Cross head 04-07-03


Sub-editors are never likely to feature in a GQ or Vogue fashion spread. For most us, every day is dress-down Friday. An unlucky few work on papers where a collar and tie is required, but as a ruleÉ there are no rules. We only interact with other sad, office-bound souls, so casual is key. Trouble is, British men can’t do casual, especially not in the summer. The results are distressing, with a daily display of misshapen legs poking out of khaki shorts. For freelances, the policy can be: first shift – tweed jacket, crisp, ironed shirt and chinos; second shift – dirty Slipknot T-shirt, jeans (ripped), tongue stud and exposed tattoo. Should this bother a chief sub? Depends where the tattoo is.


Most articles and programmes marking the centenary of George Orwell’s birth have tended to focus on his life and novels. But one shouldn’t forget his essay Politics and the English Language, which contains his six elementary rules for writing. Nearly 60 years on, subs could do worse than memorise them.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.


In years to come, will we look back on this as the week Henman finally did it (note to subs: please rewrite if tosser Tim presses self-destruct button again) or the beginning of the end for QuarkXPress? The defection of The Guardian and Observer titles to InDesign will surely influence others facing the “big decision”. One outcome may be that Quark will cut the cost of version 6 to stay competitive, especially after it was revealed it was on sale in the US at a lower price. With The Guardian following the Telegraph titles, NatMags and Reed in moving to InDesign, the need for freelances to retrain gets ever more urgent. It is rumoured Reed is to retrain its freelances. But is it worth paying for it? A day’s training will set you back around £300, based on ads on the web. One freelance said this week: “I’ll spend my money when I hear News International or Trinity Mirror has gone to InDesign.” The way things are going, he may not have long to wait. n

Cross Head returns in two weeks lNext week: Dr Deadline

No comments to display

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *