I RECALL YEARS AGO standing in the composing room of The Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio. I was the news editor at the time. We were pasting up the first edition and I was giving the news pages a final look, when I noticed a headline much like the one above. The type in the top and bottom lines were larger than that in the center line. I thought it had to be a mistake, so I asked the person who had set the headline what she was doing to fix it. “Nothing,” she said. “It works fine as it is.” I was nonplussed. It took me a few moments to realize that she saw no problem whatsoever in creating a headline with different type sizes in different lines. And then, I explained to her that her approach was something we just don’t do. Just like we don’t run headlines in mirror image. Or…we don’t run headlines upside down. Though I never saw another such headline from her, I’m not at all convinced she saw it as a problem. Kinda makes me wonder where people get such ideas!
WANNA BE a real friend to your readers? Consider a no-jumps policy. It’s not that difficult to do. Yes, it takes time getting used to, and there may be times when you have to struggle to make it work. But when it does work, readers love you for it. When you think about it, you’ll realize that jumps are more of a help to the writer and the editor and the designer than the person we’re all working for: The reader. What a no-jump policy demands is a strong commitment to doing things right for the reader. Yes, it also takes direction, planning, good writing and sound editing. You already have those. So…what’s holding you back?
A FEW YEARS AGO, I had the pleasure of redesigning the High Point Enterprise in High Point, NC. During our discussions leading up to the redesign, we talked about jumps. • Should we jump? • If we jumped, how many stories would we jump? • Who decided which stories to jump? • What page would they jump to? After much give-and-take, we decided we’d follow the USA Today method: only one jump—if any—off Page 1 and section fronts. It’s an approach I still support because: • It means writers must learn to write tighter. • It brings greater focus to the decision-making process. But, most of all, it makes life easier for the reader, who only has to follow one story inside. It’s worth considering.
I still say: This… …and not this
A MONTH AGO, I posted some thoughts about jumps, making a point about not jumping at the end of a paragraph. My thinking is that jumping at the end of a paragraph invites readers to stop reading, never going to the jumped part of the story.
I’ve reposted that hint following this one.
Randy Keck, publisher at The Community News in Aledo, TX, disagrees. Says he: “I really enjoy your blog and hints. I often struggle with design issues and your wisdom and insights are valued. I do want to present another viewpoint on jumps. Several years ago I attended one of your seminars and, as a result, eliminated jumps. Some years later an editor convinced me they were sometimes necessary. When we use them, I have always insisted that they come at the end of a paragraph. If we are designing for readers, I can tell you as a reader that there is nothing more irritating than having to locate the jump mid-word. I think if the content is not compelling enough to keep the reader, its inclusion might need to be reconsidered.” I agree. Many design elements, such as headlines, pullouts and infoboxes, serve as points of entry. But jumps, unfortunately, are a point of exit. They always take readers off the page to another page—if the reader will go. If the story is well-written, we increase the odds that readers will go to the jump. If not, good luck! And I believe that’s Randy’s point, too. But I still think that placing the jump at the end of a paragraph increases the odds that readers will decide the story just isn’t that compelling after all. And here are a couple of other points to keep in mind: 1. Many readers who see that a story jumps will only read down to the paragraph above the one that jumps. 2. Many readers dislike jumps so much that they will not even begin to read the story. More on that in next week’s Henninger Helpful Hint.
WE ALL KNOW the properties and advantages of a headline that reads out of a main headline.
Some of us call it a “drop head,” some call it a “deck head,” still others call it a “subhead.” Whatever we call that read-out headline, we most often use it to add more detail or an extra thought above a story.
But there’s also what I call the “read-in” headline, like the one you see above.
I’ll use a read-in headline on an occasional feature package—to help give that package a different look. One of the advantages of the read-in headline is that it allows for the use of a label headline that’s…well, not really a label headline. And it also allows you to use a lot of words in a headline that’s…well, not really a wordy headline.
It’s an approach that’s just different enough to stand out. It works for me. Perhaps you can make it work for you.