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Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
Better headlines
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Better headlines

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How to write better news and feature headlines.

How to write better news and feature headlines.

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  • 1. BETTERBETTER HEADLINESHEADLINES By Yvette WalkerBy Yvette Walker JournalistJournalist & Ethics Chair,& Ethics Chair, University of Central OklahomaUniversity of Central Oklahoma
  • 2. 09/13/13 2 WITH THANKS, TOWITH THANKS, TO Dr. Merlin R. MannDr. Merlin R. Mann Associate Professor of JournalismAssociate Professor of Journalism Department of JournalismDepartment of Journalism and Mass Communicationand Mass Communication Abilene Christian UniversityAbilene Christian University
  • 3. 09/13/13 3 WHERE READERS STARTWHERE READERS START Headlines often are written lastHeadlines often are written last (quickly and under deadline pressure).(quickly and under deadline pressure). Think like a reader. The reader unfoldsThink like a reader. The reader unfolds the newspaper and sees what first?the newspaper and sees what first? Photos and headlines.Photos and headlines. First reader entry points.First reader entry points. Accuracy: When readers see errors,Accuracy: When readers see errors, they assume a similar rate of error willthey assume a similar rate of error will continue.continue.
  • 4. 09/13/13 4 4 IMPERATIVES OF HEADLINES4 IMPERATIVES OF HEADLINES Must be correct (in fact &Must be correct (in fact & implication).implication). Must connect to ordinary readersMust connect to ordinary readers (easily understood).(easily understood). Must attract attention (interesting,Must attract attention (interesting, active words).active words). Must set (or match) tone of theMust set (or match) tone of the article.article.
  • 5. 09/13/13 5 TALKING POINTSTALKING POINTS Headline warningHeadline warning: Never allow cute,: Never allow cute, creative headlines to blind you to thecreative headlines to blind you to the need for accuracy. Be alert to headlinesneed for accuracy. Be alert to headlines that have unintended meanings.that have unintended meanings. Tip:Tip: Use hammer headlines: 1-3 wordsUse hammer headlines: 1-3 words without a verb, often using a double-without a verb, often using a double- meaning or subtlety. The subhead thenmeaning or subtlety. The subhead then explains the news accurately.explains the news accurately.
  • 6. 09/13/13 6 HEADLINE WRITING:HEADLINE WRITING: NEWS, FEATURESNEWS, FEATURES Be quick, but don't hurry.Be quick, but don't hurry. Don't allow the goal of "pushing pages"Don't allow the goal of "pushing pages" before deadline to short-circuit need tobefore deadline to short-circuit need to for accurate, clear, tasteful headlines.for accurate, clear, tasteful headlines. Remember: readers start here.Remember: readers start here. Understand the news peg or angle.Understand the news peg or angle. Use Key Words.Use Key Words. Select words that reflect the centralSelect words that reflect the central theme of the article.theme of the article.
  • 7. 09/13/13 7 HEADLINE WRITING, cont.HEADLINE WRITING, cont. News heads: Play it straight,News heads: Play it straight, summarize the news.summarize the news. Feature heads: Tease, flirt, hint -Feature heads: Tease, flirt, hint - but don't give away lead.but don't give away lead. Feature heads cont.: sparingly,Feature heads cont.: sparingly, useuse freshenedfreshened clichés, creativeclichés, creative puns, twists of ad slogans.puns, twists of ad slogans. Highlight intrigue, contrast orHighlight intrigue, contrast or conflict within central theme, usingconflict within central theme, using key words.key words.
  • 8. 09/13/13 8 HEADLINE WRITING, cont.HEADLINE WRITING, cont. Don't settle for your firstDon't settle for your first try, and then changetry, and then change type size to make it fit.type size to make it fit.
  • 9. 09/13/13 9 HEADLINE WRITING, cont.HEADLINE WRITING, cont. Don't fall in love with your work.Don't fall in love with your work. Seek the input of others: How canSeek the input of others: How can the headline be misread? Does itthe headline be misread? Does it work?work? One person who doesn't get itOne person who doesn't get it represents thousands who won'trepresents thousands who won't get it.get it. When it comes down to Cute vs.When it comes down to Cute vs. Truth, make sure you choose theTruth, make sure you choose the right one.right one.
