Research article
Issue: № 3 (3), 2015


The article considers pecularities of English journalese. The results of research on lexics, syntax, structure of newspaper articles and headlines are provided. The author uses ussues of “The Guardian” from 01.12.12 till 01.04.13 as research data.

Journalese, the style of newspapers, formed in the English language in the middle of 19th century. It has come a long way of shaping. The first English newspaper, called «The News of the Present Week» was published in 1622. Before that there had been periodic news leaflets. But due to the law that permitted using the printing press without king’s personal permission, all the information that was to be published in the leaflets was strictly censored. In the end of the 17th century this law was abolished and since that time the history of the English journalese began. For years newspapers have been one of the main sources of information and thanks to their availability in the Internet they stay up to date till today. The language that we see on the newspaper pages has its own lexical and stylistic peculiarities. These peculiarities will be examined in this article.

The structure of the English article.

The majority of English articles have the structure of an inverted pyramid. This means that the main information of the article is summarized in the first paragraph, thus turning the text upside down. The ending, the consequences of an event are put in the first place, whereas the details and the initial cause are revealed later.  The aim of such structure is to bring the vital information to the reader’s attention as soon as possible, which is in the first passages of the article. Secondary information is introduced in the third-forth paragraph of the article, though the reader might not read so far. In his article “the birth of the inverted pyramid” an American journalist and writer Chip Scanlan says that the appearance of the structure of the inverted pyramid owes much to the invention of the telegraph, that happened 150 years ago. Given that the massages were expensive, journalists tried to avoid the copious style of 19th century and invented a new, compressed style. [6]  

According to the research 48 articled out of the analised 50 have the structure of the inverted pyramid and only two have the chronological structure. It should be pointed out that this structure is very convenient for news texts as it gives the reader the possibility to learn about the changes in a particular situation very quickly.

Peculiarities of English newspaper headlines.

The distinguishing feature of an English headline is simplified grammar. In passive constructions the verb “to be” is often omitted:

Chinese traffic police given anti-smog nasal filters (27.03) instead of Chinese traffic police IS given anti-smog nasal filters;

French driver trapped for an hour in speeding 125mph car with no brakes (13.02) instead of French driver WAS trapped for an hour in speeding 125mph car with no brakes.

Articles and possessive pronouns are also omitted:  Princess Diana’s dress snapped up by anonymous bidder as surprise for wife. (19.03).


The Present Simple Tense is mainly used in headlines, even if past actions are described. The Present Simple tense gives a reader the feeling of simultaneity of events:

Paris fashion week: Raf Simons repeats Oscars triumph for Dior. (1.03)

Andrew Marr leaves hospital nearly two months after suffering a stroke. (01.03)


The use of quotations and direct speech is common for English headlines:

73-year-old bank robber 'wanted to return to jail'. (13.02)

Nicolas Sarkozy: I’d return to politics only to save France. (06.03)

Relaxation of US cannabis laws ‘violates UN drug convention’. (22.03)

The jobseeker's story: 'I'm not proud to say I've gone begging'. (22.03)

Indirect speech is also occasionally used: World’s oldest person Jiroemon Kimura 115, says rise with the sun, read a paper. (07.03)

Adoption reforms must slow down and give more support to parents, say peers. (06.03)


Foreign words and emotional lexics are often used:

French Communist party says adieu to the hammer and sickle (10.02) (adieu – french “Good bye” ); Bonjour … David Beckham introduces himself as a Paris Saint-Germain player. (31.01) (Bonjour – french “Good afternoon”).

Minami Minegishi of AKB48 appears in tearful mea culpa on YouTube after breaking her band's strict rules on dating, (mea culpa – (from Latin, often humorous, used when you are admitting that sth is your fault).


Readers can also come cross tropes in newspaper headlines:

Fashion renews its love affair with the royal family (metaphor). (22.03)

It should be pointed out that the main function of English headlines is the informative function, the author in the first place informs the reader what the article is about and only after that tries to attract attention and advertise his work:  Syria crisis: European countries expected to start arming rebels. (01.02), Paralyzed people could get movement back through thought control. (17 .02), Childcare costs rising by more than twice the rate of inflation. (06.03)

A few words must be said about the structure of an English headline. Most commonly a headline is a two-member sentence which has a subject and a predicate. Single words and phrases seldom make headlines: Obesity crisis: doctors demand soft drinks tax and healthier hospital food (18.02), Spanish city's ban on Islamic veils overturned (28.02)

Lexical and syntactical peculiarities of an English article.

