For instance, a train sign might say South bound trains this platform rather than Use this platform to take a Southbound train.

There is an interesting lack of articles and sometimes verbs, is there a name for this style (or a reason for it)?

3 Answers 3


From Wikipedia--

Telegram style, telegraph style, telegraphic style or telegraphese describes a clipped way of writing that attempts to abbreviate words and pack as much information into the smallest possible number of words and/or characters.

It originated in the telegraph age when telecommunication consisted only of short messages transmitted by hand over the telegraph wire. The telegraph companies charged for their service by the number of words in a message, with a maximum of 15 characters per word for a plain-language telegram, and 10 per word for one written in code. The style developed to minimize costs but still convey the message clearly and unambiguously.

Of the four names mentioned, telegraphic style is the version that I'm familiar with.

  • 1
    Aha! Thank you. The wikipedia article was a very interesting read too.
    – Matt
    Jun 9, 2015 at 6:01
  • As terse as they are, telegraphs are far more verbose than signs. Signs have little need to establish context.
    – TimR
    Jun 9, 2015 at 13:55
  • @TimRomano The description in the wikipedia article is appropriate for both. It's just that "the smallest possible number of words" for a sign is smaller than for a typical telegram, because of what you say.
    – Barmar
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:22

It is also the style of headlines in newspapers, where the topic is reduced to the shortest possible form.

  • Headlines are rather more verbose than signs.
    – TimR
    Jun 9, 2015 at 13:52
  • @TimRomano that depends heavily on the publication (as well as the style of sign)
    – Chris H
    Jun 15, 2015 at 20:22
  • The neologism is 'headlinese'. Dec 12, 2019 at 14:49

In software development this concept is called terseness or Verbose vs Terse. https://wikidiff.com/verbose/terse

  • Maybe, I dunno. But the general meanings of terse and verbose do not mean removing little words like of and the. It means being succinct. Whereas telegraphy style means you remove words.
    – Lambie
    May 12, 2018 at 22:49

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