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How the Associated Press handles online headlines.

Norm Goldstein, editor of The Associated Press Stylebook, gives some helpful tips on online headline writing in the current issue of Copy Editor newsletter:

"Headline writers are something of a journalistic breed of their own. Their works are the story magnets attracting readers of tabloids and traditional publications alike, both online and in print.

"It's the online aspect that's creating much current discussion, if not confusion: is headline style online any different from in print?

"Well, no. And yes.

"Associated Press style for headlines--formerly known as 'summary lines' for the service--is to follow basic print story style in usage and spelling. Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns, but use numerals for all numbers and single quotes for quotation marks--a recognition of the online factor. The AP also notes some online-only rules for headlines:

* Identify the location. Locators should be used in headlines when necessary to tell the story. They should be spelled out if there is room, or abbreviated according to AP style. (Wisconsin is Wis., not WI).

* Acronyms and initialisms are acceptable in headlines for well-known entities such as the NAACP, the FDA, the IRS, and FEMA.

* Co.: Try not to use this or cos. to abbreviate for company or companies.

* Federal Reserve: Fed is acceptable in headlines.

* EU, U.S., U.N.: Follow AP style, using periods in U.S. and U.N., but not in EU.

* Government. This can be abbreviated to gov't in headlines as a last resort, but it is preferable to list the specific agency, such as SEC or IRS.

* Million, billion: These terms can be abbreviated in headlines. For example, $45 million would be $45M and $5 billion would be $5B.

* Percent: Try not to abbreviate. If necessary, use pet., not %.

* Quarter. use 4Q, not Q4.

"Recent sightings that appear to be more affectations than trendsetters include the lowercase use of o for of in common acronyms and initialisms, such as DoD for Department of Defense and MoMA for New York's Museum of Modern Art. It's more understandable to a reader to stay with the all-caps form: DOD, MOMA."

Copy Editor, 1010 East Missouri Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85014, 888-626-8779, fax 602-395-5853,
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Title Annotation:Editing
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:May 7, 2007
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