All good things, they say, must come to an end. According to this article from the Columbia Journalism Review, the Associated Press has decided to phase out venerable wire-service-era editorial terms like “lede,” “hed,” “sted,” and “graf” in its stories.
Well, I guess these terms have certainly had their day. But I’m surprised, in a way, that they haven’t caught on with the latest generation of web-based writers. After all, they have a couple things going for them:
- They’re retro. They were born in the time of steampunk. When you hear them, you think manual typewriters and telegraphs. And as print newspapers increasingly acquire retro-chic cachet akin to vinyl LPs, perhaps some of that warm glow will shine on the terms of the trade as well.
- They’re short. In an era when, once again, space constraints limit how much can be communicated effectively in one burst (think Twitter and text messages), abbreviated terms can pack much information into a small, efficient space. Think about it: “30” is perfect for a numeric keypad, and it uses five whole fewer characters than “kthxbai.”
We may have to wait a while, but I think these classics will make a comeback. After all, text messaging gave numeric keypad letters a whole new life long after people had stopped using them to remember telephone exchanges. They have stuck around this long — not because of nostalgia, but because their usefulness outlived the contingencies that created them. Whether we “RT” or “TK,” we’ll always have a need for editorial shorthand.