The many pitfalls of journalese

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EVERY trade is also a tribe, and journalists are no exception. One way that tribes, from teens to programmers, signal membership of the group is through language. Hacks do the same. They write “hed” for headline, “lede” or “intro” for the first sentence in a story, “graf” for “paragraph”, “nut graf” for the core paragraph that gives the story’s main idea. The last line is always the “kicker”. 

But journalists should not be obscure. After all, the whole point of the job is to make things clear to readers. Yet readers are often baffled by the first words they see in a newspaper: headlines. In Britain, a broad range of national newspapers compete on nearly every news-stand. So the tabloids, in particular, put a premium on getting as many short, emotion-grabbing words in the biggest font possible on front page—often at the expense of making sense. A recent headline in the Sun, Britain’s bestselling…Continue reading

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