Student Media of Kennesaw State University
The Sentinel Newspaper
Style Book THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK 1
The goal of this manual is to provide writers with guidelines to adhere to the policies and protocols established by the KSU Student Media. The material presented here will ensure that consistent quality is maintained in all issues of The Sentinel. General guidelines to all writers are presented below, followed by guidelines for specific sections of the newspaper. The Sentinel is the registered student newspaper of Kennesaw State University, under the umbrella of KSU Student Media. Updated Feb. 2013.
Table of Contents THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK I. General Guidelines for all Writers ......................................................................... 3 A. Getting the Story .............................................................................................................................................. 3 B. Tips for Writers ................................................................................................................................................. 4 C. Bad Writing Habits of Beginning Journalists ....................................................................................... 5 D. Pitfalls of Beginning Journalists ................................................................................................................ 8 II. AP Style in Brief .................................................................................................... 9 A. KSU-‐specific AP exceptions ...................................................................................................................... 11
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General Guidelines for all Writers
Supplies: • Voice recorder • Media Pass (staff and senior staff writers only) • Reporters notebook • AP Stylebook
Getting the Story
• Sources: All stories, whether news, feature or opinion, are based on fact. All stories should include at least three sources, only one of which can be an Internet source. Acceptable sources are people affected by the story, experts on the topic, professors at KSU who specialize in the subject area, directors, coordinators, leaders and presidents of related or affected groups, organizations or departments, official government or university documents, news releases (only as initial information, not to be quoted), police reports, interviews with affected students, faculty or staff, etc. Unacceptable sources are Wikipedia, unverified information (if info is from social media or online, it must be confirmed through at least two credible sources) and anonymous sources. Stories are generally about people, so your primary source of information should be people rather than stored sources such as news releases and other prepared statements. • Research: Before contacting sources, you should learn as much about the story topic—and the source, if appropriate—as possible. This will allow you to be confident and professional. • Contacting Sources: You can contact sources by email initially, but always follow up with at least two phone calls unless they answer immediately. If no phone number exists, try physically going to their office location. • Interviewing Sources: All interviews should be taped to ensure accuracy of information; direct quotes must be verbatim. You can use a voice recorder, smartphone, etc. You must inform your sources that you are taping the interview to ensure that they are comfortable with being recorded. Always dress in a manner appropriate to the interview setting. You are representing yourself, as well as The Sentinel, and you want to build a relationship with all sources that you contact. Story Format: All stories should be written in 12-point Times New Roman and double-spaced. Use a single space after periods. Always edit your story for accuracy, grammar and AP style prior to sending it to the section editor. Suggest a headline for your story and include a byline. Deadlines: The Sentinel is designed and prepared for production on Mondays, so THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK 3
section editors must have all stories completed by Saturday at the latest. See individual section editors for specific deadlines. Failure to meet your story deadline will result in one written warning, and if you fail to meet a deadline again you will no longer be allowed to write for The Sentinel. Individual section editors have the right to handle the firing process differently, with prior consultation from the editor-inchief, according to specific scenarios. Story Submission: Completed stories should be emailed to the section editor as a Word attachment. A separate document should include interview notes so quotes can be verified for accuracy.
