Banking on Call-Outs and Pull-Quotes

By Stephanie Murg Comment

callout.jpgAs the end of the year draws near, we’ve been busy cleaning out our “Hmm, Interesting!” folder (would you believe that it’s a real folder, tangible and everything?) and stumbled upon a gem from a recent “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine that took a typographical turn. This column, William Safire‘s lexical whims take him from the word “shout-out” to “call-out,” which he describes as an attention-grabbing “typographical trick that has been sweeping the print media and is now a staple of Web-site home pages.” As you, dear reader, are surely aware, these design elements extract a hot phrase, quote, or observation, enlarge it, and toss it into the text blocks of a usually lengthy article (we nominate Vanity Fair for continued excellence in pull-quote/call-out usage). After making sure we’re all on the same, well-designed page, he proceeds to chattily Safirize (neologism, ours) the topic into oblivion:

What is this come-on device called in the trade? At The Times Magazine, Bill Ferguson tells me it is called a pull quote. At other newspapers, it is a call-out, but not at The Washington Post: Courtney Crowley, the sports copy chief, says, “Nobody in our department knows what the term ‘call-out‘ means, from the bright-faced young designers to the grizzled veteran editors.” I presume they use call-out in its general sense of “challenge to a duel.”

Some of us grizzlies prefer the word bank, but that is a synonym for the subhead–lines in smaller type below a headline, adding information to, or diminishing the catchiness of, the head–which is sometimes called a deck, often spelled dek. Although some editors insist that a pull quote must be an actual quotation from a person in the article while a call-out quotes lines from the writer, Time magazine makes no such distinction; the copy chief, Ellin Martens, says her publication uses call-out and pull quote interchangeably to refer “to snippets from the story that are boxed and set in large type.”

Well, glad to have cleared that up.