Hed, dek, graf, lede and so on

It's a custom on some publications to write 'hed' instead of 'head' or 'headline', 'graf' instead of 'paragraph', 'dek' instead of 'deck', and so on. Not in the copy itself, of course, but in notes for the production staff and when labelling up copy.

I've read that the deliberate misspellings are to make sure that these words don't get mistaken for copy and accidentally printed.

We don't use 'hed', 'graf' and so forth on our publications – perhaps it's only a US custom and not a UK one. (Having said that, I've never worked for one of the big papers here in the UK, so I can't really say either way.)

Instead, what we do when labelling up copy or introducing notes into copy is to use [SQUARE BRACKETS AND ALL CAPS]. For example:


This is the headline

And this is the slightly longer standfirst...

These [SQUARE BRACKETS AND CAPS] really jump out at you and are very unlikely to sneak into print. It hasn't happened in the three years I've worked for the company, anyway.

And yes – we use 'standfirst' rather than 'deck'. I assume they are similar. I've also heard them referred to by freelancers as an 'intro'.

On our publications, we don't have an equivalent term for another common journalise misspelling: 'lede' (the leading sentence in a story). And we use 'lead' to refer to the main story on a page or spread.

If anyone could shed any more light on the 'hed, dek, graf, lede' practice I would be grateful. I'd also like to hear what production staff do on other publications.

And here are some interesting links I've found:


Sir Compton Valence said...

I see it sometimes when I open stories to work on them. One the other day on a thing about the Archbish of Canterbury said something like: "Rowan heddy in here two lines 48pt upper and lower wxys" The descender is there to check white space, although the paper I work for now has standardised spacing under headlines, which is far superior to having a designer or a page sub eye-balling it and nudging the lines up or down by a couple of pts.

It isn't foolproof though and the Express a few years ago sent a oped page with two lines of "120pt plac bold in here please" where the headline should have been. Why this happens I do not know. We all miss things, ignore the spell checker etc, but it takes a special sort of stress to wave that through.

My two golden rules: Never send anything without seeing the proof; make sure other people see it too. People, not one person.

Even then there are mess-ups, and I live in terror of them.

Clare said...

I've never seen hed or graf, but our reporters write (crrt) or (korrect) in the copy to show they have checked certain names:

Mr Jahn Smythe (korrect) of Landon Park (korrect) claims...

One of our papers once came out with 'heading heading heading' for a headline: the chief sub was reduced to mortified tears.

I mash the keyboard to get a 'gfas jghj ggghy' heading for design purposes -- it would be hard to mistake that for real words. I've seen 'xhy' used to test white space, but those keys are too far apart for lazy me!

JD (The Engine Room) said...

Thanks for that, both of you.

On my publications we don't use (correct), (korrect), (checked) or anything like that – the writers are under strict instructions to make sure that the first use of any name is correct.

Anything too unusual, and the subs will query it though.