Definition of a Graf in Journalism, and Other Common Terms

Graf (AKA, the Paragraph)

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Those new to the world of journalism will soon learn that the word "graf," which to the uneducated ear sounds like a mistake (i.e., gaff ) is, in newsroom parlance, the industry term for a paragraph. The term graf is usually tossed around by editors and is either written in the margins of a pending story or it can be used verbally.

Graf is part of a general editorial shorthand that editors at newspapers, magazines, and other written publications use very often.

For example, an editor (whether a newsroom editor or not) might tell you to fix your first graf. Or, an editor might write the word graf on the pages of a story you're writing to reference a paragraph he or she wants you to work on.

Although the word is used in abundance, because the term is slang, it is not a word that would be used in a sentence. It would, most often, appear on the draft of a story.

Other Common Journalism Terms

  • Slug - A line of type that is set in metal on a what is called a Linotype machine. Also, the one-word title given to an article as it moves through the editing and design process. 
  • Above the fold - Used in reference to a broadsheet newspaper folded in half for display. The top half of the page, above the fold, is considered the most important part of the paper from a readership (and consequently advertising) standpoint. Reporters, in general, aim to have their stories printed on the front page, above the fold.
  • Point size - Size of the type face.
  • Advance - A story outlining a future event. 
  • Pasteup - This process consists of assembling multiple pages by pasting type onto (page) mock-ups, which are then photographed and made into metal plates for printing. Originally, all print publications were assembled this way. Today, most publications are designed on computers.
  • Pica pole - A metal ruler used by printers in the composing room to measure type by picas. There are 12 points to a pica and six picas equal an inch. The actual pica pole is pounded against a metal surface in the age-old ritual of banging to denote an employee leaving the premises for the last time.
  • Wires - Stories or photographs sent electrically to your computer or mobile device.
  • Transparency — In the world of news and information, this term refers to openness about information. In many cases, it is used to refer to the transparency of government agencies releasing information to journalists and to the public. It is also used in the context of journalists being open about their reporting process (and the material they have) by sharing it with readers before the final report. 
  • Tick-tock - A step-by-step account of how a particular event occurred.
  • 30 - A numeral indicating the conclusion of a story.
  • Stet - Derived from Latin, it means Let it Stand, as in, let the original copy go as written. This is often the hardest word for a copy editor to use with a journalist eager to do a re-write.
  • Run - To publish a story.
  • Retraction - A withdrawal of a previously-published story or fact. 

  • Revision - A rewritten or improved story, often with additional quotes or facts.