Horrible Headings

Well, at last, the work has started flowing again. This week it was the guidebook for Biddulph, a National Trust Victorian garden near Stoke on Trent. This has been a copy-edit job which has involved, among other things, composing some of the headings for double page spreads. One has to be careful about the composition of headings. It is easy to get carried away with the possibilities of alliteration: Dazzling Dahlias, Polychrome Parterres, Rampant Roses, Tortuous Topiary or to over-egg the ‘marketing’ vocabulary: The Glories of the Garden, Memories to Treasure, A Journey into History…….A Teashop to Dream of . I have had to rein myself in several times. The National Trust guidebooks are all produced to a ‘house’ design and beautifully illustrated with truly luscious pictures of the house and its grounds; History (and Family) usually goes at the front, followed by the Tour of the property. They are really pretty to look at and, if you are a visitor, probably one of the more inexpensive items at a NT Shop. It is interesting to compare the style and presentation of the NT guidebooks of today with those that were produced a few decades back. Somebody sent me an 1999 guide for Gibside (a National Trust property near Newcastle) the other day and it looks quite different – fewer illustrations, half of which are B&W and discreet columnar text, broken only by quietly informative sub-headings. In fact, here are none of the design features which ornament contemporary guides, for example cheerful straplines, ‘boxed out’ text or colour-coordinated headers/footers. And certainly not a sign in the text of any marketing effusions or forced alliteration! Less than 20 years ago, guidebooks were seen perhaps as a more serious and scholarly business.

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