22 June 2015


Agitprop, Part 1a

Additive and Subtractive


All writing is edited. If it was not, it could not be constrained to fit the space available, which is always limited in some way. The time that readers have for reading is also limited.

Usually editing means in the first place selection. Editors pick, from a very wide field, a much smaller and limited amount of material. The criterion for selection may be political, or some other quality, like a special interest of a group of readers, or a sectional appeal such as to women, or to youth.

Editing can also mean removal of excess and repetition from a text. This is often referred to a “redaction”, related to the French word for “editor”, which is “redacteur”. Redaction that takes out whole passages, paragraphs and sentences is a quick way to reduce length.

Reduction of length can be achieved by re-writing, by sub-editors (see below).

The Communist University is a product of editing. It has been constructed by a combined process of selection and redaction. The openings to discussion of the short texts are equivalent to the “Editorials” in a newspaper, which are the editor’s own voice.


Sub-editing is also called (in USA English) copy-editing. Sub-editing is the writing of articles as they are going to be printed, as opposed to reporting, which is the gathering of stories. Reporters may sub-edit their own material to an extent, but the sub-editor is the one who must adjust the material to fit the space available. Sub-editors are the real writers of newspapers. Their techniques are the best.

Length per Page

This varies widely and is affected by all other variables. In a broadsheet newspaper page there can be thousands of words on one page. On a booklet page there might be 500 words. On an A4 page there may be more. In a print-magazine page with graphics and in columns, there may be 600 words.


Headlines in newspapers and magazines are added by sub-editors, and not by the writers of articles. Headlines need to be short, so that they can be fat. Sub-headings, like the ones used on this page, help to break up slabs of text and make it easier to read.

Web sites

Web sites are not limited in the way that hard-copy printed material is limited. Hence the natural discipline of the print medium is not felt, with the result that there is sometimes enormous length used on the Internet, which is much less likely to be read. Hence attention to word-count is very important when writing and editing for the Internet or e-mail.


An illustration that would express the nature of subtraction might be one of stone-carving, where the waste or surplus is chiselled away so as to reduce and shape the initial block down to what is wanted.

Addition could be illustrated by an image of bricklaying, or of “3D Printing”.

But suitable images were hard to find, so we have used the illustration of Additive and Subtractive colour to make the distinction in a visual way.

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