Functional Styles. Newspaper Style


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

Not all the printed materials found in newspapers come under newspaper style. Only materials which perform the function of informing the reader and providing him with an evaluation of information published can be regarded as belonging to newspaper style. English newspaper style can be defined as a system of interrelated lexical phraseological and grammatical means which is perceived by the community as a separate linguistic unity that serves the purpose of informing and instructing the reader.



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Основы теории изучаемого языка                                                                                         Стилистика английского языка

                                                                                                   Лекция 12

                                                                                                              Functional Styles

Lecture 12

Functional Styles

Newspaper Style

English newspaper writing dates from the 17th century.  The first of any regular English newspapers was the Weekly News which first appeared in May, 1622. The early English newspaper was principally a vehicle of information.  Commentary found its way into the newspapers later.  But as far back as the middle of the 18th century the British newspaper was very much like what it is today, carrying foreign and domestic news, advertisements, announcements and articles containing comments.

Not all the printed materials found in newspapers come under newspaper style. Only materials which perform the function of informing the reader and providing him with an evaluation of information published can be regarded as belonging to newspaper style. English newspaper style can be defined as a system of interrelated lexical, phraseological and grammatical means which is perceived by the community as a separate linguistic unity that serves the purpose of informing and instructing the reader. Information in the English newspaper is conveyed through the medium of:

  1.  brief news items;
  2.  press reports;
  3.  articles purely informational in character;
  4.  advertisements and announcements.

The newspaper also seeks to influence public opinion on political and other matters.  Elements of appraisal may be observed in the very selection and way of presentation of news, in the use of specific vocabulary, casting some doubt on the facts recorded, and syntactical constructions indicating a lack of assurance of the reporter or his desire to avoid responsibility.  The principle vehicle of interpretation and appraisal is the newspaper article and the editorial in particular.  Editorial is a leading article which is characterized by a subjective handling of facts.  This purpose defines the choice of language elements which are mostly emotionally colored.

To understand the language peculiarities of English newspaper style it will be sufficient to analyse the following basic newspaper features:

1) brief news items,

2) advertisements and announcements,

3) the headline,

4) the editorial.

Brief News Items

The principal function of a brief news item is to inform the reader. It states facts without giving explicit comments, and whatever evaluation there is in news paragraphs is for the most part implicit and as a rule unemotional. News items are essentially matter-of-fact, and stereotyped forms of expression prevail. As an invariant, the language of brief news items is stylistically neutral, which seems to be in keeping with the allegedly neutral and unbiased nature of newspaper reporting; in practice, however, departures from this principle of stylistic neutrality (especially in the so-called "mass papers") are quite common.

It goes without saying that the bulk of the vocabulary used in newspaper writing is neutral and common literary. But apart from this, newspaper style has its specific vocabulary features and is characterized by an extensive use of:

  1.  special political and economic terms (president, election);
  2.  non-term political vocabulary (nation, crisis, agreement, member);
  3.  newspaper cliches (pressing problem, danger of war, pillars of society);
  4.  abbreviations (UNO (United Nations Organization), TUG (Trades Union Congress), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), EEC (European Economic Community), TGWU (Transport and General Workers Union), FO (Foreign Office), PIB (Prices and Incomes Board));
  5.  neologisms.

As the reporter is obliged to be brief, he naturally tries to cram all his facts into the space allotted. This tendency predetermines the peculiar composition of brief news items and the syntactical structure of the sentences. The size of brief news items varies from one sentence to several (short) paragraphs. And generally, the shorter the news item, the more complex its syntactical structure.

The following grammatical peculiarities of brief news items are of paramount importance, and may be regarded as their grammatical parameters.

a) Complex sentences with a developed system of clauses, e. g.

"Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Kingston-upon-Thames), said he had been asked what was meant by the statement in the Speech that the position of war pensioners and those receiving national insurance benefits would be kept under close review." (The Times)

"There are indications that BO AC may withdraw - threats of all-out dismissals for pilots who restrict flying hours, a spokesman for the British Airline Pilots' association said yesterday," (Morning Star)

b) Verbal constructions (infinitive, participial, gerundial) and verbal noun constructions, e.g.

"Mr. Nobusuke Kishi, the former Prime Minister of Japan, has sought to set an example to the faction-ridden Governing Liberal Democratic Party by announcing the disbanding of his own faction numbering 47 of the total of 295 conservative members of the Lower House of the Diet." (The Times)

c) Syntactical complexes, especially the nominative with the infinitive. These constructions are largely used to avoid mentioning the source of information or to shun responsibility for the facts reported, e. g.

"The condition of Lord Samuel, aged 92, was said last night to be a 'little better.'" (The Guardian)

"A petrol bomb is believed to have been exploded against the grave of Cecil Rhodes in the Matopos." (The Times)

d) Attributive noun groups are another powerful means of effecting brevity in news items, e.g. 'heart swap patient' (Morning Star), 'the national income and expenditure figures' (The Times), 'Labour backbench decision' (Morning Star), 'Mr. Wilson's HMS fearless package deal' (Morning Star).

e) Specific word-order. Newspaper tradition, coupled with the rigid rules of sentence structure in English, has greatly affected the word-order of brief news items. The word-order in one-sentence news paragraphs and in what are called "leads" (the initial sentences in longer news items) is more or less fixed. Journalistic practice has developed what is called the "five-w-and-h-pattern rule" (who-what-why-how-where-when) and for a long time strictly adhered to it. In terms of grammar this fixed sentence structure may be expressed in the following manner: Subject—Predicate (+Object)—Adverbial modifier of reason (manner)— Adverbial modifier of place, Adverbial modifier of time, e.g.

"A neighbor’s peep through a letter box led to the finding of a woman dead from gas and two others semiconscious in a block of council flats in Eccles New Road, Salford, Lanes., yesterday." (The Guardian)

Advertisements and Announcements

There are two basic types of advertisements and announcements in the modern English newspaper: classified and non-classified.

In classified advertisements and announcements various kinds of information are arranged according to subject-matter into sections, each bearing an appropriate name. In The Times, for example, the reader never fails to find several hundred advertisements and announcements classified into groups, such as BIRTHS, MARRIAGES, DEATHS, IN MEMORIAM, BUSINESS OFFERS, PERSONAL, etc. This classified arrangement has resulted in a number of stereotyped patterns regularly employed in newspaper advertising. Note one of the accepted patterns of classified advertisements and announcements in The Times:


CULHANE.—On.November 1st, at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, to BARBARA and JOHN CULHANE — a son.

All announcements in the 'Birth' section are built on exactly the same elliptical pattern. This tendency to eliminate from the sentence all elements that can be done without is a pronounced one in advertisement and announcement writing. The elliptic sentence structure has no stylistic function; it is purely technical—to economize space, expensive in what newspaper men call the "advertising hole." Though, of course, having become a common practice, this peculiar brevity of expression is a stylistic feature of advertisements and announcements which may take a variety of forms, for example:

TRAINED NURSE with child 2 years seeks post London preferred. — Write Box C. 658, The Times, E.G. 4.'

Here the absence of all articles and some punctuation marks makes the statement telegram-like. Sentences which are grammatically complete also tend to be short and compact.

The vocabulary of classified advertisements and announcements is on the whole essentially neutral with here and there a sprinkling of emotionally coloured words or phrases used to attract the reader's attention.

As for the non-classified advertisements and announcements, the variety of language form and subject-matter is so great that hardly any essential features common to all may be pointed out. The reader's attention is attracted by every possible means: typographical, graphical and stylistic, both lexical and syntactical. Here there is no call for brevity, as the advertiser may buy as much space as he chooses.


The main function of the headline is to inform the reader briefly what the text that follows is about. English headlines are short and catching, they "compact the gist of news stories into a few eye-snaring words. A skillfully turned out headline tells a story, or enough of it, to arouse or satisfy the reader's curiosity." l In some English and American newspapers sensational headlines are quite common. The practices of headline writing are different with different newspapers.

Headlines also abound in emotionally coloured words and phrases, as the italicised words in the following:

End  this Bloodbath  (Morning Star) „    Milk Madness (Morning Star) Tax agent a cheat (Daily World)

No Wonder Housewives are Pleading: 'HELP* (Daily Mirror) Roman Catholic Priest sacked (Morning Star)

Furthermore, to attract the reader's attention, headline writers often resort to a deliberate breaking-up of set expressions, in particular fused set expressions, and deformation of special terms, a stylistic device capable of producing a strong emotional effect, e.g.

Cakes and Bitter Ale (The Sunday Times) Conspirator-in-chief Still at Large (The Guardian)

Compare respectively the allusive set expression cakes and ale, and the term commander-in-chief.

Other stylistic devices are not infrequent in headlines, as for example, the pun (e.g. 'And what about Watt'—The Observer), alliteration (e.g. Miller in Maniac Aiood— The Observer), etc.

Syntactically headlines are very short sentences or phrases of a variety of patterns:

a) Full declarative sentences, e.g. 'They Threw Bombs on Gipsy Sites' (Morning Star), 'Allies Now Look to London' (The Times)

b) Interrogative sentences, e. g. 'Do-you love war?' (Daily World), 'Will Celtic confound pundits?' (Morning Star)

c) Nominative sentences, e.g. 'Gloomy Sunday' (The Guardian), * Atlantic Sea Traffic' (The Times), 'Union peace plan for Girling stewards' (Morning Star)

d) Elliptical sentences, f.e. with an auxiliary verb omitted, e.g. 'Initial report not expected until June!' (The Guardian), 'Yachtsman spotted" (Morning Star)


The function of the editorial is to influence the reader by giving an interpretation of certain facts. Editorials comment on the political and other events of the day. Their purpose is to give the editor's opinion and interpretation of the news published and suggest to the reader that it is the correct one. Like any evaluative writing, editorials appeal not only to the reader's mind but to his feelings as well. Hence the use of emotionally coloured language elements, both lexical and structural, is predominant.

Style of scientific prose

The purpose of science as a branch of human activity is to disclose by research the inner substance of things and phenomena of objective reality and find out the laws regulating them, thus enabling man to predict, control and direct their future development in order to improve the material and social life of mankind. The style of scientific prose is therefore mainly characterized by an arrangement of language means which will bring proofs to clinch a theory. The main function of scientific prose is proof. The selection of language means must therefore meet this principle requirement.
The genre of scientific works is mostly characteristic of the written form of language (scientific articles, monographs or textbooks), but it may also be found in its oral form (in scientific reports, lectures, discussions at conferences, etc.); in the latter case this style has some features of colloquial speech.
The language of science is governed by the aim of the functional style of scientific prose, which is to prove a hypothesis, to create new concepts, to disclose the internal laws of existence, development, relations between different phenomena, etc. The language means used, therefore, tend to be objective, precise, unemotional, and devoid of any individuality; there is a striving for the most generalized form of expression.
The first and most noticeable feature of this style is the logical sequence of utterances with clear indication of their interrelations and interdependence, that is why in no other functional style there is such a developed and varied system of connectives as in scientific prose. The most frequently words used in scientific prose are functional words; conjunctions and prepositions. The first 100 most frequent words of this style comprises the following units:
a) prepositions: of, to, in, for, with, on, at, by, from, out, about, down;
b) prepositional phrases: in terms of; in view of, in spite of, in common with, on behalf of, as a result of; by means of, on the ground of, in case of;
c) conjunctional phrases: in order that, in case that, in spite of the fact that, on the ground that, for fear that;
d) pronouns: one, it, we, they;
e) notional words: people, time, two, like, man, made, years.
As scientific prose is restricted to formal situations and, consequently, to formal style, it employs a special vocabulary which consists of two main groups: words associated with professional communication and a less exclusive group of so-called learned words.

