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How to Write a Dateline

by Kingston Lee, Demand Media
    Writing a dateline is easy, but the correct format can be tricky.

    Writing a dateline is easy, but the correct format can be tricky.

    A dateline is a geographic identifier at the beginning of a news article or press release. The name of a city or town, often followed by an abbreviation of a state name, is considered a dateline. Datelines generally are placed after bylines but before the first sentences of news articles or press releases. They sometimes are in bold to differentiate them from the rest of the copy, and sometimes are set off in all capital letters. Here is a typical dateline: Orlando, Fla. --

    Step 1

    Consider the most appropriate geographic area for your dateline. It could be the place where something happened or where the organization's headquarters are based. It also could be the town or city from which you are reporting an event, or the hometown of someone mentioned in a press release. If your organization writes datelines using Associated Press style -- the format common to newspaper and magazine writing, as well as online reporting -- be sure you are aware of AP abbreviations for states, which are different from the more common ZIP Code abbreviations.

    Step 2

    Determine whether there should be one dateline or two datelines. Sometimes the corporate headquarters of two different organizations are included in the dateline if the press release is making a joint announcement. To write two datelines at the beginning of a press release, do it this way: ORLANDO, Fla., and CINCINNATI, Ohio --

    Step 3

    Determine the style you want to use for your dateline. Many organizations use the Associated Press style, which is to put the dateline city in all capital letters and the state or nation in lower case, followed by a dash. Other styles are to make datelines bold, or to make them both bold and all capital letters, or a combination of these styles. The style used by your organization also will dictate how to abbreviate state names.

    Step 4

    If you are using Associated Press style, write your dateline like this, using the AP state abbreviations: ORLANDO, Fla. -- or, like this, in bold Orlando, Fla. --

    Step 5

    If your organization writes datelines using AP style, keep in mind that some major cities do not require the state or country to be written after the dateline. Examples are Paris, Chicago, Los Angeles and Tokyo. In those cases, the dateline is written like so: TOKYO -- or, in bold: Tokyo --

    Step 6

    Press releases often include the date the information is being released along with the dateline, like so: BOSTON, Mass. (April 25, 2011) -- If information is being sent to a news organization before it is to be released to the public -- a delayed release called an "embargo" -- be sure to include that information in bold at or near the top of your release before writing your dateline. Do not include it in the dateline, because it might not be noticed.

    Step 7

    Many news articles and press releases with datelines use "here" or other relative locators in the opening paragraph to establish "where" something occurred. For example, if you had the word "Boston" in your dateline, do not refer to the city in your lead paragraph; instead, use the word "here" to establish the location, like so: Boston, Mass. -- The Green Corp. will be naming a new manager for its office here Friday.

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    Tips

    • Check the Associated Press Stylebook for specifics about abbreviating state names. Some states are abbreviated, and some (such as Maine) are not. Abbreviations corresponding with state postal designations are generally unacceptable.
    • Some organizations have their own style for datelines. Be sure you follow the style that your particular organization requires.

    About the Author

    Kingston Lee is a business writer with more than 15 years of experience whose works have been published in Connecticut's "The Hartford Courant" magazine and online at Boston.com. His writing has been cited by "The Wall Street Journal's" Health Blog. Lee has a degree in journalism from Washington & Lee University and is currently finishing a master's degree in interactive communications from Quinnipiac University.

    Photo Credits

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