Writing for online vs paper

I write on various blogs regularly. (Okay, some aren’t really meant to be blogs, but use blogging software.) You bash out some text, hit Post and you’re done.

Just try writing for a paper medium though. I’ve been putting together the latest PTUA newsletter, which gets posted out on (recycled) paper to members. 7 pages of fun-filled fabulous facts, plus a cover-sheet. It can be an absolute bugger editing it. Once all the articles are in, they have to be arranged into a semi-logical sequence in the newsletter, any corrections done, and laid out so that they fill the pages. I’ve got a nice template working that has a pleasing 3-column format, and often some of the text will need to be trimmed to make it all fit.

At its worst, it can drive me absolutely spare. Many times I’ve been scanning through it, all looking lovely, then I’ll notice a comma or something missing, insert it at the point it’s needed, and the computer will re-arrange the entire page based on that tiny bit of punctuation. The comma makes the last word on that line bounce into the next line; everything else shifts over, and suddenly the last three words of the article have gone over the page, and you’ve got a page-too-many.

Another thing that used to drive me equally crazy was a bug in Microsoft Word that continually changed the page footer. Seriously, I’d change it, close the Footer window, and it’d change back. Thankfully I found a way around that.

Writing blog posts? Luxury. Believe me, typing as much as you like then hitting a button to publish is heaps easier than trying to fit everything onto a page.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Writing for online vs paper”

How long before the PTUA newsletter becomes on-line only? Or is the PTUA’s demographic such that many members are unlikely to have regular internet access?
PS Why doesn’t the Public Transport Users Association give themselves a more jazzy name: e.g. a name that no-one can tell what the group actually does (such as “Movers Victoria” or “Pub Ass Melb”)?

There are ways to get around these problems in the fanzine game.

One is to use a slightly smaller font size in parts of the publication, or make the font slightly narrower.

Another is a small illustration to use up some otherwise blank space.

(Just remember not to save the changed font size in the template document.) Cheers!

Roger: Probably a fair way off. While we have email addresses for some members, there are a lot who (I assume) aren’t computer-literate. Also the newsletter is a lobbying tool as it also goes to industry-types.

The name thing has been discussed recently; although a four-letter acronym is a bit unwieldly, it does accurately describe the organisation, and after seeing the trains run under five different names over the past couple of decades (VicRail, The Met, Bayside Trains, M-Train, Connex) I think a lot of people are a little tired of renaming things. (PTUA’s name has also outlasted most other names in the PT industry).

Michael: yeah I know, and I certainly use these methods. Things like the missing comma tend to happen right at the last minute though, and often on a page with no picture that can be shrunk to compensate.


You’re not alone in having those problems. They even inflict themselves on “professional” typesetters. Just carefully read your regular newspaper. You’ll soon notice many instances where articles have suffered inexplicable truncations, mis-spellings or omissions of words. And you can see, when you find such things, that if the word or words mysteriously modified had, in fact, *not* been modified, the newspaper article would not have fitted into the column space allowed.

I’m still not sure whether a human typesetter is the culprit in such cases or whether the typesetting software being used is “intelligent” enough to do the “mysterious modifications” off its own bat!

Seven pages, Daniel, you have it easy. I am the editor of Big Rigs newspaper, and the motoring and motorsport editor for the Queensland Times group of newspapers.
This equates to about 20 pages each week of content and photographs to be written, edited and page fitted.
One suggestion: Get a real pagination package like Quark or InDesign, then you can set each page independently, then as was suggested by another contributor, play with font size and headlines to get it all in.


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