Subbing and editing / Writing skills

Subbing isn’t just words.

Subbing and proof-reading can often get confused. Both require going through a feature/story/words with a fine toothpick to check everything (including grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure) is correct and makes sense. The difference with subbing is that you take the feature as a whole, as if you were a reader to check absolutely everything is correct. This is a practical skill I learnt on my elective module in my NCTJ – production (subbing and design) which taught me how to ‘sub’ in the real world, with real-life examples. In our exam, we were given a double page feature to sub, and that’s very much one of the jobs I do daily at PTA+ Magazine.

But subbing isn’t just words. It’s everything. Yes you need to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, but are all the web addresses correct? Is it .com or Are the titles capitalised and is this consistent throughout the whole feature, let alone publication? It’s a meticulous attention to detail on every single part of the page, even the page number, to know that it is consistent, fits with the house style and is correct.
Example subbing from The more scribbles, the better!

Example subbing from The more scribbles, the better!

Facts – are the stats correct, did the company actually launch in 2005 or was it 2006? Have they raised £10,000 or £100,000? Sometimes this is a case of checking facts against a company website, not just taken everything written down as a ‘given’ and sometimes even making a call to check the details you have in the feature are correct.

Web addresses – is it .com,,, .net, .org? Checking that websites work, are active, and are taking you to the correct page. Last week with a giveaway, I was checking her website and half the text was in Turkish…

Spelling – obviously this is one of the most important aspects of subbing – no spelling mistakes! There are the ones that might miss out random lettrs, or using ‘compliment’ when it should be ‘complement’… this recently caught me out.

Prices – this is especially important for product pages, advertising a product you recommend for £100 cheaper than it should be won’t go down well. I check against websites and also send to the suppliers for their approval too, you can’t be too cautious!

Capitals – one of my biggest bugbears. Capitals randomly Placed in the Middle of a sentence. Why are you giving that Word a capital? Or when should you use them? Father’s Day is capitalised, but the word in general ‘father’ isn’t.

Grammar – should pre-order be hyphenated or is it one word? Is that sentence too long? Do you need a comma, do you need a semi colon? Why is that random word there?

Design and layout – can you read the writing, or is that bright yellow to painful for the eye? Are any roundels covering up the text? Does the design match the theme of the feature?

And still, the feeling of finding that tiniest mistake is still oddly satisfying, but not spotting it is even worse!


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