The Language Perfectionist: Hot Off the Press

Can you spot anything wrong in this sentence?

“Also on the front page, just below the Citizen’s masthead, the paper’s publishers added the phrase ‘Belmont’s Only Prize-Winning Newspaper,’ a thinly veiled dig at their hometown competitor, The Belmont Herald.”

The logo at the top of a newspaper’s front page is not a masthead. The masthead, usually found in the editorial section, is a list of the publication’s staff members, along with policy statements, contact information, and the like.

So what’s the right name for the front-page logo? It’s a nameplate. Other terms journalists use are banner and flag.

Several dictionaries I consulted don’t bother with this distinction. They contend that the word masthead means both the logo and the informational listing. But using the same term for both is ambiguous and potentially confusing. Here is still more evidence that many dictionaries have become too permissive. Instead of giving us guidance, they often repeat and perpetuate common misuses.

So please keep this distinction straight. It’s especially important if print newspapers and magazines continue to exist — as we can only hope they do!

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]