Tips for Writers
Headlines Goal • Grab reader’s attention • Provide gist of the story • Provide typographic “relief” Writing headlines • Read story • Decide what details to focus on • Pick key words from story • Write idea head w/o concern for space • Modify to fit when you see space limitations • Think “someone did something” i.e., headlines should have a verb, but not helping verbs or articles • Think about how story affects reader (e.g., Regents pass new budget vs. Tuition hike scheduled in new budget) • Avoid “label” headlines (no verb) News stories should have news leads. Use puns and cute/funny leads with caution: they need to be understandable and not make light of a serious situation. The line between a “good” headline and a “cheesy” headline is often a fine one. Format • PRESENT TENSE • Subject and verb 4 THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK
• Indicate future by using to rather than will (e.g., Obama to appoint new judge) • No period at end • Comma instead of and (e.g., Gas prices rise, going even higher) • The first letter in the first word is the only one that needs to be capitalized Things to keep in mind • Make every word count • Make sure headline says something • Make sure headline is accurate • Watch for libel-‐ don’t convict someone • Don’t command • Don’t sensationalize • Don’t editorialize Photo Cutlines Guidelines • Present tense when possible • Complete sentences • Ties photo to story but should be able to stand alone-‐ can include info not in story • Name people in photos (unless a large group): Identify from left to right • Identities of students should also include major and class standing (Senior, etc) • Don’t state the obvious (pictured here is…, shown in the photo is…
C. Bad Writing Habits of Beginning Journalists By: Tom Pierce, former adviser, professor, copy editor Tampa Bay Times • 1st Person hangup: Subjective editorializing, use of I, we, me, us, our, my, etc., including references to school or campus as “here,” students as “us,” entities of the school as “our.” • Paragraphs too long: Misapplying Freshman Comp techniques of “full development of paragraphs from topic sentences” instead of making a new paragraph of virtually any change of angle or aspect. Worst cases are 200-‐word, single-‐paragraph “stories.” • Too many direct quotes: Story reads like a transcript. Unimportant, casual, mundane utterances are repeated verbatim. Needs to be supplanted with indirect quotes, partial quotes, paraphrasing and summary.
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• Awkward placements of attribution: Frequently at beginning of quote; too often at end of quote; not often enough at break between clauses or phrases in middle of long quote. • Inadequate attribution: Remember, not only do the words of a source need to be attributed, but so do the ideas. Whether it’s indirect quotes, paraphrasing or even summary, you need a “he said,” or “she said.” Don’t let the reader be confused as to the source of this information. • Dependency on single source: Story needs to make it clear to readers that the reporter is not the mouthpiece for propaganda from one person, regardless of how authoritative the person. • Beginning with date/time element: The result, likely, of too many years being trained to head papers, tests, letters, reports, logs, diaries, etc. with the date. • Leaving date/time element out: Just because it shouldn’t come first doesn’t mean it’s not important. Work it into the lead gracefully. • Improper reference to time element: Writer has to remember when the reader will be reading this and phrase accordingly: If within a week, the day of the week, will do; if longer, the date is proper, but the year is seldom necessary or appropriate. Also, use the proper abbreviation for the month and never yesterday or tomorrow, and today only with approval. • Improper 1st & 2nd reference: Use titles and first names only on first reference and then use last names only. (See exceptions in the KSU-‐ specific AP rules.) • Using anonymous or unattributed sources: The pros don’t do it except in very special situations and then only with the editor-‐in-‐chief’s permission. NO SHORTCUTS BY QUOTING FRIENDS (i.e., the golden rule is if they are your Facebook friend you can’t quote them). • Beware of homonyms: words that are pronounced alike but have different meanings such as their, they’re, there/ bore, boar/ four, fore/ liar, lyre/ sane, seine/ rein, reign, rain. • Using incorrect grammar: Just because it’s not for an English class doesn’t mean the rules of standard edited English don’t apply. Look out for disagreement of subjects and verbs, pronouns and antecedents; avoid comma splices, dangling or misplaced modifiers, sexist language, wrong use of apostrophes, sentence fragments, run-‐on sentences, etc. • Failing to identify people named in your story: Is this person a student or a faculty member? Give some kind of ID: Joe Smith… Cindy Curtis, accounting major… Jack Jones, economics professor… Sue Bouchard, secretary. • Using blah, unimaginative leads: Don’t begin a story about a club’s meeting with the fact that they held a meeting -‐ they always do that! What of importance or interest was decided? 6 THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK
