‘Miniatures’ of my lectures on Sub-Editing

Note: It is impossible to learn editing just by studying theory because it is a practical job. Hence, it is necessary to work in a professional newsroom environment to learn how to edit news material, in addition to studying theory. This art can be mastered through practical exercises.


Newsroom and its news feeding channels:

A newsroom at any news organization is considered a central control room because it receives news material from a number of sources:

These sources include: staff reporters/district correspondents, special correspondents, stringers, freelancers, photographers and news agencies. Sometimes some journalists are assigned the task of “media monitoring” that also becomes a channel of news for a newsroom. Some other channels are press releases of various organisations and political parties, press conferences from press clubs, etc.



Quotes are the spoken words of any source, put in inverted commas in a news story.

Quotes reduce the risk of misreporting and make the language lively.

Quotes should be used to note important points from a speech. For example, one should not use quotes to state simple facts or the obvious things.

Also, never start a news story with a quote, meaning that a quote cannot be a substitute for an intro or lede.

Also, leave out fillers in quotes.

Remember that quotes are muscles of a story. 🙂


Sources in journalism:

A source is anyone or anything that gives you timely information for a news story.

It is not possible for journalists to cover each and every story. Hence, they have to rely on various sources.

Types: Reporters (journalist colleagues), primary sources (anyone at the centre of an event), secondary sources (those who are not at the cenre of an event but who pass on information to media or journalists), written sources (like research papers, articles, etc), leaked documents, etc.



Attribution means telling your readers where information in your news story comes from.

There are three categories:

One the record attribution where a reporter can identify a source and also use his/her information in story.

Non-attributable: Sometimes a source gives you information but wishes to remain anonymous.

Off-the-record: When a source gives you information but asks you not to use their name, nor their information.


News agencies:

A news agency is an organisation that gathers news stories and photos and sell them to subscribing organisations, such as TVs, radios and newspapers.

Examples of some Pakistani news agencies are Associated Press of Pakistan (APP, which is a government-owned organisation), Independent News Pakistan (INP), Online and Pakistan Press International (PPI).

Famous international news agencies are Agency France Press (AFP, of France), Associated Press (AP) of the US and Reuters of the UK.

Their subscribers include newspapers, TV channels, radio stations, magazines, intelligence agencies, etc.


Purposes of news photos and caption writing:

There are several purposes, for instance: to tell the news, to brighten a newspaper or magazine page and to show what an incident actually looks like. Captions: Captions are descriptions of photographs in various publications. A caption should include all details about a picture. We usually use present tense in caption writing.



Photojournalism is the process of communicating news through images and photographs in newspapers and magazines.

A few ethics:

Always take photographs in a natural settings.

Do not pay sources.

Do not accept gifts, money from people.

Avoid graphic images showing violence.

Do not manipulate photos.

Remember: A picture is worth a thousand words. 🙂


Feature writing, some basics:

We can define a feature story as a dramatised form of a news. While in an ordinary news story starts from the basic facts (5Ws and 1H in intro), a writer tries to engage the readers in the intro of a feature story and does not give the 5Ws and 1H in the first para.

Feature stories are in fact called soft news, while the ordinary news stories are known as hard news.

An important difference is that a feature story is not time-bound while a news story is time-dependent.

In short, a feature is a human interest story that appeals to emotions of readers.

Note: Those who wish to improve feature writing can attend my classes wherein I offer practical exercises and examples to learn feature writing since it’s more practical than theory. 🙂


Proofreading and its symbols:

Proofreading is the process of reading any text again in order to put right any grammatical or other errors.

Proofreading is done in the stories that are already edited by sub-editors in a newspaper office.

Mostly the editing and proofing symbols are the same but the difference is their usage: editing symbols are put within text of stories while proofreading symbols are inserted in margins of a page (outside the text).


Journalistic terminologies:

Journalistic terminologies are terms that are widely used in the field of journalism. One may call them the language of the newsrooms. Following are a few of them:

Headline: A line of collection of lines that summarize any news story and given on the top of it.

Sub-head: The secondary headlines, maybe one or more than one line, that further clarify a story just under the main headline.

By-line: The name of the reporter in a news story just right under the headline or sub-headline is called by-line.

Dateline: The place where the story has been filed from.

Lede or intro: The first paragraph, which carries the main theme of a news story, ie 5Ws (what, where, when, who and why) and 1H (how), about any event.

Quote: A quote in a news story are the exact  words said by any source of speaker, put in inverted commas.

