Friday, 10 June 2011

How-to-write Tips: Headlines for News, Features & Articles

How to write good headlines
A good headline is a work of art and a picture of an event. It has high value in a newspaper’s readability, influence, attractiveness and saleability. The headline is the condensed kernel of a whole story in a few words. Readers use headlines as guides to search for the stories that interest them. The importance of a good headline is immeasurable if it is judged in today’s context. Today’s readers run and read. They lack time to go through all news, features or articles. They choose what to read and what to avoid on the basis of headlines. So, writing god, suitable, simple and summative headlines is a challenging task. In brief, headlines are the display windows of a publication. Here are how-to-write tips on the art of writing headlines:      
·         Headlines should reflect the tone of stories. A light-hearted headline does not suit a serious story whereas a serious headline for a light and humorous story looks awkward.
·         A good headline should tell the reader what the story says, not what the subeditor thinks the story implies. 
·         The real art of headline writing consists in analyzing the story for the what, where, when, why and how, the fundamental elements of a news story.
·         If a story has more than one dimension, the headline must reflect the full story, not part of it. Inadequate headlines lacking in clarity or interesting points deprive good stories of their desired readership.
·         Subeditors have to say a great deal in a few words. The more information they can crowd in headlines, the better the headlines are.
·         A headline is ambiguous, if it conveys more than one meaning. Some readers may grasp the meaning intended whereas some may not. A good headline is vigorous and idiomatic. It stimulates an emotional response from the reader.
·         Queries in headlines are not recommended for two reasons. Firstly, they tend to editorialize and secondly, newspapers are supposed o supply answers not to ask questions.  If the headline asked the reader a question, the answer should obviously be in the body of the story. If the answer is buried deep in the story, the question headline should be shunned.
·         Headlines with active verbs in the present or future tense are good headlines. Headlines must live and make stories look fresh. Without active verbs, they are dull and monotonous.
·         Headlines with short monosyllabic words are simply striking. Each of the words in a headline, if possible, should be short and simple so that even the least educated reader can understand the headline.      
·         A wrong name in the headline of a crime story is likely to involve the newspaper in a libel action. It is no wrong to call a robber a suspect in a headline. But the headline representing a suspect as a robber may land the editor in court.
·         Full stop is never used in a headline except after an abbreviation. It is preferable to use the single quote in a headline instead of double quotes because single quote takes less space.
·         Headlines without unnecessary punctuations are easy to read. The one simple phrase that trips off the tongue without pause should be the aim.
·         Abbreviations standing alone should be avoided in headlines. The danger in using an abbreviation lies in the possibility of confusion resulting from its having more than one meaning.
·         Grammatical errors in headlines are inexcusable. For example, ‘woman reports she is robbed by man posing as inspector’. Here, the first verb ‘reports’ in present tense is correct but the second verb ‘is’ should be ‘was’ to show that she is reporting a previous event.
·         The use of slang in headlines is big no. slang in headlines lowers the tone of the paper. A straight headline that tells the reader precisely what happened in simple words is always better.   



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