Writers’ Guidelines: Decoding the Jargon — Cracking the Code in “Writers’ Shorthand”
Guidelines for pitching a publication can be perplexing — what does it all mean?
When I began writing articles for magazines in 2011, reading thes guidelines were a challenge.
Codes such as clips, query, SASE, on spec, kill fee, and even pitch, just to name a few, were foreign to me.
Since 2020, when everything was shutdown, and some jobs had to be performed remotely, new writers cropped-up, and seasoned content creators upped their game to stay ahead of the onslaught of competition.
When I read some of the tips and cues editors were posting within their writing and submission guidelines during the COVID shutdown, I knew there was confusion on the part of writers understanding the jargon.
So, here’s a list of basic freelance writing terms that will keep you in the loop, the next time you prospect for writing projects:
- Byline — name of the author on a published article
- Clips — freelance writer’s published articles or writing samples
- Features — stories that can be found in the main section of a newspaper
- FOB — abbreviation for front-of-book — when submitting a query for magazines, articles can be written for specific sections of the publication, preferably the FOB
- Kill Fee — payment for a canceled article paid to the writer/author
- Masthead — front inside cover of a magazine, which provides the editor-in-chief’s name, a letter from the editor, circulation, staff, writers, and reporters
- On Spec — abbreviation for speculation — an article submitted to an editor for review without any guarantee it will be purchased and published
- Pitch — main purpose of a query — a summary of an idea a writer plans to develop as a complete article, to submit to an editor when prospecting for work
- Pub — abbreviation for publication, which can be a magazine, newspaper, trade journal, or any distribution of copies of published works
- Query — one- or two-page letter submitted to a magazine editor, book publisher, or a newspaper editor to promote an article or an idea, with the hope of gaining the publisher’s or editor’s interest
- SASE — abbreviation for self-addressed stamped envelope — required by some editors and publishers, if the writer wants a query response.
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