Ad: It stands for advertisement, which is published in various print publications for commercial purposes. Advertisements are lifeline of a newspaper that help newspapers earn money.

Advertorial: An advertorial is an advertisement written in the form of news. But an advertorial should be distinguished from other news stories in a newspaper by placing it in a box and writing the words “Advertorial” on it.

Press conference: It can be defined as an interview given to journalists by someone in order to make an announcement or demand and later answer questions of the media representatives.

Press release: A statement issued to media by an organisation for the purpose of letting the public know of any of its events/development.

Handout: An official statement issued to media to highlight what is taking place in various government departments.

There are hundreds of terms. A book titled “Of Journalism” authored by Mr Inamur Rehman Pushkalavati, details many of them. This book also has some topics on journalism history and media theories.


Page Make-Up:

In journalism, page make-up means designing of a publication’s page, such as placing stories, headlines, pictures, advertisements, etc on it.


Purposes of the page make-up:

1. It is a tool to display news stories as per their importance.

2. It increases readability of newspaper contents.

3. It gives an attractive look to a newspaper.

4. It gives a newspaper a distinctive appearance or identity.



Rewriting means writing a text/material again in your own words in a different way. In journalism, rewriting rearrangement of information in a story already filed in a new format and order.

Procedure for rewriting:

1. First read a story, which is to be rewritten, from beginning till end.

2. Identify important pointsfor intro.

3. Follow the intro by the rest of information in a logical sequence.


Lecture on 1 March, 2015

Discuss translation and its procedure?

Answer: Translation means conversion of text from one language into another. It is also defined the communication of meaning of a source language by means of a target language.

Procedure: If you are translating an entire story, following are some simple steps:

Read entire story to get its main theme.

Do the draft translation, but you should keep in mind that you translate meaning, not words, of the text.

Then proofread the translated story without even looking at the source story to check any errors of grammar, style, facts and figures, paras, etc.

And in the last, you should compare your translated story with the source story to ensure accuracy.

Translation during news gathering: While getting information, one should take notes in source language and later translate it into another language to ensure accuracy. Because you may write something wrong if you are taking notes by translating them at the time of an interview.


Prerequisites of editing:

A sub-editor should have certain qualities to do his/her job. In other words, there are several prerequisites of editing. Let us mention some of them:

Language: A sub-editor must have a good command of the language in which he renders his journalistic responsibilities.

News sense: A subeditor is the first reader of a reporter’s copy. He should be able to bring most important information to the first para, called lead or intro, in the story and the edit the rest of story. He should also be able to decide which stories are important and which ones are least important.

Clarity: A sub-editor should write in clear and simple language and avoid difficult words.

Objectivity: There should be no personal bias towards anything/anyone. There should be balance in stories and a news story should have version of all parties, not just one-sided report.

Accuracy: There should be accuracy in reports in terms of facts and figures and language. If something is not clear, it should be confirmed or deleted.

Speed: Working in newsroom means you have to develop speed. While you work on/edit a story, several other news arrive. So you have to ensure speedy work to handle all material.

Punctuality: One must be punctual if they want to achieve deadlines for production of newspaper pages. If someone is not punctual and start work late, they may miss the deadline of their concerned page and it may affect newspaper circulation the next day.

Imagination: It means that a sub-editor gives creative headlines to stories that attract the readers. Creative  faculty can add sparkle to a news story.

Scepticism: Sometimes fake stories are planted. It means an editor or sub-editor should not let go something into the news columns that should actually go as advertisement.

Alertness: The staff of desk or newsroom should also be alert while working so that readers do not see mistakes of grammar or facts and figures in the newspaper the next morning.


Who is a sub-editor, what about his responsibilities?

A sub-editor, who is also known as a copy editor in the United States, is termed as “gatekeeper”. He or she is called a gatekeeper because he selects news material for media coverage.

Some of his/her functions are:

Language improvement: It is must for someone to have a good command of the language in order to edit news material. Be careful about those errors of grammar, spellings, punctuation, sentence structure, etc !

Deletion of repetition:  Delete or replace the words that have been repeated in a story. In fact, the job of an editor is to ensure that readers see a story in lesser time and little effort.

Captions for photos: It is also his responsibility to write captions for stories, to illustrate what is going on on a scene.

Headlining: Headlining the stories is a must for a subeditor. If one cannot headline stories, they cannot qualify to be given the job.

