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 Headlines - some do's and dont's

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ReNu
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PostSubject: Headlines - some do's and dont's   Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:57 pm

Headlines are meant to attract readers to the news items. They are generally written by the copyeditor or subeditor. The type size of the headline depends upon the importance of the news story. It is the headline that "sells" the story and should stimulate the reader into reading the story below it. It should be sharp and convey the essence of the story. Here are some do's and dont's for writing headlines:

1. The headline should speak
2. It should be active (voice) and positive
3. It should be in the present tense
4. Only commonly used abbreviations must be used
5. Avoid all articles (a, an, the)
6. Never split names between two lines
7. Use single quotation marks only, when necessary
8. Use common sense to determine clarity
9. Guard against bad taste


Do add to this list, Alice.
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AliceKildaire
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PostSubject: Re: Headlines - some do's and dont's   Sun Feb 15, 2009 12:13 am

ARGH!! I hate headlines!! That is without a doubt my least favorite chore in the newspaper industry! I would rather insert at press than write headlines!

Headlines are extremely important though and while I may hate writing them and can certainly not claim to be great at writing them, as an editor, I did have several pet-peeves regarding headlines:

1. Accuracy in headlines is every bit important as accuracy in the story itself. (This is an elaboration on your #9.) Yes, you certainly want to "grab" the reader with the headline, but often copy editors are so intent on "grabbing" that the headlines end up being extremely misleading. You can do some serious damage to reader trust by writing inflammatory or misleading headlines. There's a fine line there and it's easy to cross. This can be especially problematic at the larger, daily papers. The copy editor who writes your headline may not be the one who edited your story so he may not even have read your story! Include suggested headlines with your copy. Befriend the copy editors!! If you do have a problem with a headline, address it with your editors so maybe you can keep it from happening again. Remember, that's your name on that story!

2. Don't forget to proof and spell check the headline carefully!! Headlines are often overlooked in the proofing process. Nothing is more embarrassing for a publication or a reporter than to have an 26 point typo blazing across the front page!

3. The size of your headline should directly correlate to the importance of your story. The more important the story, the bigger the headline. Save the dramatic, smack you in the face heads for the dramatic, smack you in the face news!

4. Don't get too cutesy with hard news headlines. This kind of goes along with #1. Cute plays on words are great for some stories, but be mindful of your subject. Serious stories deserve the respect of serious headlines.

5. Never split ANY word between two lines!! If you have to hyphenate a word in a headline, you need a new word or a new point size!

6. The headline is NOT the lead and should not be used as such! Avoid double-decker (2 line) headlines on stories that are 3-columns or more. You can get away with it on 1-column stories, but NEVER use more than a 4-deck headline on a 1-column story! It's too heavy. (Sorry, I guess I'm getting more into design aspects here.)

7) Avoid highly technical or bureaucratic language in your headline if at all possible. Most readers don't understand those terms and will skip the story if they think it's "over their heads."
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ReNu
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PostSubject: Re: Headlines - some do's and dont's   Sun Feb 15, 2009 2:39 am

woooohooo...Thanks Alice! I'm including these in my notes.
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