Archives: editing

Victor Navasky and the power of opinion

February 4, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

From the end of World War II to the present, the American political left has had many writers of depth and eloquence to espouse progressive ideas and to rail against those who, for instance, have restricted civil rights and promoted the war in Vietnam. None wrote with more depth and eloquence—and whenever possible a touch • Read More »

Good advice for editors from Jane Friedman

March 10, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing, journalism, writing.

One of my favorite people from the world of independent publishing is Jane Friedman, a wide-ranging consultant and author of the weekly newsletter Electric Speed, which is consistently full of good tips and advice. The introduction to her newsletter this week struck me as especially enlightening. It’s a special message to those who would be • Read More »

Author: I didn’t want to resort to self-publishing, but it’s an exhilarating change

February 24, 2016 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, editing, writers, writing.

Louise Walters: My debut novel did very well with conventional publishers, but they weren’t interested in the ‘difficult second’ – so I’m going it alone Source: I didn’t want to resort to self-publishing, but it’s an exhilarating change Louise Walters describes what it’s like to have a second novel turned down after success with a • Read More »

Headline writing for the web

May 21, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing, headlines.

Some of the most important words a journalist will write for the web are the headline. A headline has always been very important for print media. It is vitally important for the web. Because headlines appear in lists as links rather than with the body of the story, they are the reader’s first introduction to a story. If they do not sell the reader immediately, the reader is unlikely to click on the link to go to the story.

Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation and Diction study guide

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

When I taught at the University of Alabama, I would give a 100-question grammar, spelling, punctuation and diction exam to beginning writing students. The test was a difficult one, but students had to make at least a 75 on the exam to pass the beginning writing course offered by the College of Communication and Information Sciences. That exam is not available on this web site, but the study guide developed for it is. This is an excellent primer on the basic grammar and spelling rules and concepts that a student should know.

Dates for the journalist

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

Even if history teachers have stopped making students memorize dates, journalism teachers shouldn’t. Dates are important for a full understanding of events, and students should have precise knowledge of the important events in American and world history. The list of dates on this web site, adapted from The Complete Editor, is a good place for the student to begin acquiring this knowledge. Once the students have studied this list, they will be ready to tackle the two crossword puzzles contained on this site. You can download these puzzles as HTML or PDF files. (Posted Jan. 10, 2005)

Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses by Mark Twain

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

The Pathfinder and The Deerslayer stand at the head of Cooper’s novels as artistic creations. There are others of his works which contain parts as perfect as are to be found in these, and scenes even more thrilling. Not one can be compared with either of them as a finished whole.

Mark Twain takes aim

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

In a famous 1895 essay, Mark Twain delivered a stinging critique of one of America’s 19th century literary icons, James Fennimore Cooper. Twain was very much a modern writer, advocating active, descriptive verbs and short rather than long words. His essay is worth reading, not necessarily for what it says about Cooper, but for what it says about writing itself.

Editor dilemmas

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

George Daniels, my friend and colleague at the University of Alabama, has developed an excellent exercise on some of the management dilemmas that editors face in dealing with reporters. The exercise is based on some of the guidelines that editors should use in building their relationships with reporters that are outlined in Chapter 12 of Journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. These dilemmas are designed to get students to think about the dual roles editors have as keepers of the journalistic culture and as managers of people. (Posted Feb. 2, 2005)

Discussion notes: accuracy

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

The first lesson that beginning journalism students should learn is they are obligated to present accurate information to their audience. Many of the procedures of journalism are directed toward achieving accuracy. Editing students need to be reminded of this goal, too. It is the editor’s job to ensure accuracy. This web site contains a set lecture/discussion notes that I use for my editing class when talking with them about accuracy and how to achieve it.

Discussion notes: attacking wordiness

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

Most of the editing students I have taught over the last three decades share this trait: they are reluctant to change anything in an editing exercise, even when it is obviously wrong. Getting them to where they will correct grammar, spelling and style errors in the first step. But to be good editors, of course, they must go far beyond this. They must learn to recognize and attack wordiness – the heart disease of good writing. Here are some lecture/discussion notes about what to tell editing students about wordiness – how to recognize the symptoms and cure the disease.

Discussion notes: Responsibilities of the editor

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

Getting your editing students in the right frame of mind to become editors is a challenge for any editing teacher. has a set of discussion notes that contain many of the points you might want to make with your students at the beginning of an editing class. Above all, students should be taught that editors are the people who make decisions about the entire publication or web site, and they have to take responsibility for what is included in the publication. A reporter’s mistake becomes their mistake if they do not take steps to correct it.

Editing for the web: example 1 illustration

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

This page shows a version of editing assignment 1 where the editor has tried to follow the instructions in the assignment. What are some of the obvious differences that you can spot immediately between the original and edited versions? What are some of the less obvious differences? Is there anything else or different that the editor might have done with this story?

Editing for the web: example 1

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

Let’s say you’ve decided that the web is a different medium than print (you’re right, it is!) and that you want to do more than simply shovel stories written for print onto your web site.

Discussion notes: editing for the web

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

Do you need to talk with your editing students about the special considerations of editing for the web? Do you need to get your online journalism students up to speed as editors? has put together some discussion notes that you can use to introduce your editors to some of the things they will need to thing about in editing for the web, things such as linking, wordiness, chunking, pull quotes and other devices.

New York Times coverage of Obama’s speech – a different reporting form

March 2, 2009 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing, reporting, web journalism.

The New York Times used the tools of the web to bring the story of Barack Obama’s speech to Congress last week in a different and innovative way. The web offers journalists many opportunities to report on events in ways that we never could have done with another medium. Witness the New York Times coverage • Read More »