I have written this post to set out some language for one or two future posts I will be producing. One thing I find is that there are many words for the same thing and this multiplies when including UK and UK usage. I make no claims for being definitive but it is useful to set out what I mean when I use certain terms with regards a feature layout.
Do feel free to add / suggest / critique.
The eight elements of a feature layout
Without further ado:
- Title: everything needs one of these. It should grab attention and encourage a reader to want to read the feature (also known as the headline or head)
- Standfirst: this is the piece between the title and the actual feature. It should outline the approach that the article takes and re-affirm the reader’s interest before they read on. (Also known as stand first, rider, kicker, bank head(line) or subhead)
- Nub paragraph: this is the heart of the contract between writer and reader. It is here that the reader learns why they want to read the rest of the piece. Often it answers the question What’s in it for me? It is easy, if you aren’t aware, to just write and you will find that readers (and editors) lose interest. No nub, no feature!
- Subheadings: this shows the logical organisation of your feature. People like to take in information in chunks — subheadings signpost the way through to the end
- Pull quotes: these are the nuggets of golden prose (did you see what I did there?!) that a sub-editor can lift out to highlight elements of the feature without giving away the whole piece. A sub-editor will use these both in the spread itself or even earlier in a magazine to draw the reader’s attention in the contents spread (or pullquote, pull-quote or lift out)
I’m a pull quote
- Pictures: whenever used these should have a caption. Pictures grab attention — when you’ve got that use it
- Sidebar: this not only breaks up the spread but also allows you to place some extra detail (eg a timeline) that adds to the article but cannot be easily placed within as it would break the flow of the narrative
- Conclusion: make sure that the end of your article is the end and not just the place where the writing stopped. Get to a place that the reader will recognise as being a destination. If you are following the diamond structure make sure this ties back to the nub
The ninth element of a feature layout
Astute readers will have spotted a missing ninth element, which is everything not included in elements 1 – 8. This is of course most of the text and is generally known as the body (or the copy). This article, then, is a bit like a murder mystery where the body was hidden in sight all the time!
I will be using these feature layout terms in future posts. Do feel free to suggest ways this could be improved and also your own words for some of these terms — regional variations are particularly interesting.