Field Notes: The National’s Words

Overall the use of words sets a very newsy and straightforward mood for The National. The readers don’t have to decipher metaphors or read too much to understand what the story is about. The most important news are highlighted by the use of direct words that stand out and demand attention.
The style of the words gives them a modern and lighter feel while still delivering a very old-school newspaper structure.

• Types of headlines used: For its front page, The National uses six to seven words per headline. The rule stays for most of the inside pages but some stories have a few more words – never more than 10. Most stories have a deck and some have both a subhead and a deck.
The heads are concise and to the point. They work well to tell the reader what the story is about. Most of them give a sense of place to understand if the story is related to a specific country or region.
The decks and subheads are made of one sentence with no set length. It depends on the relevance of the story or the need to explain the topic further because the six words from the headline were not enough.
The overall tone is very newsy and because the heads, decks and subheads are short it feels formal.

• Pull quotes: The National uses pull quotes when they have enough space to dedicate to a story. They never use them on the front page unless it’s part of the headline. When used, pull quotes are always attributed if it’s a quote from a source. However, if it’s a quote from the writer – a sentence from the article – it’s colored differently and uses a different font style to let the reader know this is a different type of quote. In both cases, they quotes are very self-explanatory and relevant to the article. They give an extra hook for a reader who is just scanning through the pages to maybe stop here and read the whole story.
They never break the grid but after a pull quote there is no more text until the start of the next column.

• Cutlines and captions: Cutlines in The National are usually one sentence long, but in rare occasions they use two. If the image is larger than usual, it might have two sentences for a cutline but it’s not very common; when it happens it is usually in the front page. If the image is used as a promo it might not even have a cutline.
They are very concise and give details to understand the photo in the context of the story. The tone is still formal, very descriptive and to the point.

• Labels: Labels are very short – usually one word – and concise: what you see is what you get. There’s a good choice of words and matches the style of the newspaper. Very blunt and informational.

• Bylines and credit lines: Bylines are very simple, just the name of the writer before the start of the story styled differently to set hierarchy and order. If the writer is a foreign correspondent or has a special title, it is placed next to the name also with a different style.
The credit lines are traditional: name of the photographer/publication. They serve their purpose and are styled differently from the cutline to differentiate the information.

• Promos and refers: Promos are usually very newsy but sometimes The National uses certain idioms or colloquial phrases such as “get down to business.” They are very short but concise and give a good understanding of what the reader will find inside and where to find it. The skyboxes are usually more informal and conversational than other promos throughout A1. That’s because the skyboxes usually promote stories on the sports and entertainment sections.

• Section/department names: the section names for The National are very generic and straightforward. “The Emirates” refer to national news and “The World” refers to international news. Inside “The World” other sections such as “Middle East,” “Asia and the Pacific,” and “Europe” denote specific news from those regions. Then there’s “Comment” for opinion articles.
In the other sections of the newspaper such as “Business” and “Sports” the names are still very straightforward and informational.