Do you keep hearing different vocabulary terms about writing, but aren’t sure what they mean exactly? Get “in the know” with these definitions:

  • Analogy: A comparison drawing parallels of the concept being written about with a concept that the reader is familiar with, used to help the reader understand.
  • Angle: Indicates the major subject that is to be emphasized.
  • Anecdote: An illustration which is used in an article to help the reader picture an idea or to give life to an individual. A short, real-life story, usually used to illustrate one single point.
  • Article: A non-fiction composition, usually for a magazine or newspaper. An article has four basic elements:
    • lead – The opening paragraph, crucial to capturing reader interest. A short summary that serves as an introduction to a news story, magazine article or other copy. A good lead clearly sets forth the problem or situation the article deals with and demonstrates (directly or indirectly) why the reader should read the piece.
    • theme (thesis statement) – The point a writer wishes to make. It poses a question, or centers around a human problem.
    • body (plot, elaboration) – The body is the series of events that proves or disproves the theme. It develops the theme using case stories, quotes, and statement of facts, by organizing your points in order.
    • conclusion – Should relate back to the lead in some way by concluding the opening anecdote, by answering questions raised at the beginning or by summarizing the main points.
  • Audience: The people to whom you want to communicate.
  • Cliche: An overused word, phrase, or expression.
  • Copy editing: Editing the manuscript for grammar, punctuation, and style as opposed to content.
  • Deadline: A specified date and/or time that an article or news story must be turned into the editor. The writer’s deadline is important in the editor’s production schedule, which may include a copyeditor, a typesetter, a printer, and other personnel.
  • Description: The art of showing the reader how a person, place or thing, looks, tastes, feels, sounds, smells or acts. It is more than an amassing of details; it is bringing something to life by carefully choosing and arranging words and phrases to produce the desired effect. Description cannot be objective; it always delivers a specific and intentional graphic message to the reader within the context of the work in which it appears.
  • Editing: The art of generating and selecting, compiling and revising literary material and making it suitable for publication.
  • Editors: They are the “gate keepers” of publishing. They solicit and read articles (manuscripts) and decide what is publishable.
  • Essay: A short, literary, non-fiction composition (usually prose) in which a writer develops a theme or expresses an idea.
  • Illustration: An analogy, anecdote, or example that helps the reader understand a concept.
  • Interview: A research method in which the writer talks with a primary source. The writer should have some background knowledge of the topic (Preliminary research), know the interviewee’s official title, and be aware of the interviewee’s status in his field.
  • Mass communication: A process by which professional communicators use mechanical media to give out messages widely, rapidly, and continuously to intentionally bring across meaning to large audiences in an attempt to influence them in some way.
  • Metaphor: A figurative comparison that usually uses some forms of the word is, although the verb is not absolutely essential to a metaphor. It is generally considered a strengthened simile. “He’s nothing but a bag of wind” or “She’s a doll” exemplify this technique.
  • Proofreading: The process of reading composed copy to identify and correct errors in that copy.
  • Query letter: A letter asking if an editor is interested in seeing the article you would like to write. Briefly outline your idea and how you propose to handle the subject. Be concise, but complete enough so the editor knows exactly what you have in mind. Tell the subject, how you plan to write the article and what conclusion you will come to. It is not necessary to query about fiction.
  • Quotes: Quotes from printed material must be reproduced exactly as they appear on the page. Words may be omitted with the use of ellipses points—as long as the context is not changed—and incorrect spelling or usage may be acknowledged by placing (sic) after the word or phrase in question. When quoting material from a live interview or speech, the writer faces the decision of whether to correct faulty grammar or insert words for the sake of logic. When quoting published material, the writer should be aware of the restrictions imposed by copyright law.
  • Research note taking: When gathering material from printed sources, writers take time to digest what they read and then note key ideas in their own words. During this process, it is essential that the writer note page numbers, magazine issue numbers, titles of books, and other data so he can later supply an editor with his sources without a time-consuming search.
  • Rewrite: After you have written your article or story, you should go back at least once (usually several times) and tighten sentences by deleting excess words or changing the structure to make them read more smoothly. You also may have to change paragraphs, add anecdotes, take out ideas that don’t contribute or include material that will help your work have more impact on your readers.
  • Side Bar: A small article that accompanies the main article; it usually provides background or another angle on the subject.
  • Simile: A figure of speech based on comparison. In a simile, two things are compared to each other, generally using either the word like or the phrase as. . .as. The two things or person and thing being compared must be dissimilar in more ways than they are similar, since one purpose of the simile is to make the unfamiliar immediately familiar to the readers. For example, in his description of a student’s rented room, John Irving used this simile: “It was a cheerless place, as dray and as crowded as a dictionary. . .”
  • Slant: Slant distinguishes one publication or publishing house from another. It includes the types of materials used, theological differences, or the way articles are written to meet the needs of readers.
  • Tone: Set by the author’s attitude toward his characters or subjects; he chooses words and literary techniques to create the atmosphere he wants.
  • Transition: A passage in the story that leads from one section to another. It serves to give the article cohesiveness and logic. It can link either sentences, paragraphs or sections and is often accomplished by inserting words or phrases into a sentence or paragraph to connect it smoothly to the preceding one.
  • Verbatim: A term that means “in exactly the same words.” The term is often used in relation to direct quotations.

Get these definitions and much more in our manual on writing.

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