Field Notes | The New York Times Magazine | Week 4—Language

The words in The New York Times Magazine are meant to convey a feeling of dependability and intelligence. Language outside the body copy have a slightly more fun energy to them than The New York Times newspaper does. For example, in the back of book, the titles for the puzzles have a touch of whimsy such as Spelling Bee for a word puzzle, Going Too Far for the crossword and Double or Nothing for a number puzzle. The whole experience of reading the magazine leaves the impression of high quality journalism but feels a bit more leisurely as the stories are longer than those in the newspaper and cover a wider range of topics rather than just hard news. There are also the pages of puzzles that contribute to this feeling of leisure. Also knowing that this magazine comes with the Sunday paper further reinforces this feeling.

This magazine has a large amount of text. It has beautiful images, but definitely does not give up pages for photos in place of words. The only pages without at least a few words of text are the feature stories that run photos for two pages, but this is balanced in the following pages being extremely text heavy. The language in these pages proves the content comes before the visuals in this news-driven magazine.

Name of the magazine

The New York Times Magazine’s name relies heavily on the brand recognition that comes with being associated with The New York Times. This is not a highly creative name, but is incredibly utilitarian. There is no getting confused with what this magazine is about. It’s an extension of content from the newspaper and conveys the tone of the magazine: serious, journalistic, no bells and whistles, just facts and good reporting.


All the headlines are short, no more than two or three words, except for the advice section that uses the question as the hed. The main stories use heds such as Fire and Ice, Spider WebsFair Share and Outrunning Hunger. Even feature stories stick to this short hed style. For example, the feature stories are Opportunity CostLost and Found and The Vigilante. The heds are always paired with a lengthier sentence long description of the rest of the story. Even in the table of contents, there are longer descriptions to go with the really short heds.


Decks are always used to accompany the heds. Since there are so few words in the heds, the stories would be really unclear without these decks. For example, on one of the main stories, Fair Share, there is a lengthy sentence that entices the reader with clear language, but teases the issue the story will tackle. This story was about referring to ethnic groups as minorities and how the logic behind that term is falling apart. All the decks feel like they explain the hed a little bit more without giving too much away. The magazine’s use of language in decks is really strong.

Pull Quotes

Pull quotes are used a lot throughout the magazine. In the stories that run for longer than one page, there is at least one pull quote. For non-feature stories, they are usually an excerpt from the story while feature stories are full quotes from the subjects of the stories without the added context of the writer. These pull quotes and excerpts are never attributed. The quotes are self-explanatory, but definitely tease the interest of what the content of the story is. It gives a good idea of the perspective of the story.

Cutlines and captions

Cutlines serve a utilitarian, straightforward purpose. They have a short description of the image without even an attribution for the photo. Attributions are listed in the margin at the bottom of the page, like a footnote. For smaller front of book stories, there are just small labels with the attribution, no description. These cutlines have the same tone of the story, but do not add content to the story, but just describe the image.


Labels are used in the front of book stories to add depth the grid in the short half columns. These add a point of entry into the page, but are straightforward. They do not add too much fuss to the page, but serve a design purpose to break up text heavy pages.

Bylines and credit lines

Bylines are simple and to the point as they just say “by” and the author’s name. This is consistent throughout the whole publication. For stories with a main photographer, their credit is listed next to the author with the phrase “photograph by” and the photographer’s name. This is clear and consistent and similar to the tone of the rest of the magazine so this approach makes sense.

Promos and refers

The promos are mostly listed in the table of contents. They are really short and newsy. There is not too much creativity to those, but they serve the purpose and are clean.

Section, department, feature names

The section names are straightforward, but not too generic. For example, the advice column is called The Ethicist. The front of book story is called First Words. The food column is called Eat. These section titles give a little bit of personality, but still keep the clear, consistent tone at the forefront of their approach.