Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The joy of subs

It's not obvious to me why - possibly because I was a journalist for 13 years - but I tend to be a little touchy when it comes to the use of language. Bad writing makes me angry.

When you are a trainee journalist (or at least - 35 years ago when I was a trainee journalist) you are taught not to make basic errors because your copy goes through a lot of stages before it sees daylight in a newspaper. (Many more than the stages it then goes through to end up wrapped round fish and chips!)

At every stage you are likely to be hauled (verbally) from your desk and bawled out publicly to 'teach you a lesson'.

The copy correction process is called subbing, because it is carried out by sub-editors, known as subs, and everyone who ever worked in newspapers understands that.

Today I read a blog comment about editing a novel and the writer kept using the word 'subbing'. It confused me, because they didn't mean subbing - they meant submitting.  And my subs always used to tell me that if your writing confuses the reader - it's bad.

Do you want to know the really depressing thing? This person is a published author. A 'proper' novelist. Clearly the people at the publishers haven't put them straight on what subbing really is. Perhaps they don't know either, which is deeply disturbing for me because it carries a worrying implication.

Maybe I shall never be a novelist because it seems I don't speak the same language any more.


Sandra Davies said...

Although confident that I am not that author, I do share, to some extent her ignorance about the difference between subbing and submitting, especially if she's fairly new to both terms, as I am to their finer nuances.
I too strongly dislike bad use of language, but where it comes from ignorance I remind myself of how totally ignorant I used to be about the difference between 'printing' and 'printmaking' for example - and now I wax evangelical about it - and DO NOT get me started on 'giclée' prints!!

MorningAJ said...

Oh I agree totally about people just setting out in a business or occupation. That's fine.
No - it wasn't you :) It was someone who has had books released by a publishing house people who manage other published authors. These people should know.

(The only print knowledge I have is web offset - because that's what I needed to know about as a journo. Maybe you should do a post on it. I'd like to learn more!)

Akelamalu said...

Maybe you should put the commenter right? They'd be grateful I'm sure.

snafu said...

Jargon will often confuse the reader. It is not the misuse of jargon, but using it at all that confuses because it will always mean different things to different people.
I used to do 'subbing', which in my industry meant, sub-contracting.

MorningAJ said...

@snafu Is novel writing a different industry from journalism? They're both writing to me and both require (sub) editing.

@Akelamalu I suspect not! ;-)

Ellie said...

I already knew the difference between subbing and submitting (I actually know something!) but must confess it wouldn't bother me if I saw another writer using it out of context. Maybe that's because I'm not a journalist? I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh! Getting the right lingo is important, for sure...though I'm still green enough to stumble into some terminology snafus. ;)

Margo Berendsen said...

Maybe she just made up her own nickname for submitting? Your post also made me thankful for the blogging community of writers, I think we can all help each other (as you just did) by keeping each other informed.