Headline Writing  

Posted by Benjie in , ,

I am not now, nor have I ever been (nor plan to be) a journalist. I've never had a course on headline writing, but I read them all the time, and I want to point out something that I think is relevant: headlines should be useful. My limited understanding of headlines brings me to the conclusion that they should be characterized by three things: (1)Headlines should be concise; (2) headlines should be complete; (3) headlines should be correct.

In our small twice-weekly hometown paper we are constantly treated to headlines like: "Tables Extracurricular Drug, Alcohol Test Proposed" which may or may not be correct, but is incomplete (you have to look at the sub-title line to realize the article is dealing with the local school board meeting). Another school board related article on the same front page (different district in the county) reads, "Unit 1 Discusses Bus Lease Changes" with a subtitle of "Could Mean Changes to Routes". My question here is were these two separate articles headlined by the same writer? If so, how could one be done so well (example 2), and one so disjointed? But this is not really my point--just an on-going gripe I have. (Just a note: the paper has been showing a larger number of good headlines of late.)

So what is my point, you ask? Simply this: in a blog article today I read a headline that had a difficult time reaching mark. While we are trying to boil the information in the article down to a few words that will pique the interest of our readers (and cause them to read the whole article), we want to be truthful and work at being unoffensive even if we want to shock the readers. The article is a political piece located on a site designed to speak to and for Southern Baptists. (I'm not waving the "Church/State" flag here. Political opinions are part of being a Baptist--always have been, and probably always will.) My issue is with the headline (post title if you're a purist) compares a political candidate with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I don't think that was the intention of the author of the article, nor do I think that it was the intention of the blog owners and contributors. The mistake was probably innocent enough, but if so they have inadvertently done it. In trying to be clever, they have equated the candidate with the Master--they may not even know it still.

So, be careful when you create your titles/headlines so that you make sure that they say what you want them to say, and if you choose to use puns or even literary reference you might be saying more than you intended something that you would be offended at having said yourself.

Just to let you know, I'm addressing this here because it's my beef, it's not really related to the article that got my dander up (so it wasn't the right place to throw into the 'comment' section), and it gave me another peeve to air in this format. Thanks.

This entry was posted on 09 November 2011 at 3:51 PM and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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