Vocab Lesson 15: Hed and Dek

Vocab Lesson 15: Hed and Dek Everyone likely knows what a headline is, but have you ever heard it called a hed? We magazine types like to abbreviate things, so...

Headline is often shortened to head, which is technically spelled h-e-d, leaving out the "a".

A dek almost always accompanies the hed: it's the phrase or two that furthers the headline, explaining the story briefly and enticing the reader to keep reading.

Generally the deks are treated in a subordinate manner to headlines and often are placed under the hed, like in the Field & Stream example above. Since deks are usually longer phrases, they tend to be treated a bit more simply to aid readability, such as in this example below from ESPN.

Sometimes the dek leads into the hed or is treated more decoratively such as in this Best Life example below.

And sometimes the dek becomes even larger than the hed, like in this Wired spread, although the hed is always visually treated as the most eye-catching (despite the large dek type, the extreme smallness of the headline in combination with the red bar draws your eye to it).

And sometimes, there is no dek at all, such as in this spread from Details. Because the headline is self-explanatory, there's no real need for a dek in this case.

So what's with all the crazy spellings? Much of magazine terminology gets spelled in weird ways to distinguish it from the real words that appear on the pages. It's easier for the words head and deck to accidently slip by proofing than it is for the oddly-spelled hed and dek. Not to mention, they're a whole letter shorter and editors love anything that saves them a wee bit of time.

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Want more? Check out our previous Vocab Lessons here.

"Vocab Lesson" is a recurring feature on our SPD Student Blog. Tune in every Wednesday for a new word of the week. And if you come across a term you can't quite figure out, email it to us at spdstudentoutreach@gmail.com and we'll define it in a future post.

  • We magazine types also like to create our own dialects of the language we all speak, so there are often different terms for the same thing. I've heard a dek called a blurb, sometimes, and one place I worked called it a bank.

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