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May 2, 2012, 1:02 p.m.

Yesterday The Boston Globe ended all your tomorrows

In adjusting its style guide to use calendar days instead of “yesterday,” “today,” or “tomorrow,” the Globe is trying to adapt to the pace of online news.

The Boston Globe has killed yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In an announcement on BostonGlobe.com’s Insiders blog, Charles Mansbach, the Globe’s Page 1 editor, says the paper is doing away with the convention of using those terms in stories. Instead they’ll start using the day on the week. So instead of seeing a Thursday story noting the Red Sox start a series with the Orioles “tomorrow,” it’ll say the series starts “Friday.” This shouldn’t be surprising, but it is a break — and an official one — with decades of practice at many newspapers.

The reason? Times (pun intended) have changed. Mansbach explains:

The reason for the change is that articles are no longer written only for the newspaper. Breaking news is posted immediately on the Globe’s websites; stories are then fleshed out, posted again, then put into the process for the next day’s paper and the next day’s web entries. With all that traffic, a reliance on “yesterday, “today,” and “tomorrow” is an invitation for error.

The Globe’s decision is part of an ongoing discussion inside and outside newsrooms about how to adjust phrasing in news to meet the needs of an evolved news cycle. Like the Globe, a number of papers have changed house style to only use the days of the week, while others use different terminology online and in print.

There is one exception to the new rule: print headlines. “Today” remains the basic unit of news urgency, especially online. “Today” is the equivalent of “now,” as in “you should be reading this because it’s happening within the context of your day.” Mansbach said the we should expect to still see things like “Crucial vote on debt limit today.” As he puts it: “We suspect that “Crucial vote on debt limit Wednesday” would not rivet anyone’s attention.”

[Editor’s note: This story originally included this line: “Yesterday and tomorrow are almost meaningless in an era when someone could discover an article through search or social two weeks or eight months after its first published.” While that’s true, as Noam Cohen points out in the comments, we shouldn’t have said it was the reason for the Globe’s change. As the Mansbach quote above states, the key issue is that stories are often published on the web and in print on different days — not that an online story can have a theoretically infinite lifespan. Sorry.]

POSTED     May 2, 2012, 1:02 p.m.
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