A particularly important aspect of scientific and technological language is the subject-neutral vocabulary which cuts across different specialized domains. In particular, a great deal of scientific work involves giving instructions to act in a certain way, or reporting on the consequences of having so acted. Several lexical categories can be identified within the language of scientific instruction and narrative:
-Verbs of exposition: ascertain, assume, compare, construct, describe, determine, estimate, examine, explain, label, plot, record, test, verify.

-Verbs of warning and advising: avoid, check, ensure, notice, prevent, remember, take care; also several negative items: not drop, not spill.
-Verbs of manipulation: adjust, align, assemble, begin, boil, clamp, connect, cover, decrease, dilute, extract, fill, immerse, mix, prepare, release, rotate, switch on, take, weigh.
- Adjectival modifiers and their related adverbs: careful(y), clockwise, continuous(ly), final(ly), gradual(ly), moderate(ly), periodic(ally), secure(ly), subsequent(ly), vertical(ly).

A second and no less important feature and, probably, the most conspicuous, is the use of terms specific to each given branch of science.

A third characteristic feature of scientific style is special sentence-patterns. They are of three types: postulatory, argumentative and formulate. A hypothesis, a scientific conjecture or a forecast must be based on facts already known, on facts systematized and defined. Therefore every piece of scientific prose will begin with postulator statements which are taken as self-evident and needing no proof. A reference to these facts is only preliminary to the exposition of the writer’s ideas and is therefore summed up in precisely formulated statements accompanied, if considered necessary, by references to sources.

The syntax of scientific speech is characterized by the use of complete (non-elliptical) sentences, the use of extended complex and compound sentences without omission of conjunctions, as they enable the author to express the relations between the parts more precisely (as different from the asyndetic connection typical of colloquial speech), the use of bookish syntactic constructions with non-finite forms of the verb, the use of extended attributive phrases, often with a number of nouns as attributes to the head-noun, e.g. the germ plasma theory; the time and space relativity theory; the World Peace Conference; a high level consensus; the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide emission; fossil fuel burning; deforestation problems.
A fourth observable feature of the style of modern scientific prose, and one that strikes the eye of the reader, is the use of quotations and references. These sometimes occupy as much as half a page. The references have a definite compositional pattern, namely, the name of the writer referred to, the title of the work quoted, the publishing house, the place and the year it was published, and the page of the excerpt quoted or referred to.

A fifth feature of scientific style, which makes it distinguishable from other styles, is the frequent use of foot-notes, not of the reference kind, but digressive in character. This is in full accord with the main requirement of the style, which is logical coherence of ideas expressed. Anything that seems to violate this requirement or seems not to be immediately relevant to the matter in hand but at the same time serves indirectly to back up the idea will be placed in a foot-note.

The impersonality of scientific writings can also be considered a typical feature of this style. The author of scientific works tends to sound impersonal. This quality is mainly revealed in the frequent use of passive constructions.

  1.  Of the twenty-two different drugs in opium that we know of, including codeine and papaverine, the active ingredient or dominant one is morphine. But morphine and opium affect the same person quite differently. The synergy among morphine and the other drugs changes its effects. Foxglove contains digitalis, one the most important heart medications. But because foxglove also contains verodoxin, a supposedly inert substance, a lower dosage of the intact plant form achieves the same results as a higher dose of the extract.
    (b) We measured the regional CBF (cerebral blood flow) during each of the experimental conditions, on the same day, with a 60–75 min interval between measurements. The CBF was assessed using a single photon tomograph (TOMOMATIC 64, Medimatic, Copenhagen) and intravenous injection of Xenon 133 (2200 Mbeq). Data were collected from three transverse slices, each of 2cm thickness, parallel and centred at 1.5 and 9cm above the orbito-metal plane respectively. The in-plane resolution was about 1.7cm FWHM. During the 4 min data collection, PCO2 was continuously monitored using a cutaneous electrode and a Kontron 634PCO2 monitor. (From Celcis P., et al. (1991), p.256.)
    The remarkable difference between the two samples lies in the fact that the second one requires a far greater amount of preliminary knowledge than the first one. The samples differ in the amount of objectivity, the first being less objective in stating data. Further, in the first excerpt, views and opinions are expressed, in the second none are given. In both samples the syntax is governed by logical reasoning, and there are no emotional elements whatsoever.
    However emotiveness is not entirely or categorically excluded from scientific prose. There may be hypotheses, statements and conclusions which, being backed up by strong belief, therefore call for the use of some emotionally-coloured words. Our emotional reaction to facts and ideas may bear valuable information, as it itself springs from the inner qualities of these facts and ideas. We depend to no small degree upon our emotional reactions for knowledge of the outer world. In modern scientific prose emotional words are very seldom used. At least they are not constituents of the modern scientific style. Nor can we find emotional structures or stylistic devices which aim at rousing aesthetic feelings.

