Thursday, August 14, 2008

Headline curiosities

I'm probably not the first to notice something at least mildly interesting about the way different newspapers do headlines. The WaPo recently had the headline:

"Anthrax Case Raises Doubt on Security."

If the Register had run the same headline, it would have appeared this way:

"Anthrax case raises doubt on security."

It wouldn't have had every word except a few short but somewhat arbitrary ones -- a, an, on, to, of -- capitalized. Although in big print, it reads like a sentence, which most headlines (though not all by any means) are. I hope I'm not being to employer-centric when I say I prefer the Register style. I think it promotes easier reading and makes headlines a little less blocky.

The Post style is the more traditional. I think the Register shifted style sometime in the 1980s. USA Today uses the same style. Did we copy it from them? I'm not sure.

Perhaps it's a formal/informal dichotomy. Maybe not. The LA Times takes itself very seriously, but it doesn't capitalize all the words in a headline. Maybe it's an East Coast/West Coast thing; the New York Times uses capitalized words too, as does the Wall Street Journal. But then USA Today is headquartered in Arlington VA. And the UK's Telegraph doesn't capitalize all the words in a headline. Maybe it's stodgy/trying to be hip?

It's not all that important, but I though it was kinda interesting.

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