Words in the News


© Getty Images \ seraficus
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

It’s not news that traditional newspapers, both national and local, are in deep trouble. The pressures they are under perhaps account for the fact that on Wednesday the venerable Cambridge News published a front page bearing the words 100PT SPLASH HEADING HERE and THIS IS A STRAP OVER TWO DECKS WITH A CROSS REFERENCE TO A PAGE HERE, underneath images of a thriller being filmed in the city and a varsity sporting fixture. The editor apologized for the oversight, blaming a technical issue. Apparently the headline should have read ‘£2m for ‘sex lair’ school’, in reference to a story on page 11. Let’s not go there.

The term splash as used in relation to newspapers recently entered the Open Dictionary but it dates back to the 1920s and 1930s. 100PT indicates the size of the type (pt is short for point, and 100 point is very big). Strap here is short for strap-line (first used in the 1960s) and refers to a subsidiary headline, while deck is another technical term, for a newspaper headline containing more than one line of type; this dates back to the 1930s.

The Cambridge News was roundly mocked on social media for its lapse, but I was quite glad of this insight into techniques for newspaper printing that hark back to the glory days of hot presses and movable type.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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