Monday, May 2, 2011

British, in search of readable headlines, scour online

One of my favourite things about coming home is that I can buy a newspaper and enjoy reading it.

I suspect this reflects badly on me, but I just can't get on with the way US broadsheets construct their sentences. They seem designed to obfuscate and addle my mind.

Take the headlines, for a start. 'In pursuit of killer, police mine online clues' is a typical one, found in today's NY Times. Who says mine? And why so many words?

In a British broadsheet it would be 'Police use web to hunt killer'. 40% shorter and 100% simpler. In the Sun it would be 'Webbed!', but that's another topic altogether.

Then the stories. They often start with a brooding character portrait. Something like:  'Bob strokes his jaw, strengthened by years of witnessing sights like these, and gazes up river to the source of the devastation.' Two paragraphs later you find out what the devastation is. I don't have time for two paragraphs!

As I said, I suspect this reflects badly on me. I was always pretty good at reading words and understanding them. Yet a lifetime of reading the British newsprint leaves me unprepared to cope with the US press. Am I being slow? It's just such a treat to open a British paper and find everything spelled out under a nice tidy headline, with a summary paragraph at the beginning.

It's a lovely spring day here, blue skies and fluffy little clouds. I'm off to buy the paper...

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