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Murphological observations for corporate editors.

Many have been the applications of Murphy's Law (in original form: If anything can go wrong, it will). After working several years with corporate editors, and having been one myself, I offer the following Murphological Observations specific to the editorial craft:

1. Any story not changed into unintelligible language by executive management wasn't worth doing in the first place.

2. The length of any article submitted by a member of executive management is inversely proportional to its interest/importance/value.

Corollary: The higher the executive, the longer the article.

3. The page-one photo of your chairman will be flopped.

Corollary: He'll be wearing a name tag.

4. The caption under your group shot of four will identify the most important person as being in the center.

Corollary: He was actually standing at the extreme right but was cropped out.

C2: He's asked for 20 copies for family and friends.

5. Your boss will get around to reviewing your copy 10 minutes after you've gone to press.

Corollary: He or she will have a "number of comments."

6. The tiniest of errors will be promptly reported by faithful readers.

Corollary: You'll receive no reports of tiny errors.

7. Your page-one feature will jump to page eight the month you publish a six-page issue.

8. Your boss will value your contribution to the extent you can be convincing that your great idea really is his or hers.

Corollary: He or she will take credit for it anyway.

C2: Unless it backfires.

9. Your overall job security is a direct function of the number of photos you run of the Top Mahonga in each issue.

Corollary: Unless the TM's replacement hated his or her guts.

10. Editorial flexibility means publishing the cracked and faded Polaroid of the boss' wife posing with her blue-ribbon watermelons.

11. The more important the story, the more important the person who'll tell you you've left out the most important point.

Corollary: After publication, of course.

12. When the going gets tough ... you will lose the file containing your boss' final story OK.

13. Your editorial committee exists so you can share the blame.

Corollary: They'll all claim not to have seen the offending story.

C2: They all outrank you.

14. The more important the executive, the more likely you'll misspell his or her name.

Corollary: You'll do it in a headline.

C2: On page one.

C3: The name will be something like Chit or Ship.

C4: His or her significant other is the vice president of human resources.

15. Typos don't look any better in Palatino.

16. The lead paragraph you feel really captures the essence of your story will be eliminated by someone with higher authority.

Corollary: The rewrite will be killed too.

C2: Reflecting, the boss will ask, "Is this something we really want to run?"

17. The more timely the story, the higher the rank of the person who asks, "Is this really something we really want to run -- at this time?"

Corollary: All within earshot will think long and hard before agreeing that this is a good question.

18. You have nothing in the can.

19. The printer's idiot son, home on college vacation, will supervise your special summer issue.

Corollary: Upon your complaint, the project will be promptly transferred to the printer's idiot daughter who dropped out of high school but regularly drops acid.

20. Every in-depth interview with top management will further confuse the rank and file.

Corollary: The rare interview that is understood will confirm their view they're working for air-heads.

21. Your new design will go unnoticed for two issues.

Corollary: The somebody will complain.

22. Your readership survey will confirm you don't have much.

Corollary: The want-ads will prove to be your most popular feature.

C2: You stopped running them a year ago.

23. Your new assistant can't type more than 20 words a minute.

Corollary: He or she received a steady stream of Ds in English.

C2: He or she can't get the spelling checker to work.

C3: He or she wants your job.

24. Whether in your laptop computer, your tape-recorder or your camera's light meter, the batteries die when most needed.

Corollary: You'll have no spares, of course.

C2: You'll be covering a story in the jungles of central Sumatra.

Robert Lory is a principal in Lory Creative Services, Houston, Texas.


It's fairly obvious Murphy wasn't a corporate business executive. Had he been, he would have immediately grasped the need to amplify his insightful dictum so that it could more readily be understood by his peers, producing something like the following:

"In any priority strategic or tactical endeavor -- albeit preceded by the most intensive environmental scanning and related potential problem analysis -- anomalies, either extrinsic or intrinsic to the system, will occur to cause significant aberration direction-wise to the thrust of key activities in a manner that, in retrospect, will be seen to be unfortunate time-wise and disappointingly suboptimal results-wise."
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; insights to the editorial aspect of corporate publishing based on Murphy's law
Author:Lory, Robert
Publication:Communication World
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Fly too close to the sun and 11 other guidelines for writing hot magazine features.
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