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Skateboard Mag editor employs unique style, voice

Kevin Wilkins

Kevin Wilkins
editor of The Skateboard Mag

By James Pace-Cornsilk
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

No one takes skateboarders for good writers, and that’s why Kevin Wilkins’ job is important.

Wilkins is the editor of  The Skateboard Mag, a nationally circulated magazine that highlights the news, culture and art of the skateboarding industry. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has edited and worked as a freelance writer  for other skateboard magazines such as Transworld Skateboarding.

Wilkins is one of four editors at The Skateboard Mag. Aside from editing copy, giving assignments and making sure deadlines are met, he also writes a monthly column. His column offers an entertaining read on his personal thoughts and ideas about skateboarding.

The Skateboard Mag is unlike many print publications. It does not have a group of trained reporters to cover stories and produce well-crafted pieces of prose. It relies on outside contributors,  including real skateboarders, to provide content each month.

“Getting a professional writer who’s never skated to try and speak to other skaters wouldn’t work as well as fixing up real skaters’ work,” Wilkins said in an interview. “Skaters are all weirdos and if they can get that weirdness typed out, it’s usually a good read.”

That leaves plenty of work for the four editors at The Skateboard Mag.

While you won’t see any stories coming in over the AP wire in The Skateboard Mag’s office, they do follow AP style rules. As a story is submitted, Wilkins and the copy editor edit it to correct grammar, syntax, spelling and style.  A typical stylebook does not answer some of the questions that arise from skateboard writing.

But the magazine has its own digital stylebook that contributors check before they submit their work. The magazine stylebook spells out the proper ways to write trick names, ramp names and certain slang terms. In an email, Wilkins explains:

Skateshop is one word. Pretty sure everyone outside skateboarding uses the two-word version. We also use one-word versions of halfpipe and quarterpipe. We’re right, they’re wrong.

Five-0 is a weird combo of word+number that confuses everyone. I think it was originally set in stone to separate it from the similar looking (on paper and in the streets) 50-50, which we always run hyphenated and with numbers. Never spelled out.

We don’t capitalize internet (or world wide web, or any electronic media qualifiers) because we’re hoping that it insults the internet in some small way. Lowercase is our last weapon against all that is evil in this world.

We are in a weird transition between typing email without a hyphen (as opposed to e-mail). As of today it’s an unresolved issue. Stay tuned.

We leave our letters to the editor raw and unedited.

So Cal runs as such, with a space and no indication of an abbreviation. NorCal runs as one word but with an awkward capital C in the middle. If inconsistency is the hallmark of a mature style, we’re practically elderly.

Mini ramp (noun) two words, mini-ramp (adjective/modifier) hyphenated.

Backside (never bs or b/s).

Frontside (never fs or f/s).

Bluntslide is one word, noseblunt is one word, noseblunt slide is two words. Trip out.

Brodown (noun) is one word. Bro Down (verb + prep.) is two words.

When Wilkins is editing his own work or work from contributors, the process he goes through looks like this:

  1. Reading through and fixing mistakes
  2. Re-reading to make sure he didn’t read it wrong the first and checking himself for mistakes, while keeping an eye out for the stuff he missed on the first read through
  3. Reading a final time for insurance.
  4. Sending it to copy editor for more fixes

Wilkins said when reading copy, he tries to listen to the sound of the words.  It’s also important, he said, to have as many people read through your work as possible;  more sets of eyeballs can catch more errors.

The hardest part of Wilkin’s job is communication. With Wilkins based in Lincoln, Neb., the magazine’s art director based in Los Angeles and the main office in Solona Beach, Calif., the team relies exclusively on technological communication. The distance among the staff is the easiest thing to blame bad communication on, Wilkins said, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The magazine staff is always trying to improve  communication through email, text messaging and Skype.

Though communicating between staff members may be difficult, communicating the style, voice and culture of skateboarding is one thing The Skateboard Mag has a handle on.

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