Reader Letters

Comma Crazy, But…

Dear editors,

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t limited space for headlines the only reason newspapers use commas in place of “and’? If so, a question: Web sites aren’t subject to the same space restrictions, so why do you persist in using them in your daily headlines? It really annoys me.

Yours truly,
Molly Bennett
Pedant General

Andrew Womack responds…


(Note my use of a colon rather than a comma in the salutation.)

In fact, our space in the headlines is more limited than you might think. We try to maximize the readability of the homepage headlines column by keeping the number of lines any single headline spans to a minimum. And we do that by aiming for an economy of characters in each headline. Thus, we sometimes use commas in place of “and”—by doing so, we shave off three characters.

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