 days (usually) of a magazine being published with your submission in it.
Q&A – Type of article where the writer asks someone a question and their answer is printed after the question.
Query letter – This is a pitch to an editor, usually in letter format, to get them interested in your article or book idea. It is usually the first contact a writer has with an editor and it is typically via e-mail or snail mail.
Referral – One person vouches for another’s abilities; in this case someone recommends a writer to an editor, interview source, etc.
Rejection letter / rejection slip – A letter you receive with a "no thank you" from an editor or publisher for your writing project.
Resume – Similar to a CV, a resume is a summary of your work history and writing experience.
Rough draft – An early copy of a piece of work, usually sloppy, full of grammatical and style errors, and filled with gaps in the story or article.
Royalty – Money a writer receives from the sales of a book.
SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) – An envelope addressed to yourself. (You address an envelope to yourself, put enough postage on it to get it back to your mailbox, and send it along with a query letter so the editor can reply to you.)
Spec / on spec / on speculation – Doing an article or story on spec means you will write and submit the piece before it gets accepted. Once it is completed and the editor looks it over, he decides at that point whether to accept or reject it for publication.
Slush pile – The stack of unrequested query letters or manuscripts on an editor’s desk.
Tear sheets - Copies of articles with a writer’s published work.
Unsolicited submission - A manuscript an editor did not request but was sent to him.
Worldwide rights - Rights to publish a writing project anywhere in the world.
Writer’s guidelines – Guidelines that magazines or book publishers make available to writers that detail their editorial needs and other details.
Writer’s guild – A writing organization.
- 30 - – Traditionally this was typed at the end of an article so the editor would know it was the end of the piece. It’s rarely used anymore.
Hope this glossary helps you on your writing journey.
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