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Lesson on horrible headlines
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Lesson on horrible headlines


How to determine why a headline is not clearly written.

How to determine why a headline is not clearly written.

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  • 1. Many of you have asked questions about this assignment. Watch this presentation to help you learn how to determine why these horrible headlines don’t say what they seem to say because they are not written clearly.
  • 2. Poynter Says, About Writing Headlines“Reasonable people may disagree on the merits of one headline or another, but good copyeditors tend to follow a few ground rules, even if they never articulate them.”Let’s take a look at the some of these ground rules!
  • 3. Rule #11. First, do no harm Now, that’s original. What it means in this context is:  Have some empathy. Imagine that the subject of the story is your neighbor or a family member. One person’s cleverness is another’s ridicule. Petty-crime stories are a minefield.  If you’re still not sure, ask around.
  • 4. Rule #22. Make sure the big type does not contradict the little type. The facts should be consistent The interpretation should be consistent The tone should be consistent(Note: in your Horrible Headlines assignment, is the headline consistent with interpretation? In other words, do the headlines really mean what they state?)
  • 5. Rule #33. Use humor or cleverness to invite readers in, not drive them away Do not make the reader groan. You know what I mean. Like these headlines: Plan for a fence at jail has some neighbors railing Anything TAXING around April 15? Do not make the reader say, “Huh?” Make sure that your reach for an image does not exceed your grasp. (Note: In your Horrible Headlines assignment, is the writer trying for something that he has not articulated clearly and, if so, what has he written that makes the headline say something that really isn’t true about the article?)
  • 6. Rule #44. Stay away from clichés… …Unless–and there are exceptions to every rule– you can find a way to turn a cliché on its head. Some very good heads are upended clichés, like this one: Give them an inch, they’ll take a yard (on invasive ground covers)You know…this is a re-write of “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”
  • 7. Rule # 55. Use plays on words to contribute to meaning, not to show off. Self-indulgence adds nothing worth having. Word plays on people’s names are generally a bad idea. For example, if some guy whose name happens to be Moses wrote a book about Jeeps, don’t say, “This Moses wrote the bible on Jeeps,” as one headline-writer did. Sometimes you can even use ambiguity to make the story more understandable or accessible. This is tricky. Here is one that might work: Your watch tells more than time It tells the world who you are
  • 8. Rule #66. The last rule is to ignore all of the above if you have a good reason. Good reasons, however, are typically in short supply. The bottom line is: 1. Can you follow the rules and still write bright heads? 2. Or will following these rules “drain the color from the autumn leaves,” as a city editor I knew once said? Come to think of it, he said it often. 1. Yes. 2. And no.
  • 9. Now…How about these Horrible Headlines?Farmer Bill Dies in House Now, this sounds like a man named “Farmer Bill” died in his house…right? What else could it mean? How about this: A bill (you know, as in legislation) did not survive a vote in the House (a legislative branch of the government)…so it “died” in the House of Representatives.
  • 10. Here’s another one…Killer Sentences to Die for Second Time in Ten YearsOkay..what does this one sound like?...Think about it and, when you think you have it…go to the next slide…
  • 11. Is this what you guessed?Killer Sentences to Die for Second Time in Ten Years sounds as though a killer was sentence to die twice in ten years….right?Now…what do you think the person writing the headline was trying to tell us about the article?Think about it and, when you think you have it..go to the next slide…
  • 12. Is this what you guessed?Perhaps the writer was trying to point out something entirely different: Do you think he was telling us that for the second time in 10 years a killer in the state had been sentenced to death?
  • 13. Let’s use the first headline in your assignment!  Yes, I’ll give you the first one!! Headline: Taxpayer role proposed in future terror acts. Do you think the writer was trying to say this? When we have another terror act/event/etc. taxpayers will be asked to get involved, perhaps through the taxes they pay. Since he uses the word “ taxpayers” wouldn’t it follow that the writer meant something having to do with paying for something about terror acts using taxpayer money?
  • 14. Questions?I hope this little presentation helps you figure out what’s wrong with the headlines you’re explaining in Horrible Headlines!Did any of you figure out the first headline and what was wrong with it before you read the last slide?…and, if you still have questions, let me know! Good luck!!...and have fun with this one!