Field Notes: Words

The Guardian uses words—in my eyes—traditionally. As I keep stressing, the publication is very traditional with a modern twist, and its headlines tend to follow that pattern. However, occasionally, the paper will throw out a headline that could be considered a hammer. But, for the most part, all of the headlines are short, summary headlines describing what the article is exactly about.

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Here is an example of what I think The Guardian would consider a hammer line:

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The paper uses words in the strict newspaper sense, often using pull quotes to assist the story—occasionally funny and witty. I think that the editors do a good job of pulling out quotes that are interesting, intriguing and essential to the story. I always find that using pull quotes can be a bittersweet thing. First off, if people are tired of reading the story, they might only read the pull quote and move on. But, if the pull quote is heavy and meaty enough it will keep readers invested.

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The paper does use short subheads and dekheads to further the story. But again, the editors write dekheads that are generally just an extension of the headline: telling the reader what they are about to read, although for me, I find a clear distinction between the context of the headline and the subheads. Occasionally, after reading the headline followed by the dekhead, it appears that the headline is universal (meant for any audience to grasp.) Sometimes, when reading the subhead, it feels like the story is meant for an audience that must know what has happened to continue. Obviously, one of the main problems if that I don’t read the paper or live in Britain, but I feel that the paper could make an effort of making the subheads more directly general (which may ne hard, but is nonetheless the job of the editor).

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The cutlines are never spectacular additions, but often times bland retellings of what the picture has to offer.

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It’s not hard to say that The Guardian does not use flirty language within its text—circling round to its audience and presence as a traditional newspaper. The paper keeps up with its modern look through its layout, color and new typefaces, but so far is stuck with traditional words. Which, I believe, works for the paper. I think that its audience wouldn’t want flirty text strewn throughout the newspaper. That being said, there are parts of the paper that allow for some flirty moments, especially when teasing its culture and lifestyle pages. This is the one section where I have seen some “flirty” language that really might peak the interest of the readers. Though, I might argue that the language is geared more toward that of the younger audience (or trying to obtain a younger reader).

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I will admit, the knowledge that I have of Britain’s paper is that they tend to be more crass and directly to the point. And I’ve happily seen examples of both in the paper; however, the brass tends to take the backseat.

Josh Austin

One Comment

  1. Based on your posts for both this and for color, it seems like The Guardian is very similar design-wise to my paper, El Universal. They often seem pretty traditional and don’t do much ground-breaking, innovative design work. But they do good work nonetheless.

    I’m curious — did any other sections in your paper show more unique design approaches? Because El Universal really felt very different in the Arts and Entertainment/Culture sections than it did in the News section. I would also expect more hammer heds in sections other than News, but maybe The Guardian just doesn’t use them at all. The language feeling more flirty in other sections also makes me think that maybe the heds would be a bit punchier in those sections, too.

    Good posts 🙂 I enjoyed reading them!

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