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Tuesday, August 25, 2015


By Alton Gansky

Journalism has left many traditions that have washed on to the shores of other forms of writing. One of these little customs is TK. There are many book writers that have yet to see this little gem. TK is a notation that means “to come.” Yes, I know, “come” is not spelled with a K. That’s the point. TK is use because it is a very rare combination of characters and easy to recognize in a manuscript and, therefore, easy to remove.

TK is unwanted in a finished manuscript but it is a useful tool in early drafts. A reporter may be knocking out a story when she realizes that she needs a detail she doesn’t have at hand. Let’s say it’s an article about military spending and she needs the dollar amount spent on blimps in World War II. She might write, “Long considered the bargain of the war years, the U.S. spent a measly TK dollars on its small fleet of dirigibles.” Of course, she could just stop, do some research or make a phone call or two, but she would lose momentum and derail her train of thought. Better to get the article roughed out then focus on filling in holes.

A writer of nonfiction books (say, me—I’m a switch-hitter) might be creating a footnote but lacks the page number of the book he’s citing. TK comes to the rescue: Alton Gansky, 30 Events That Shaped the Church, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014), TK. Our nonfiction writer can look that information up later. Stopping to find the info requires the author to step out of his work then try to pick up his momentum later.

Novelist make use of the notation in many ways. Tend to forget a character’s hair color? (I’m not saying I do, ahem, but I’m sure someone out there does.) Unless you have notes within reach, TK will do the trick for now. Or you need some technical information and looking it up might take an hour. That’s a long time to interrupt the flow of writing. Use the TK.

TK reminds us to carry on. We don’t need all the answers at the moment. Those will come. For now, we keep at it, writing, promoting, learning, making a difference one page at a time.

The advantage of TK is that it is easy to find. A simple search in your word processor will get you there, and since TK (especially in all caps) is a rare combination, the search won’t yield a bunch of false returns. (Here’s a hint: Use spaces in your search string. Don’t search for TK; search for space TK space—of course you’d use the space bar, not type the word “space.” You knew that.)

So far, this information might be old hat, but I have another twist on the topic. Writing is an iffy career. There are those who start off with a bang then fade, and those who start off slow and grow. Sometimes we live and work in a TK world. We don’t have all the information about the market, about changes in the industry, which publisher is going to file for Chapter 11, or if there will be bookstores a decade from now. There are times when it seems like TK has been stamped all over the writer’s future. So what to do?

TK is a reminder that some research needs to be done, so when we run up against a career TK we do what research we can. We educate ourselves and move on. That last part is important. TK means we don’t stop midsentence in our project, nor do we stop in our career. Yes, things might change. You can bet that publishing won’t look the same five years from now, but there will always be some form of publishing.

TK reminds us to carry on. We don’t need all the answers at the moment. Those will come. For now, we keep at it, writing, promoting, learning, making a difference one page at a time.

Alton Gansky is the author of over forty books, novels and nonfiction. He is also the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.


  1. Fantastic tip, Al! I've used "WORD" or other things, but I love the simple TK. I'll be using that. :) Thanks!

  2. Alton, this is great!! I love it. I write BLA, BLA, BLA when I get stuck or "She remembered NAME would be there." LOL

    But I like this TK notion! Going to of this.



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