A By-No-Means-Exhaustive FreelanceWhen I was getting started as a freelance writer, an editor returned a query to me with a nice rejection note that suggested I pitch her an FOB.

Uh, OK.

What’s an “FOB”?

Demystifying the lingo of freelancing

Like many professions, journalism and marketing writing have a lingo all their own. It occurs to me perhaps many of you are just starting out as freelancers and have no idea what the various acronyms and misspelled words (seriously!) mean. Here is my by-no-means-exhaustive list of terms to help you navigate the freelance waters.

Byline: Literally the “by” line; your name published as the author of an article, such as “5 Ways to Mend Socks by Hannah Winthrop

Clips: Your writing samples

CMS: “Content Management System;” refers to the software your client uses to manage their content production. WordPress is an example of a CMS.

Content: new media term that encompasses a broad range of articles, social media postings and other online communications; often produced by corporate marcomm departments

Dek: Refers to the “deck,” which is a brief (often two- to three-sentence summary of what your articles is about) that can appear in the TOC (table of contents) of the magazine. Example: “TK Ways to Mend Socks” – When Margaret Johnson got sick of buying socks for her teenage boys, she devised TK clever, cost-saving ways to mend these essential garments. Check out her tips.

Evergreen: Refers to content that maintains its relevance even with the passing of time; an article on how to wash windows isn’t likely to change much from one year to the next

FOB: Front-of-book – generally a short, newsy item that runs in one of the sections in the front of a magazine

Graf: Short for “paragraph”

Hed: Means the “headline” of your story

Kill fee: A token sum of money offered in payment for your time when the publication cannot use your completed story for some reason; often the kill fee is stated in contracts as a percentage of the fee offered for the completed article

Lede: Means “lead,” which means the first sentence of your story

Marcom (also marcomm): abbreviation of “marketing communications”

NDA: Non-disclosure agreement; portion of a contract (or a standalone document) that restricts your right to discuss certain things related to the writing project

Nut graf: The paragraph of a feature story that explains the news value of the story; often the ‘nut graph’ is the third paragraph of a feature, but not always.

On spec: Means “on speculation,” which refers to producing an article before being offered a contract so the editor can assess your writing skills before actually assigning to you; writers should avoid producing content on spec

Sidebar: Brief article or column of information that supplements your main article and usually runs in a box at the side of your main piece in a magazine

TK: Editorial shorthand for “to come,” used like: “TK Ways to Mend Socks,” wherein the TK represents a number that could range from 1 to 100

Well: Refers to the part of a magazine (usually the middle portion) that contains feature stories; the well comes after the FOB section

The News Manual offers a very detailed glossary of journalism terms. And for my friends in the UK, check out the Journalism Glossary Wiki offered by journalism.co.uk.

What journalism or content writing terms confuse you? Which obvious ones did I miss? Please share in the comments, and I’ll update this list!

Wishing you well,