Explore and compare the different grammatical structures and techniques used in an article from THE TIMES and from THE SUN regarding the earthquake in India.
Broadsheets and tabloids differ. They do not share the same tone, they do not have the same purpose and they aim to appeal to a different audience. Looking at these two newspaper reports, ‘At least 2,000 die in Gujarat quake’ (The Times) and ‘2,000 DEAD IN INDIA QUAKE’ (The Sun), we can see the techniques at work and the way in which they differ in each article.
I intend to discover the main journalistic features and grammatical structures throughout the two articles, compare them and explain why they were used.
In order to proceed, we need to analyse the language in depth to understand why particular words or phrases were chosen and the effect this vocabulary and style has on the reader. I expect to find that the intentions of the two papers are different: The Sun wants to entertain and The Times wants to inform.
In The Times’ article the tone is informative and serious. ‘In Pakistan at least 10 people were killed and 90 injured.’ The sentence being written in the passive combined with the use of numbers, makes the tragedy unconnected with the reader. Equally the disaster happened in countries very far from England and the story is reported on page 21. I feel this shows that The Times doesn’t get involved with the earthquake disaster but simply reports the details in a neutral tone.
The Sun, being a tabloid, takes the story far more to heart, reporting it on page four. It uses emotive language. Added adjectives like ‘devastating’ and adverbs like ‘desperately’ set a very shocking and tragic tone. The paper seems to feel the loss and sympathise with the people involved. “I am concerned about my family”. This quote and the two phone numbers in bold show that there are people in Britain who have friends and relatives there and there is a kind of close link between the paper and its people.
The Times’ report has two articles, both with titles written in bold letters. There is a large photograph to picture the tragedy and attract the reader’s attention and a small graphic illustration to place the story. The articles are written in narrow columns to make the amount of reading look more manageable. The first word is written in capital letters to encourage one to start reading. The paragraphs don’t exceed three sentences but the latter are long and well structured. The first one is thirty-two words long, which makes up the whole paragraph, and states what events occurred, where and when. The language is descriptive at the beginning (‘bleeding fingers dug into unyielding concrete…’) to set the scene and build our sympathy but follows on to be informative. The second paragraph is linked to the first by the use of the co-ordinating conjunction ‘but’. It is grammatically incorrect to use ‘but’ at the beginning of a sentence because its true role is to link clauses but it is very popular and very effective in this type of writing.
The Sun’s article is more eye-catching because the title is shorter and written in bold capital letters. There is a sub-title elaborating on the subject and setting the mood and the tone of the article. The first paragraph begins in a larger font to persuade us to start reading. The article is laid out in just one narrow column, divided half way with another subtitle ‘Destroyed’. This word emphasises the general feeling of the population as well as describing the area.
The illustration in The Sun shows panic and distress. We feel more for the people, unlike The Times, which is concerned with the “terrible economic losses”. The sentences in The Sun are less complex because they are read by a different audience. ‘Up to 1,000 were thought to have died there as hundreds of buildings shattered into rubble’. This two-clause sentence is one whole paragraph in The Sun’s article. Having few sentences to a paragraph shows economical presentation of each idea.
Important details in The Sun are stated in bold, such as the number of aftershocks to come,’18’, and the help lines.
The news section of The Times is always written in a formal register. ‘At least 3,200 were injured.’ It’s written in Standard English with no abbreviations or contractions. ‘There are no reports of damage….’. This style successfully appeals to a higher class of people who take interest in world affairs and not celebrity gossip.
The Sun is quite the opposite: it uses colloquial language, abbreviations and contractions. ‘Hols terror as towns are wiped out’. ‘Hols’ is an abbreviation of holiday and ‘wiped out’ is informal and over-exaggerated. This is typical journalese which one can expect to see in a tabloid. “It’s a tragedy”. The verb and the subject are contracted into one word: ‘it is’ becomes ‘it’s’. Elisions such as these are used in informal and spoken language. The choice of this informal register is due to the purpose of the paper. The latter is to appeal to people looking for an easy read.
Particular words were chosen to make the story more dramatic and build an interest. The Sun’s lexis consists of words such as ‘terror’, ‘destroyed’, ‘wiped out’, ‘agony’, ‘massive’, ‘tragedy’ and ‘shattered’ which are all part of the earthquake’s semantic field. They are exaggerated vocabulary, which often appears in tabloids.
The Times doesn’t use hyperbole but does choose to be dramatic to match the circumstances (‘worst’, ‘strongest’, ‘devastation’, ‘shook’). Again, the words listed are based around the same semantic field. The Times simply has a more formal and complex approach. This is identified from phrases such as ‘where two dozen buildings are thought to have collapsed’.
Both articles use facts and figures (‘worst in 50 years…killed at least 2,225 people”) to reinforce the gravity of the event.
The lexis is different in The Times to how it is in The Sun because the two papers are looking for the attention of a different reading group.
Parts of speech
In both newspapers we can notice the use of post-modification, used to give more information about the noun. ‘Ketan Majmudar, 36, a teacher in computer studies,’ The Times, and ‘State capital Ahmedabad, home of five million,’ The Sun, are noun packed phrases post-modifying a noun.
In the titles auxiliary verbs like ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ are left out. Instead of ‘rescue teams poised to fly out’ they could have written ‘rescue teams are poised to fly out’. This ellipse simplifies and shortens the title. Other words which are not necessary in order to understand the meaning, are also left out. ‘2,000 dead in India quake’ could have been ‘2,000 people dead in India quake’. However, such a noun is superfluous and would only add to the length of the title. It is important to be brief and interesting when writing a title because the reader’s attention determines the paper’s success. The Times are more precise and say ‘At least 2,000 die” which adds to the word count but is more explicit and formal.
The use of the present tense is applied in both articles inappropriately. ‘At least 2,000 die’ (The Times) as opposed to ‘have died’ and ‘is helped yesterday’ (The Sun) as opposed to ‘was helped yesterday’. Journalists do this because it makes statements shorter and actual. The action clearly happened in the past (yesterday) but sounds current. The verb ‘is helped’ is in the passive voice. When we change the sentence into the active voice it becomes: ‘(The man) helps the woman’ which we can recognise easily as the present tense.
The Sun has many techniques to emphasise words. In this one there is a rhyme in the first paragraph, ‘the wake of the massive quake’. It keeps the reader interested and entertained. The use of alliteration helps to insist on words creating a more dramatic image (‘bloody body’).
Synonyms are used in both articles to avoid repetition when referring to the damage. The Times: ‘shattered’, ‘collapsed’, ‘shook’; The Sun: ‘wiped out’, ‘rocked’, ‘hit’ and ‘destroyed’.
There is no use of direct address because these are newspaper reports written to inform us rather than talk directly to us. It is clearly written language, which unlike spoken language, has been carefully planned and structured.
Both articles are well written because they achieve their purpose. The Sun uses a larger font with colloquial exaggerated vocabulary and The Times adopts the more formal approach. They both aim to appeal to their targeted people. The Times writes for an educated audience seeking a more challenging piece of writing. This includes businessmen, house owners, and well-educated people, which is why it is written in that degree of formality and complexity.
The Sun, on the other hand, is aimed at an audience who wishes to be entertained and who is not looking to be intellectually challenged. Its objective is to appeal to the people by supporting them in moments of grief and to amuse them by spreading gossip about celebrities. As I predicted in my hypothesis, The Times wishes to inform and The Sun wishes to entertain. However, the real difference is emphasis because a journalist’s job is to inform and entertain; it is simply a question of prioritising according to the paper.