Due to current ‘heat-wave’ blogger offers shortest post.
Newspapers present information and ideas about topics – and must constantly battle with each other to gain customers – headings need to be attention-grabbing.
Of course, layout, headings, subheadings and pictures play a part in this, but as writers, we could learn something from journalistic lingo.
What types of papers? (UK)
Tabloids are papers such as The Sun, The Mirror and The Express. They are smaller in size containing, usually, light-weight stories or articles written in simpler style. Often have a lot of celebrity gossip and very local articles.
Broadsheets are papers such as The Times, The Guardian and The Independent. These are the larger papers containing more serious stories in depth articles. The broadsheets will also contain news from other countries.
Headlines often use very short words to make an impact, this applies to broadsheets and tabloids alike, although the tabloids are more likely to employ eye-dialect – we’ll cover that in a mo’. The shorter headline has more impact – as does the shorter sentence in your novel/short-story writing. For example, Hitler Dead. Everyone knew who was being written about so no need for a full name. The sentence written fully could read, Adolf Hitler is Dead or German Chancellor Has Taken His Own Life, but it doesn’t have the same impact as two words.
Newspapers have the advantage (or disadvantage in some instances!) of having a photograph accompany their text. As a writer, you don’t. So to pack more punch into an action scene. You might. Just might. Want to use shorter words. And shorter sentences.
This is the use of non-standard spelling and pronunciation. What some refer to as ‘not speaking properly’. It’s not RP (Received Pronunciation). You will all be familiar with eye-dialect, and may even use it, without knowing what it is called. Innit?
(See what I did there?!) It is used to add impact to a headline, or add definition to your characters. Let’s imagine a conversation between two:
English Middle class friends –
Bill- Hello, Ben, How are you?
Ben – Hi, I’m pretty good, thanks for asking. How are things with the wife and kiddies?
Working class friends–
Bill – Y’all right mate?
Ben – Sound, how’s the missus and sprogs?
As an opening conversation, this immediately allows the reader to know something about Bill and Ben, without telling. It also adds some realism to your characters.
Examples of eye-dialect you will have seen in newspapers include – Gov’t, Grab ’em, Libs, Wot, Cor, and so on.
You find this is a big part of the language of many newspapers. Words with two different meanings in English can be used in an amusing and entertaining way. This is called a pun. The English language is littered with puns, innuendo and double entendres. TV shows and films like the Carry On series were built around this peculiarity (I’m not too sure about other countries/languages) For example, Be Leave in Britain. This headline, from The Sun, plays with the word believe. The Sun is renown for it’s patriotism; some would say nationalism, and urging it’s readers to believe in their country – however, they deliberately misspelt and divided the word (much like has happened to the UK and Europe ironically!), and now they ask their readers to believe in leaving the EU.
Poets amongst you may be more familiar with this, (though all serious writers should be too). Alliteration is mostly used for humorous effect as well as grabbing the readers attention. It’s essential for the newspapers to stand out from it’s competitors, so you will see a variety of styles depending on the paper and it’s target audience.
Alliteration is the repeated use of the same letter or sound in a series of words. Tongue-twisters are alliterative. e.g. She sells sea shells on the sea shore. The poem of Beowulf has, Hot-hearted Beowulf was bent upon battle. In the second instance, we can almost feel the breathy quality as we say hot-hearted, we pant the words as Beowulf himself might have, then the hard ‘b’s add another quality, harder, punchy.
Similarly the headlines might say – Pasties, Petrol and the Politics of Panic, or, Cannibal Cop Finds Killer’s Kit. I would say you couldn’t make this stuff up, but you can, they do!
Okay, the laptop is pretty hot now. The temperature is 26º (that’s 78.8 Fahrenheit for old people and Americans). My brain is overheating. I’m done.
Blogger Bows Out as Heatwave Hits Head