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Headline Writing


The Science of Headline Writing n 

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No. 1 Rule: Headlines must tell the reader what the story's about Headlines must be accurate Headlines must be fair Headlines must fit and fill the space allotted


Headlines are written in present tense. nď Žâ€Ż

By writing a headline in present tense, it makes the story appear as if it just happened. Miller wins $10 million prize Not like this: Miller won $10 million prize


Headlines need a subject and a verb. n 

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Think of a headline as a sentence, but without many of the words. A headline such as Homecoming is just a label, it’s not a headline. Instead, write: Homecoming win leads to celebration (subject)

(verb)

(object)


Keep a prepositional phrase together in a headline. n  Instead

of: Dog bites alien on tender spot Write: Dog bites alien on tender spot (“on” is a preposition)


Headlines don’t have hyphens. n  Make

sure when you write out the headline, the computer doesn’t hyphenate any words. If it does, move the words around. NOT:Smith discovers dinosaur remains in wall GOOD: Smith discovers dinosaur remains


Don’t use a, an or the except in special headlines. n 

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Good: Governor awards teacher with honor Bad: The governor awards teacher with an honor It’s occasionally okay to use articles (a, an or the) in a Main headline as a statement:

EX: The ultimate put-down Seniors name skip day for principal


Only use your opinion in a headline for an editorial. n  News

headlines shouldn’t contain any words that let the reader know what you think of the story. Don’t: We’re better than Fort Smith! Better: Team blows away Fort Smith, 42-0


In headlines, use single quote marks. n  Don’t:

“Angel Baby” really a detective Do: ‘Angel Baby’ really a detective


Headlines must cover the entire story. n 

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Don’t design a page with a headline over part of the story. A headline is like a roof of a house: It must cover the whole text.

Tornado! School closed for remainder of this year


Use a comma in place of ‘and.’ n  To

save space, use a comma instead of the word ‘and.’

Don’t: Band and choir win awards Do: Band, choir win awards


Use a semicolon to separate complete thoughts Don’t: Legislature in session. Future of roads in doubt

Do: Legislature in session; future of roads in doubt


Use active verbs; omit forms of the verb to be Don’t: Smoking is common, survey shows

Do: Survey reveals smoking is common


A headline doesn’t need a period at the end. n 

Headlines are not sentences. However, you may use other forms of punctuation in headlines when needed:

Did you ever think it would happen? Fort Smith merges two high schools


You don’t need the name of the school or the school initials in a headline. n  The

readers already know the name of your school. Instead, use the headline to tell what happened. Not so good: JHS students picket cafeteria Better: 95% of students picket during lunch


What the headline looks like n 

Headlines generally consist of two parts, a primary and a secondary.

The primary head is visually more prominent and more important and ties into the lead of the story. This doesn’t need subject/verb. It can be a catch phrase. n 

The Secondary Headline:Adds information found in the main part of story. This must be a subject/Verb sentence all together. n 


Combination headline Primary

Reign & Rain Five inches of pouring rain don’t dampen festivities

Secondary


Two line headline or Three LIne: n 

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This consist of two/three lines that are a complete sentence together They must contain subject and verb: Remember do not split phrases on lines


One line headlines nď Žâ€Ż

These contain only one line and are a complete sentence.


Headline Count n 

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Headlines have a count of “1” per character including punctuation and spaces. Headlines can not be under the minimum count ask for and can not go over the maximum count per line. If you have a three line headline each line must be at least as long as the minimum count and no longer than the maximum number count per line.


The Science of Headline Writing n 

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The headline’s tone must be consistent with the nature of the story The headline’s tone must be consistent with the personality of the publication The headline can't say more than the story says q 

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In other words, the story must sustain the headline

The headline needs to persuade the reader to read the story.


The Science of Headline Writing n 

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The issue of what words we use and how we use them in headlines is important. It is often a subject of a newspaper’s ombudsman’s weekly column. Take, for example, a column by Pam Platt in the Louisville Courier-Journal.


Headline Writing: Questions n 

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Q: What should readers reasonably expect from headlines? Accuracy, clarity and precision. Liveliness and originality are important to capturing the reader's interest, but they are secondary to accuracy.


Headline Writing: Questions n 

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Q: What challenges do copy editors face in meeting those expectations? There is seldom enough time to polish and refine headlines as much as copy editors would like. And the lack of time also comes up against the fundamental challenge: distilling the sense of an entire article into half a dozen words.


Headline Checklist After you have written a headline, ask: n  Does it tell the news clearly? n  If it's a news story, does the headline contain the latest developments? n  If it's a feature story, does it convey the basic sense of the story? n  Is it accurate and informative? § 

From the American Press Institute


Headline Checklist n 

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Is it compelling in approach, news angle and impact? Does it contain concrete nouns and activevoice, present-tense verbs? Does the tone fit the story, so that when there is emotion or a human element, irony or humor it is reflected in the head?


Headline Checklist n  1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  7.  8. 

Does it avoid the obstacles to clarity? Jargon Cliches Slang Headlinese Forced phrases Abbreviations Acronyms Obscure names and puns: Serious news stories should not contain any puns.


Headline Checklist n 

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Does it have words or meanings that are as precise as possible? Does it make each word count by being direct and dense with information? Does it play fair by trying to reflect both sides of a story if an opposing view exists, or at least avoid overemphasizing one point of view?


Headline Checklist n 

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Does it avoid danger of libel, take caution with sensitive material and include attribution when necessary? Does it include the "where" when important? Does it signal any local involvement in the news when it may not be clear otherwise? Does it avoid names that may not be well known? Does it avoid elements of bad taste, double meanings, exaggeration and sensationalism?


Headline Checklist – Things to Avoid n 

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Inappropriate language or a tone that doesn't fit the story. Exaggerating conflict, danger, criticism, etc. Editorialization or words that suggest an opinion of the head-writer. A "negative" head using the word "not.“ Conclusions the story doesn't back up.


Headline Checklist – Things to Avoid n  n 

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Inappropriate assumptions or interpretations. Piled-up adjectives or other modifiers that detract from clarity. A "label head," unless omitting the verb helps the head or the count is so short that a "book title" head is the only way out. Assumptions that the reader has been following the story daily. Obscure names that readers won't instantly recognize.


Headline Checklist – Things to Avoid n 

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Undue familiarity, often by using a person's first name. Abbreviations or acronyms that are not instantly recognizable. Jargon, which clouds the meaning for readers. Cliches, which are neither creative nor compelling. Meanings the reader won't "get" until the story is read.


Headline Checklist – Things to Avoid n 

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Echoing the lead paragraph or stealing the punchline. A hard-news head based on facts far down in the story. Puns in heads on serious news stories. Putting first-day heads on second-day stories. Using "question" or "colon" heads routinely.


THE GREATEST HEADLINE EVER WRITTEN Headless body found in topless bar – New York Post


Crack Found on Governor's Daughter


Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says


Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers


Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?


Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over


Miners Refuse to Work after Death


Juvenile court to try shooting defendant


War Dims Hope for Peace


If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile


Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures


Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges


Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge


Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft


Kids Make Nutritious Snacks


Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy


Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half


Hospitals are sued by 7 foot doctors


James Rich Headline Writing