• Telling a story in chronological order: Sometimes it’s necessary to explain a complicated series of events, but that would only be after a lead that summarized what had happened and set up the chronological details with something like this several paragraphs after the lead: “Police said the accident happened when Brown’s Taurus blew a tire, crossed the median and struck the Smiths’ southbound Ford Explore. The Explorer then swerved into…” • Failing to follow common journalistic style: Spell out numbers zero through nine but not ages and measurements, abbreviate properly, follow AP spelling preferences, etc. • Overusing one type of lead: Like questions leads or “you” leads or the name of the key person or organization (like KSU). Many textbooks have cliché leads to avoid. • Larding up the copy with “wordfat”: That’s unnecessary, superfluous wordage that weighs down the story and makes it bulky, unattractive and often unclear— all characteristics you don’t want. Here are some types: Look out for them—the cut them out!! EDITORIALIZING- Putting the writer/reporter’s opinion into news and even feature stories where it doesn’t belong; watch out for commenting adjectives, connotative verbs or cheerleading endings. EUPHEMISMS- “Cushion” words and phrases that are supposed to buffer the harsher, grosser, uglier realities of life but don’t: e.g. passed away, terminated, economically depressed area, strategic withdrawal. CLICHÉS- Old, tired out, hackneyed, trite, bromidic, overused, stale, second-hand phrases: old as the hills, dull as dishwater, ugly as sin, whatever, all that, etc. JARGON- Specialized “in” language of a particular group that many of your readers may not understand. If you feel you must use a jargon term, then you must provide a brief explanation. SLANG- Almost always outdated, passé or too informal, too colloquial, too dated, too connotative and sometimes too confusing. REDUNDANCIES- Extra, superfluous words that repeat meaning: completely destroyed, drowned to death, qualified experts, knots per hour, etc. POLYSYLLABOSIS- Overly elegant, erudite, arcane, exotic or esoteric rhetoric. Eschew obfuscation! IRRELEVANT DETAIL- More than the reader needs to know for the purposes of this story INFLATED SYNTAX- Don’t use a paragraph when a sentence will do; don’t use a long, compound or complex sentence when a shorter, simpler sentence will do; don’t use a clause when a phrase will do; don’t use a phrase when a single word will do; don’t use a long word when a short word will do. WRONG STYLE- Not the way magazines would do it. Use the THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK 7
preferences set forth in The AP Stylebook or The Sentinel Stylebook. WHO, WHAT, IT- People are “who”; things are “that”; organization names and team names are singular and take the singular pronoun “it.” Handling Notes and Quotes from an Interview 1. Direct Quotes-‐ You want to use SOME of what the interviewee said verbatim, but only that which is profound, meaningful or exciting. Attribute the quote before, after or in the middle of the quote. If you choose to attribute in the middle of the sentence it must be at a natural break, like between clauses or after a phrase, in a fairly long quote. 2. Partial Quotes-‐ A very good phrase but less than a complete sentence which you “set up” with paraphrasing in your own words but using quote marks to show the exact phrase the person said. Must, of course, be attributed. 3. Indirect Quotes-‐ Close to, but not necessarily, the exact words of the interviewee. Uses no quote marks but often uses relative pronoun that (but it’s not always needed). First person pronouns may need changing to third person. Attribution to speaker still needed. 4. Paraphrasing-‐ Keeping very close to the original words spoken but translated somewhat-‐ perhaps shortened-‐ into clearer, more standard and more understandable phrasing (yours). Still must be attributed. 5. Summary-‐ Condensing and refining the original into a much tighter, briefer, perhaps more abstract and generalized statement-‐ still attributed to the speaker. Concluding advice: Don’t get into a rut and use too many of the same type of presentation of what people say. And always be accurate as to his/her meaning, avoiding subjective interpretation. And always attribute.
