Writer Speak: A List of Journalism Jargon and Terminology

“Pull your dek from the third graf, and could you get this to me by Wednesday EOD or Thursday at 4:00 EST? We also need a clickable call to action in the outro, and don’t forget to optimize for SEO. It’s slated to run Friday as a feature.”

I have a deep dark secret. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Writing, with a capital W, but I only ever took one journalism class. I never served on a school paper or magazine. Perhaps I missed the boat amidst the confusion of transferring through three different colleges. Or maybe I just wasn’t interested—after all, I wanted to be the next Sylvia Plath, not some severe, muckraking journalist.

That sounded scary, while sitting in my office penning was comfortable and romantic. The terminology I was most comfortable with was “metaphor,” “plot,” and even “synecdoche” and “consonance.”

Journalism Terminology

So I had to learn these new journalism terms quickly, and I’m still learning. I’ve put together this starter list of terms, in the hopes I can help you avoid feeling like an ass (as I did) when editors start asking you to do things.

Advertorial – A piece of writing that looks like a real article, but is actually sponsored. In Web-speak, this is native advertising, sponsored content, or branded content.

AP – Associated Press.

Byline – The spot where your name appears on your published work.

CMS –– Content management system. These are applications, often used by big companies, to coordinate the publication of content and work together.

Content marketing –– A marketing approach that involves creating and distributing meaningful content to target audiences, with the ultimate goal of influencing consumer behavior.

EOD/COB –– End of day, close of business. End of day can mean the literal end of the day –– 11:59 PM, whereas close of business usually refers to 5:00 PM.

Executive Editor/Managing Editor/Deputy Editor, Oh My –– Every editor has a different set of job duties, depending on the publication. If you’re pitching a publication with many editors, make sure to target the correct one.

Ezine –– A magazine published exclusively for the internet.

Feature –– The most prominent story in a publication. Usually the headline for a feature appears on the front page, or on the landing page of a website.

Follow-up –– A piece you write after an initial piece, perhaps to clarify something, or to expound upon it. In short, it’s the “To Be Continued” of an existing piece.

Deks and grafs and bylines, oh my! #JournalismJargon Click To Tweet

Guest post –– An article you write for someone else’s blog. Paid or unpaid, the intent of guest posts is usually to gain publicity for yourself or your brand.

Graf –– Shorthand for paragraph.

Hed/Dek –– A hed is the headline, and the dek is a short paragraph under the headline that summarizes what the article is about.

Kill/Kill fee –– This is a fee a publication will pay you if they end up “killing” the piece, meaning they don’t publish it.

Lede –– The introductory section of a new story, or a hook. It might help to read it as “lead” as long as you don’t spell it that way.

Legacy media – Television, radio, newspapers and magazines, all of which are “broadcast,” meaning they behave in a unidirectional way.

Masthead –– This is where you’ll find a list of everyone who works on the staff of a particular publication. If you’re hoping to write for magazines, a good tactic is to visit the magazine rack of your local bookstore and take photos of mastheads so you have the latest information on who’s doing what, and who to pitch.

On Spec –– To submit a story “on spec” means you’ve already written it, without promise of a contract or a sale.

Run – To publish a story. Also, what you do when you’re approached by a content farm.

Subhead – A headline under the main headline.

WordPress — The most popular free blogging platform in use today. The “.org” variety doesn’t provide Web hosting, while the “.com” variety does (but has limited functionality). Other industry leaders are Weebly, Wix, Tumblr, Blogger, Hubspot, Squarespace.

The list is by no means exhaustive, but this should give you a good start in understanding the terms tossed around in the writing space.

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