Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What's in a Magazine Name? More Readers, If It's Bossy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What's in a Magazine Name? More Readers, If It's Bossy

Article excerpt

If you've felt compelled lately to take action after reading a newspaper or magazine, here's why: The media are getting bossy.

It used to be that print outlets were all about being descriptive. Now they are using more commanding language in their display type - a 21st-century way to keep people engaged.

Want to know about the latest trends in home design? Consult a two-year-old magazine called Dwell. Looking for the hip happenings in Bean Town? The Boston Globe newspaper offers a column called Go! Got kids who like to get their hands dirty in the garden? Give them a copy of Grow! (a magazine whose title, one assumes, refers to the plants and not the children).

Once such language was the domain of advertising, but now it can be found in publications like Wired magazine, where new headings inside include "Start," "Test," and "Play."

"If you hold up a magazine from 1975, that is not the style," says linguist John McWhorter, author of the recent book "The Power of Babel." "This is a new phenomenon."

Contemporary reading habits may have something to do with the change. After all, this is an era where Rolling Stone is planning to offer more concise stories to appeal to people with MTV-type attention spans, and booklets are being published for partygoers who can't spare the hours to read "Harry Potter" and "Angela's Ashes," but can squeeze in a CliffsNotes-style alternative.

Those examples support Professor McWhorter's view that, as a society, we are less literate. He suggests that we are more about oral communication - with our cellphones and talk shows - and thanks to the Internet, where everything is short and sweet, we don't read as much.

Whatever the reason, today many magazine titles not only describe what the publication is about, they also ask you to do something, notes magazine guru Samir Husni. …

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