One of the main peculiarities of English articles is without a doubt the role of passive voice. It is especially evident in news reports:

More than 200 medicinal products are affected...( 27.02)

The message was received, loud and clear. (01.03)
…he could be sent to prison for up to 20 years. (13.02)


Thus, it can be said that passive constructions are more common than active constructions. Apart from passivizing, peculiar is the amount of non-finite verbs: gerund, participal 1 and participal 2, that make the text more informative and logical:

Reading helps (31.01)

…. to talk to families about receiving help  (19.03)

She also agreed that the property, accessed by narrow lanes, was an “open house” for family, friends and then her boyfriend (19.03)

However, all were discharged within two days to two weeks having gained weight and none had long-term damage. (20.03)


Clichés are often used in newspaper articles. This is one if the features of newspaper style: according to federal complaint, according to state media report, presumed, estimated, to be reported, it is claimed, it was announced, one the one hand ... one the other hand, … declined to comment, on the agenda  etc.

Frequent is also the occurrence of infinitive phrases, such as: to be expected, to be said to, to appear to, to be likely to do, to fail to do:

… and the proposal appears to have the support of David Cameron. (13.03)

But newspaper groups appeared to be moving to boycott the new system… (19.03)

The aid is expected to include civilian vehicle… (02.03)

The woman is said to have injured herself escaping from her first-floor room… (19.03)


Talking about cliché expressions and infinitive phrases, one should point out the verb “to allege” – to assert to be true, affirm; and its derivative phrases – to be alleged, allegedly.  This verb is used almost in every article and it is fair to assume that it is very important in the modern press. As well as the infinitive phrases “to appear to”, “to be said to”, the phrase “to be alleged to” is used in those cases when the author is not absolutely sure in the reliability of the information that he transmits:

A British tourist in India has been injured after she fled her hotel in fear when a man allegedly tried to barge into her room (19.03)

The prosecution has said the motive for the men’s alleged plot may never be known. (19.03)

Newspaper articles are also rich in complex and compound sentences: 

Local newspapers and magazines could also set up on their own, insiders have warned, while Scotland is also threatening a separate system. (19.03)

Jobcentre employees across the country say that as a direct result of this sort of pressure they are now expected to hit a “minimum expected level” of sanctions (22.03). 

Complex sentences are more common in English newspapers than compound ones.

Frequent is the use parenthesis such as: of course, although, finally, meanwhile,  however, at first glance, therefore.

Newspaper article abound in phrasal verbs, that are the feature of colloquial speech: come up, turn in,  draw up, dry up, carry out, cash in, stand up, sum up, put off, get by, catch up etc.

Proverbs and saying are often used:

Charity begins at home ‘A lot of families in this country need help’.(19.03)

Prevention is better than cure. (31.01)

Colloquial lexics is often used: plonk, booze, gag, spoof, cool, dorky, soap (from soap opera).

Texts of newspaper article are rich in idioms:

If the couple intended to keep a low profile, they succeeded (07.03) (keep a low profile – to stay out of public notice)

The sporting world seemed poised to give the cold shoulder to Oscar Pistorius after a court in South Africa allowed the Olympic and Paralympic star to return to international competition (31.04) (to give the cold shoulder – to behave towards someone in an unfriendly way ).

His statement suggests the issue is likely to come to a head on Monday… (13.03) (to come to a head –to reach a critical, crucial stage)

Tropes can often be found in articles: Beckham was asked how it felt to be the granddaddy of French sport. (01.02) (metaphor)

Common are also abbreviations: DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) ILF  (inductive loss factor), FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange Index); V-E day – Victory in Europe day, GP  (general practitioner) PR (public relations).

Apart from abbreviations the articles include shortenings. Due to the fact that The Guardian is quality press, it does not include as many shortenings as tabloids. However, some common ones occur in separate articles: it’s, aren’t, haven’t, won’t, doesn’t, teens instead of teenagers, high-tech instead of high-technology etc. Such usage of shortening can be justified on the one hand by the tendency to economize speech, increased speed of transmitting massages, one the other hand, by one of the essential features of newspaper articles – simplicity and intelligibility to every member of society. Apart from all that, the usage of shortenings makes the speech more modern, fresh and expressive. And due to the fact that all the used shortenings come to newspaper language from everyday life, the reader has no problem deciphering them.  It is convenient for the journalist to use shortenings as synonyms of full word forms to avoid excessive repetition.

Since journalistic genre is often described as expression versus standard, special terms can also occur. Law and economics terms occur quite often: trafficking, misdemeanor, felony, defendant, inflation, bailout, stock market.

The results of the research show that the English newspaper article has the following features: lexical variety (from colloquial to scientific terms), the use of stylistic figures and tropes which realize the influential function of newspaper texts. The syntax of the articles includes complex sentences, non-finate verb. All these features of newspaper article are determined by the striving for shortness, quick delivery of information as well as influential function. 


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  • www. guardian.co.uk

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