TIME Magazine — Language

As a news magazine, TIME’s language is very concise and straightforward. It doesn’t use a lot of plays-on-words and uses few metaphors. In the news brief sections, many blurbs are 1-2 sentences: see the Trending section below, part of The Brief. TIME also uses one-word categories for these blurbs, like “Immigration, Inequality, Spotlight, Animals…” In the Time Off section, which focuses on entertainments, these titles are things like “Review, Fiction, Movies, Books, etc.” These headings work because they are a direct explanation of the section.

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The feature stories use short headlines that are not as direct, the reader has to read the deck for specific information about the story. For example, Flint water story uses the headline, The Toxic Tap, which gives some information about the story but the deck frames the story for the reader: “How a disastrous chain of events corroded Flint’s water system – and the public’s trust.”

 

The headline and deck for the next feature story, about the European immigration crisis and sexual assault, is similar. The headline is ambiguous and broad and can be applied to many stories, while the deck gives specific information about this story.

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The shorter stories and commentary just have a headline that get straight to the point: The unbearable whiteness of the Oscar nominations, Why Bernie Sanders’ revolution needs a second act, A fight for the future of evangelical Christianity. The tone of these headlines is serious, informal and opinionated.

 

Photo cutlines are also short and straightforward, usually just one sentence without a period on the end. In addition to no ending punctuation, the captions are often vague, broad thoughts that simply explain what is going on in the photo. Without the context from the story, the captions and photos cannot really stand alone as complete. For example, the caption below informs the reader of what’s in the photo, but this information could go along with any story about Germany.

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This works for TIME because it is a more text-heavy publication, not known for its illuminating photography. The focus is on the written stories. One of the elements I do think is effective is at the beginning of each commentary section, there’s a snippet from another story in the section along with a page number. These snippets don’t give the article’s title or any other context, but stands alone as a pull quote. This works because it is different from the directness of other language elements; it’s mysterious and provokes the reader to turn to that page to see what that story is about.

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