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Q: Comma used in headlines in place of "and" ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Comma used in headlines in place of "and"
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: g3tja-ga
List Price: $4.00
Posted: 24 Apr 2002 01:18 PDT
Expires: 01 May 2002 01:18 PDT
Question ID: 3320
What's the origin of the convention in newspaper headlines of replacing the 
word "and" by a comma? (E.g. 'CHINA, MALAYSIA IN NEW TALKS" or "MAN, DOG IN 
FATAL SHOOTING"?  Obviously it saves space, but it is unique to jouranlism I 
believe.  Most other printed and handwritten shortenings use the ampersand 
(&). I grant you that the ampersand is wider than the comma, so it does indeed 
save space...
Subject: Re: Comma used in headlines in place of "and"
Answered By: waggawa-ga on 24 Apr 2002 10:12 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
The first commentor below is correct: replacing the word "and" or ", and" with 
a comma is intended to keep things concise.

Two main uses for ", and" are for linking sentence clauses (comma splices) and 
for linking items in lists (series commas).

Replacement of ", and" with a comma is often used in newspaper headlines, 
though not typically in the body of news articles. Initially, this was to 
conserve space and save money from associated printing and communications costs 
(e.g. casting metal slugs, or sending news stories by telegraph). Many other 
grammatical changes were introduced for these reasons, such as dropping the 
posessive apostrophe in certain cases (see Notes on American Grammar, ) and dropping the comma 
before "and" in lists of objects. The latter has been promoted by the 
Associated Press (AP stylebook) and the Chicago Manual of style, and has now 
become a widely accepted style.

Keeping text concise also addresses reader needs. They may not have the 
patience to read long headlines, particularly when skimming many stories in a 
newspaper. Keeping headlines down to bare bones helps present the gyst of the 
story or entice readers to read the details. David M. Freedman counsels in his 
online article, "Advanced Press Release-ology"( )
"Your headline (and sometimes a deck, if you need to expand on a more complex 
theme) and lead paragraph are keys to the success of the release. You must 
compete with dozens of other releases, capture the reader's attention, focus on 
the theme, generate interest, and offer a benefit in less than thirty seconds."

Text length may be limited by a predetermined amount of space in a newspaper 
for the story. 

A note about the Inverted Pyramid style of writing. This writing style simply 
states that the most important parts of an article (Who, What, When, Where, 
Why, and How) are stated in the first few sentences; the secondary information 
follows. It does not explicitly state anything about replacing "and" with a 
comma. This writing style is not limited to journalsm, as mentioned by Garbl's 
Writing Center ( ). His link on "How to Write News 
Releases" ( ) states
"Basic news writing is built on a writing method called the inverted pyramid. 
Journalists use it effectively, but it's also useful for other types of writing-
-from writing for the Web to writing letters to friends and employers to 
writing executive summaries in corporate reports. An essential ingredient is a 
beginning that grabs the reader immediately because it is interesting, 
informative or important."

The second commentor is also correct in mentioning that this style is used in 
mathematics, including computer programming and algorithms. Likewise, serial 
commas are used without "and" in the interest of keeping things concise. 

You might be interested in checking out the following Web sites:

The Tongue Untied - grammar for journalists

Garbl's Writing Center ( particularly )

When to Use Commas

Request for Answer Clarification by g3tja-ga on 24 Apr 2002 15:40 PDT
This is a comment, rather than a request for further clarification.

Thanks to all respondents for the most interesting answers and references to 
style guides. I still remain slightly surprised that the "&" [ampersand] 
symbol so soundly beat the comma as a linking device. After all, we use it in 
other forms of writing, and it was widely used in printing. Though if you 
weighed all the lead saved over the years ... (!)

If anyone's interested and doesn't know, the ampersand symbol is an amalgam of 
the latin "et" (= "and"). Printers who used it (according to Brewer's 
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable) initally referred to the device thus: "and, 
per se, *and*". This was contracted or corrupted to "ampersand".

Thanks again


Clarification of Answer by waggawa-ga on 24 Apr 2002 16:39 PDT
g3tja-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
The answers are well supported by references to style guides, and are 
courteously and well constructed.

Subject: Re: Comma used in headlines in place of "and"
From: jackfoley-ga on 24 Apr 2002 03:16 PDT
Journalism is all about keeping things short and sweet. Using a comma in place 
of "and" for headlines is part of the Inverted Pyramid style of journalistic 
writing, where the author starts with the MOST important information and works 
down to the LEAST important tidbits. For more information about Inverted 
Pyramid concepts, check out this page from the Cerritos College journalism site:

As it mentions in the History section, the style probably developed from 
telegraph messages relayed during the Civil War, which required sentences to be 
concise and to-the-point. It follows that words like "the" and "and" would get 
changed to something more concise or dropped altogether.

Do a search on "inverted pyramid" for more helpful links:

Subject: Re: Comma used in headlines in place of "and"
From: nick_c-ga on 24 Apr 2002 06:34 PDT
This isn't entirely unique to journalism, the comma is used as a convention to 
mean 'and' in mathematics, particularly set theory. For example:

x,y <- S

means x and y are members of a set S.

Similarly, in some programming languages, such as the functional langage 
Haskell ( commas are used to seperate clauses of a 
conditional statement. i.e:

[x | x <- Integer, x > 0, x/=10]

means, literally "The set of all numbers x for which x is an integer AND x is 
greater than zero AND x does not equal 10."

I doubt, however that there is any great link between this and journalism.
Subject: Re: Comma used in headlines in place of "and"
From: g3tja-ga on 24 Apr 2002 15:53 PDT
Telegraphists and ham radio operators use ES [  .  ... ] in place of AND  [ . -
   - .   - ..

Richard (G3TJA)

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