Monday, February 05, 2007
When down is better than up
Headlines have different "styles," or looks. Up-style headlines capitalize most words. Down-style headlines only capitalize the first word and other words that are proper names, abbreviations, etc.

Many U.S. newspapers, magazines and news sites (but not this blog, as I explain later in this post) prefer down-style — and for good reasons. For one thing, down-style headlines are a little easier to write. Capital letters, after all, take up more space than lowercase ones, and headline writers will take any extra space they can get.

Up-style headlines also run the risk of confusing readers. The example you see above illustrates this problem. "Black" refers to Jim Black, a state lawmaker. But it could be read as a color or racial designation.

The down-style version would look like this:

Judge declines to dismiss case against Black ally

That makes it clear that "Black" is a proper name, not a simple adjective.

But what about the headlines on this blog? The template is set up for up-style headlines, and I am going to let it stay that way. I will, however, try not to write any ambiguous up-style headlines.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger and editing professor Doug Fisher notes that The Associated Press is adding a headline entry to its stylebook. It recommends down-style.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 4:57 PM | Permalink |