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Dummy sheets and copy control
(Based on a lecture by Ross Collins, associate professor of communication, North Dakota State University)
Watch a video demonstration! Dummy sheets for editors.
We all know that the concept of placing photos, illustrations and stories on a page is important, and more than just a mechanical process. The way articles are displayed, their size, and their headlines tell readers the importance you are giving to each story. Bigger, more prominently placed equals more important. Smaller, less prominently placed equals less important. Who has not at times looked at a publication and said, "of course, they put that story on page 18Z at the bottom--they are biased against that topic." Or "of course that's a big story, and a big headline, right on the cover, because they are obsessed with that topic."
That's why the process of placing elements on a page involves decisions made by editors. Normally editors are responsible for certain sections of a large publication. In a newspaper, for instance, a "wire editor" may be responsible for choice and placement of national and international news, which comes over the wire (well, now computer) news services. A sports editor will be responsible for sport pages. An editorial page editor will be responsible for editorial pages, etc.
This involves important choices, as well as a knowledge of the mechanical way a publication gets made, and the operation of the publication that makes sure everything gets done correctly, and on time. Most publications of any size have a standardized, routinized, never-vary set of guidelines for the mechanical process of placing elements on a page. Why? Well, for the same reasons that a pilot has a chart of routine checks before taking off, which must be followed in order, and must never vary. It guarantees you won't forget something important.
In the publication business, a haphazard operation will likely mean all kinds of embarrassing mistakes creep into a publication: stories published twice, photos mislabeled, headlines under wrong stories, parts of stories cut off, wrong dates, missing page numbers, big blocks of white space, etc. The process publications use to place elements on a page is called page make-up (usually based on an overall design). The process editors use to guide the placement, however, is often called dummying. That is, on many larger publications, an editor will guide placement of stories, but someone else, often called a compositor, or perhaps graphic designer, will actually put the stories on the pages.
How does the editor do this? By making a sort of chart to show what he or she wants to put on each page. On that chart, or "dummy sheet," the editor indicates where each article, headline, photo, graphic etc. should be placed, and how much room each will take up.
Dummy sheets are usually small versions of an entire page, although they may be full-size versions of a small publication, such as a magazine. The sheet is divided by grid lines. What is a grid? Simply a set of non-printing lines that help editors and designers guide placement of elements. We talked about column widths already, writing headlines to fit one column, two columns, etc., or a photo to fit such widths. What we are talking about, actually, are guides, standard sizes of columns for a publication.
For instance, many magazines and newsletters publish on eight-and-one-half-by-eleven-inch paper, and have a three-column grid.
Your elements fit across one or more of these column divisions, and your copy goes down the divisions, column by column
Tabloid-sized newspapers often use 5-col grids; broadsheet newspapers often use 6-col grids.
Your choice of grid usually already has been made for you, as editor, by a designer for your publication, to fit an overall design concept. Generally grids are chosen...
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