By Claire Booth
I finished my manuscript last week, and the final thing I typed was:
It’s not used with novels, but it is used in my former profession – journalism. It means the end. It actually is rarely used anymore. Computers have made it unnecessary. It’s pretty darn obvious where the end of the computer file is. But back in the day, the end of the sheet of typewriter paper wasn’t always the end of the newspaper copy. There could be another page somewhere, lost in transit across the newsroom or wedged under the bottle of whiskey on the corner of the reporter’s desk.
There is no consensus on where -30- came from as an end to newspaper copy. One origin theory is that it was taken from the days of the telegraph, as the end of a telegram in Morse code. Another is that once upon a time "XXX" meant the end of the story, which in Roman numerals is, yep, 30.
I realized that’s not the only shorthand I’ve taken from journalism and now use for my fiction writing. There are two I use constantly when I’m writing my drafts. The first is TK, which means "to come." It’s used in print journalism in the middle of copy or in a note to the editors that further information is coming. When the information is added, the TK is deleted.
Crime fiction example: "He plunged the type of knife TK into his friend’s back." And yes, I know that it should really be "TC." We journalists just like to be difficult.
The second term is probably my favorite – CQ. And it actually has a real meaning! Cadit quaestio, Latin for "the question falls." The fact has been verified or double-checked, or CQ’ed. So there is no further question about it.
Crime fiction example: "That dude from California is doing LWOPCQ for a 187CQ. He killed his boss during a robbery, and he ain't ever gettin' out."
Both of these have the added benefit of being easily findable in a computer document. There are, as far as I know, very few words in the English language that have the combination of letters "tk" or "cq."So when you need to search a manuscript for every fact that still needs adding – boom, there you go, without a lot of extraneous other words popping up. I highly recommend using them both.
What abbreviations or shorthand have you developed for your own writing?
I always use TK for my unanswered questions!
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