  • 10. 09/13/13 10 The TACT Test:The TACT Test: Taste-Attractiveness-Clarity-TruthTaste-Attractiveness-Clarity-Truth Is it in good taste? Anything offensive?Is it in good taste? Anything offensive? Can anything be taken a wrong way?Can anything be taken a wrong way? Does it attract the reader's attention?Does it attract the reader's attention? How can it be improved withoutHow can it be improved without sacrificing accuracy?sacrificing accuracy? Does it communicate clearly, quickly?Does it communicate clearly, quickly? Any confusion? Any double meanings?Any confusion? Any double meanings? Is it accurate, true? Proper words used?Is it accurate, true? Proper words used? Is the thrust of subject-verb true?Is the thrust of subject-verb true? A single "NO" above is a veto. One “No”A single "NO" above is a veto. One “No” vote represents thousands of readers.vote represents thousands of readers.
  • 11. 09/13/13 11 The ONE-LAST-LOOK STEPThe ONE-LAST-LOOK STEP Each version of each headline must pass theEach version of each headline must pass the TACT Test - one last time. Don't forget thisTACT Test - one last time. Don't forget this step. The last or latest version must bestep. The last or latest version must be examined as if it were the first version.examined as if it were the first version. Errors in headlines do not often occur becauseErrors in headlines do not often occur because the writer doesn't care. Many have occurredthe writer doesn't care. Many have occurred on headlines that got plenty of attention, buton headlines that got plenty of attention, but the One-Last-Look Step was skipped. This maythe One-Last-Look Step was skipped. This may be the time when no one stops to re-examinebe the time when no one stops to re-examine it one last time for a newly created problem.it one last time for a newly created problem. Always pause a minute to conduct the One-Always pause a minute to conduct the One- Last-Look Step.Last-Look Step.
  • 12. 09/13/13 12 HEADLINE VERBSHEADLINE VERBS Use active, short, action verbs.Use active, short, action verbs. Remember to have fun; think of moreRemember to have fun; think of more interesting ways to attract the reader.interesting ways to attract the reader. Balance the fun/attractive elements of theBalance the fun/attractive elements of the headline with accuracy. It must remainheadline with accuracy. It must remain accurate.accurate. Avoid words that could be read as either a nounAvoid words that could be read as either a noun or a verb.or a verb. Examine connotations, context, and unintendedExamine connotations, context, and unintended meanings.meanings. Work hard to find the precise verb thatWork hard to find the precise verb that summarizes the action.summarizes the action. A note about synonyms. Are there any? ThereA note about synonyms. Are there any? There may be some - but most words carry distinctmay be some - but most words carry distinct connotations. Get the right word.connotations. Get the right word.
  • 13. 09/13/13 13 HEADS WITHOUT VERBSHEADS WITHOUT VERBS Use creative, attractive hammersUse creative, attractive hammers of one to three words.of one to three words. Then add drop heads in smallerThen add drop heads in smaller type that clearly explains heart oftype that clearly explains heart of story.story. Make the right choice: clear labelsMake the right choice: clear labels vs. vague labels (clear is better).vs. vague labels (clear is better). Use humor and double meaningsUse humor and double meanings effectively.effectively.
  • 14. 09/13/13 14 DO’S AND DON’TSDO’S AND DON’TS Make the headline easy to read. TheMake the headline easy to read. The key purpose of the head: tokey purpose of the head: to communicate.communicate. Don't mislead reader.Don't mislead reader. Don't exaggerate; maintain neutrality.Don't exaggerate; maintain neutrality. Remember the rules of grammar andRemember the rules of grammar and use them.use them. Don't split nouns, modifiers, verbs andDon't split nouns, modifiers, verbs and prepositional phrases over two lines.prepositional phrases over two lines.
  • 15. 09/13/13 15 DO’S AND DON’TS, cont.DO’S AND DON’TS, cont. Each line should be a unit by itself.Each line should be a unit by itself. Abbreviate sparingly.Abbreviate sparingly. Make the head complete in itselfMake the head complete in itself (especially true for news heads).(especially true for news heads). Don't begin with a verb ("SavesDon't begin with a verb ("Saves daughter from fire").daughter from fire"). Use present tense to indicate pastUse present tense to indicate past ("Bush wins presidency").("Bush wins presidency").
  • 16. 09/13/13 16 DO’S AND DON’TS, cont.DO’S AND DON’TS, cont. Don't use present tense to indicateDon't use present tense to indicate future unless necessary; add timefuture unless necessary; add time element for clarity.element for clarity. Don't use common orDon't use common or unrecognized names in heads.unrecognized names in heads. Don't use feel, believes or thinks.Don't use feel, believes or thinks. Don't pad heads with extra words.Don't pad heads with extra words. Avoid slang unless relevant toAvoid slang unless relevant to feature story and headline.feature story and headline.

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