A writer writes, right?

Continuing our series of posts about how Te Ara comes into being, one of our in-house writers writes about writing.

Telling people you are a writer sounds pretentious so I tell them I’m a writer/researcher, which just confuses them. Being a writer for Te Ara involves three main jobs:

  • writing (obviously)
  • checking
  • captioning.

Writing/researching

In The Settled Landscape theme I have written entries on things like rural workers and hunting.  Writing an entry involves researching and then condensing information into plain English pages of around 500 words. The style must be concise and hopefully interesting.

Checking

Entries written by external experts are assigned to in-house writers to check. That is make sure that facts (dates, figures etc) are correct, and that the entry is balanced in terms of the sources that it draws upon.  It can be difficult for external writers as they are not always aware of the scope of their entry. They sometimes stray into areas covered by other Te Ara entries, so in many cases some structural editing is needed.

Writers also write captions for these entries (see below). In The Settled Landscape I have checked entries on topics such as hops, hemp and tobacco and rural clothing.

Fisherman with chiselled jaw

Fisherman with chiselled jaw

Captioning

Writing captions to go with the pictures, videos and other resources that accompany each entry on Te Ara is another task for writers. The word count in captions can be almost as high as the word count of the main entry text, so it is a big part of the job. Some images have plenty of background information with them, but sometimes the image has nothing – not even where or when the image was taken. These often end up having shortish captions! My favourite image in The Settled Landscape is the chiselled jaw of the chap in the picture on the left – he graces a poster advertising fishing for the government tourist department, which is in the Freshwater fishing entry.

On to the editors

All text (entries and captions) go from writers to copy editors, who edit for grammatical errors, readability etc. They remove jargon, repetition, over-writing, flowery language, grand-standing, axe-grinding, barrow-pushing, preaching and scores of other writers’ crimes. They are the readers’ advocates, who get the copy ready for publishing to the web.

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