Fairness in controversy: The job of an editor is to ensure balance in news stories. If a story mentions serious allegations about someone, such as an official or political leader, the journalist has to get a version/comment on the issue from that particular person.

Consistency: It is also important to be consistent with style guide of the media organisation and other matters.

Race and religion: Being touchy subjects, the stories about race and religion need careful handling. An editor must neutralise stories  so that sentiments of any race or followers of any religion are not hurt.


News values:

News values are elements that determine the newsworthiness of any report or event.

Following are some of the news values:

Timeliness: News need to be fresh, like fruit and vegetables. The more an event is fresh/recent, the more its news value.

Prominence: If any prominent persons, like political leader or famous sportsman is involved in a report, it also has a news value.

Proximity: It means the more an event is closer to the readers/audience, the more important it is for media.

Conflict: Normal routine is not news, but if there arises a conflict, then it becomes a news. For example, clash between student unions at a university, war between two countries, etc.

Oddity: If something is unusual, ie a breakup in the everyday chain of events, it becomes news. Do publish/broadcast a report through your media organisation if it concerns, for example, a sportsman making a world record.

Impact: If there is a report about an event that affects a large number of people, you need to carry that in your media coverage. Say, for instance, a disease that has broken out in the city and affecting many people.


Define headline? What are conventions/rules for writing headlines and also discuss their purposes.

Answer: In the field of journalism, a headline refers to a title of a news story and set in large type/fonts. We can also define headline as a line or collection of lines given on top of news and feature stories to mention the main theme of each piece of writing.

Purposes of headlines:  

There are several purposes of headlines:

  1. Headlines help readers to glance through a newspaper page and get a quick summary of the news of the day.
  2. Headlines help editors organise news material as per significance.

3. Consistent use of headlines in familiar typefaces help newspapers and magazines achieve and maintain distinction among their contemporaries.


Editing marks:

Editing symbols are instructions in the forms of notations that suggest what changes should be made to the text and where precisely to make those changes.

Let us see some of the editing marks that are usually used:



editing marks3

editing marks


Style guide:

A style guide, also known as style manual, is defined as a set of standards for editors and writers.

All publications, including newspapers and magazines, have their own style guides. The guide contains rules and examples of spellings, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, etc so that writers and editors file news stories/features in keeping with one and the same style.

Salient features of a style guide:

Style rules are easy to understand and become easier to use with practice.

A style manual, for example, contains rules on capitalisation, ie which words to capitalize and which ones to be used in lower case.

Abbreviations are also discussed to make clear which abbreviations to use and whether to use capital letters or small letters. For examples, some publications use all caps, for example FATA while some use just first alphabet capital, ie Fata. There is a rule that an abbreviation that can be pronounce as a word can be written with just first alphabet capital. For example, some papers may write “WAPDA” and some others may write “Wapda”. However common abbreviations, which are not acronyms, are written in all capital letters, such as UN, US or ANP (Awami National Party).

Another rule, for instance, is for numbers, which are written in words from one to nine and in digits from 10 onwards. Eg: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11….

A style guide also mentions rules for punctuation, like comma, hyphen, quotation mark, full stop, etc.

In short, a style guide varies from organisation to organisation and it is must for any publication to ensure consistency in writing.



In journalism, sub-editing means to edit, correct and prepare material for publication.

Editing refers to the process of preparing language, images, sounds, videos or films through correction, condensation, organization and other modification in media.

The process of editing also includes formatting the text, writing captions for photos and headlines for stories and supervising page designing.


Fine editing is a quality of a good newspaper. The quality and reputation of any newspaper or magazine depends on quality of its editing and capability of editors and sub-editors.

Careful editing may increase circulation of a publication while readers are likely to lose respect for the paper that often has errors and grammatical mistakes.



16 thoughts on “‘Miniatures’ of my lectures on Sub-Editing

    1. My pleasure, dear. I just noted that I have not put some lectures there. I am going to write the recent two or three lectures as well. 🙂

    1. Sana, pls see the 10 questions under heading “Assignment-2 for final term” on this page above. These 10 questions are of assignment 2, ie the final term questions that you are going to do tomorrow.

  1. thanks sir these notes are more easy to understand and hope that paper will be easy for me infact for all of us inshallah. 🙂

    1. In sha Allah, paper will be easy. It will be strange if paper is not easy despite availability of these notes 😦 . Also, try to write answers in detail: use notes but also the points that we discuss in detail in the classes. 🙂

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