The Style of Official Documents

This FS is not homogeneous and is represented by the following substyles or variants:

  1.  the language of business documents;
  2.  the language of legal documents;
  3.  the language of diplomacy;
  4.  the language of military documents.

Like other styles of language, this style has a definite communicative aim and its own system of interrelated language and stylistic means.  The main aim of this type of communication is to state the conditions binding two parties and to reach agreement between two contracting parties. The most general function of the style of official documents predetermines the peculiarities of the style.

The most striking, though not the most essential feature, is a special system of clichР№s, terms and set expressions by which each sub-style can easily be recognized, for example: I beg to inform you; I beg to move; I second the motion; provisional agenda; the above-mentioned; hereinafter named; on behalf of; private advisory; Dear sir; We remain, your obedient servants.

In fact, each of the subdivisions of this style has its own peculiar terms, phrases and expressions which differ from the corresponding terms, phrases and expressions of other variants of this style. Thus, in finance we find terms like extra revenue; taxable capacities; liability to profit tax. Terms and phrases like high contracting parties; to ratify an agreement; memorandum; pact; protectorate; extra-territorial status; plenipotentiary will immediately brand the utterance as diplomatic. In legal language, examples are: to deal with a case; summary procedure; a body of judges; as laid down in; the succeeding clauses of agreement; to reaffirm faith in fundamental principles; to establish the required conditions; the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law.

The vocabulary is characterized not only by the use of special terminology but the choice of lofty (bookish) words and phrases: plausible (=possible); to inform (=to tell); to assist (=to help); to cooperate (=to work together); to promote (=to help something develop);
to secure (=to make certain) social progress; with the following objectives/ends (=for these purposes); to be determined/resolved (=to wish); to endeavour (=to try); to proceed (=to go); inquire (to ask).

Likewise, other varieties of official languages have their special nomenclature, which is conspicuous in the text, and therefore easily discernible.

Besides the special nomenclature characteristic of each variety of the style, there is a feature common to all these varieties “ the use of abbreviations, conventional symbols and contractions. Some of them are well-known, for example, M.P. (Member of Parliament); Gvt. (government); H.M.S. (Her Majestys Steamship); $ (dollar); Ltd (Limited). But there are a few that have recently sprung up. A very interesting group of acronyms comprises the names of the USA presidents: FDR вЂ“ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and accordingly FDR-drive in New York; JFK “ John Fitzgerald Kennedy and JFK Airport in New York; LBJ Lyndon Baines Johnson; W “ for America President George Walker Bush, but his father is simply George Bush though his full name is George Herbert Walker Bush; POTUS, VPOTUS and FLOTUS “accordingly President/Vice President/First Lady of the United States.

There are so many abbreviations and acronyms in official documents that there are special addenda in dictionaries to decode them. These abbreviations are particularly abundant in military documents. Here they are used not only as conventional symbols but as signs of the military code, which is supposed to be known only to the initiated. Examples are: DAO (Divisional Ammunition Officer); adv. (advance); atk. (attack); obj. (object); A/T (anti-tank); ATAS (Air Transport Auxiliary Service).

Another feature of the style is the use of words in their logical dictionary meaning. There is no room for words with contextual meaning or for any kind of simultaneous realization of two meanings, as in the other matter-of-fact styles.


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