Pitfalls of Beginning Journalists
• In reporting o Too few sources o “Wrong” sources o Making it hard for source to contact you o Sloppy interviewing & notetaking o Not recognizing news values, reader interests, manipulation by sources o Procrastinating on assignments, writing o Not getting enough info, background, quotes o Not getting source’s phone number for checkback o Not appreciating “contacts” 8 THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK
o Making promises you can’t keep o Remember that no writer can “promise” a story. The only member of The Sentinel who can say whether a story will run or not is the editor-‐in-‐chief. • In writing o Not staying objective (editorializing) o Being inaccurate o Not attributing almost everything o Weak leads (dull, cliché, confusing, wrong angle) o Awkward quotes (direct and otherwise) o Paragraphs too long o Stories too short o Not in journalistic (AP) style o Committing “wordfat”
AP Style in Brief
Abbreviations • Spell out the names of organizations, companies and colleges/universities on first reference and use the acronym, if it has one, on second and subsequent references. Don’t include the acronym in parentheses after the name. • State names: Spell out state names when they stand alone but abbreviate when accompanied by a city, e.g., Fred lives in Georgia. BUT Fred lives in Atlanta, Ga. o Eight states are NEVER abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Idaho, Maine and Utah. o State abbreviations in AP style are NOT the same as the two-‐ letter postal code abbreviations. o Streets: abbreviate only with numbered addresses: 135 Elm St. BUT He lives on Elm Street. § Never abbreviate road, alley, circle and drive. o Months: abbreviate only with specific date: Jan. 12 BUT January 2008. § Don’t abbreviate March, April, May, June or July. Capitalization • Capitalize the names of holidays, historic events and special events. • Do not capitalize seasons: autumn, spring. • Capitalize recognized geographic regions but not compass points: the Midwest, the North and Southern California BUT He traveled north on I-‐ 85. THE SENTINEL STYLE BOOK 9
Numbers • Spell out numbers one through nine and use figures for 10 and above UNLESS it falls under one of the exceptions. • Ages are ALWAYS figures. • Don’t begin a sentence with a figure; spell out the number or rephrase the sentence so it doesn’t begin with the number: Twenty-‐five people filed claims after the tornado. • Use figures for billion and million: 3 billion, $1 million. • Round off numbers larger than 1 million: 3.65 million rather than 3,653,298. • Use figures with percentages and spell out percent: 6 percent. • Use figures and cents for amounts under a dollar: 75 cents rather than $.75. • Spell out fractions that are less than one and use a hyphen: two-‐thirds. • Dates: use figures, but don’t include th or st: June 1 rather than June 1st. Punctuation • Do not use a comma before the last item in a series: red, white and blue. • Use a hyphen with compound modifiers, i.e., two or more words that express a single concept before a noun: 6-‐year-‐old girl, right-‐to-‐work law, a first-‐quarter touchdown, 6-‐foot-‐tall man. • Use quotation marks to enclose names of books, TV shows, movies, songs, etc. but not the names of newspapers. Time • Use figures and a.m. and p.m.; for whole hours, omit the zeros; 6 p.m. rather than 6:00 p.m. • Use the day of the week (rather than tomorrow/yesterday or the date) if the event is within seven days. • When including a date and a time, put the time first: My plane leaves at 2:30 p.m. March 2. Titles/Names • Capitalize formal titles before a name and check the stylebook for appropriate abbreviations: Director of Student Life Kathy Alday, but lowercase titles after a name: The director of student life, Kathy Alday. • Generally, don’t use courtesy titles such as Mr., Mrs. or Ms. except to avoid confusion. • Identify people by their full name on first reference and by last name only on second and subsequent references.
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KSU-‐specific AP exceptions
• Students should be identified by name, major and year. Majors are capitalized. • President Papp is identified as “President Daniel Papp” on first reference and then “Papp” on subsequent references. • KSU is abbreviated even on first reference. We assume that all readers understand we represent Kennesaw State University. • Department names are capitalized (ex. KSU Department of Mathematics and Statistics). • Semester designations are capitalized (ex. Fall Semester; Fall 2012). • Building names are capitalized (ex. Burruss Building). • Common places around campus are capitalized (ex. Campus Green; Student Center). • MCT articles are referenced as “MCT” on the byline.
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