Giving headlines – the most important job of the sub-
“A good headline is a work of art, a picture of an
event. It has high value in a newspaper’s readability.”
A distinguished journalist - “Headlines should tell the
story, but more important they should sell the story.
They are the tempters, the ‘come-ons’ that bring the
customer into the shop. Headlines should never
cheat or exaggerate or the reader will feel let down.”
Every item in a news page must carry a headline, even
the smallest filler or paragraph; otherwise the chance
to attract a reader will be missed.
Headlines should reflect the tone of the story; a light
hearted headline would not fit in a serious story and a
serious headline would look awkward for a light and
To summarise the story for the reader
To show the importance of the story
To attract the reader
To give and attractive appearance to the paper
Reader’s use of headlines vs. the sub-editors approach
‘You can not write good headlines until you have
written many’ – a famous journalist
For a sub-editor - Each story is a challenge - After
editing the story is almost new and becomes his story
– his enthusiasm for the story is reflected in the
He seeks to put all the drama, the pathos or the
humour in it into the headline
a headline that gives no more information than the
label on a biscuit time is known as a label heading.
Such a headline defies the purpose of a display line,
which is to lure the reader.
Action of the story
Feature of the story
The headline must tell something definite and
Remember the average reader does not even read a
fourth of your paper and depends on the sub-editor to
tell him what the paper contains through the
The proper method of giving headlines is to base
them on the lead of the story.
Must know how many words and letter
can be used in the given space in the
type he has chosen. If a line has a
maximum of 18units and the headline
shows a unit count of 15 the heading
will fit unless it contains several fat
letters (for example W and M).
The choice of right headline – a
difficult and serious matter – requires
careful and intense thought. He has to
say a great deal in few words. The
width of the columns cannot be
adjusted to his needs and his heading
must accommodate itself in the space
available. The most common mistakes
committed in the newsroom is to
believe that a headline that fits is a
good headline. Bad headlines get into
a newspaper more from this reason
than any other.
are not recommended for two reasons: they tend to
editorialise and secondly newspapers are supposed to
supply answers not to ask questions. If the headline
asks the reader a question the answer should
obviously be in the body of the story.
Grammar error in a 48pt type may be worse than half a
dozen language errors
Spelling will lead him into a menace
Slang in headline lowers the tone of the paper and
consequently lowers the reader’s estimation of
Verb is essential in a headline – it should be active –
present and future tense
Words should be short and striking
should be avoided in headlines – leads to
Full stop never used in a headline
Read and understand the story
Write a rough headline without bothering to count
the letters but be as near the mark as possible.
Substitute synonyms until the heading fits.
Remember you can always approach the headline
from another angle and do not try to solve all your
problems substituting words.
Get the key word, the meat of the story. Be specific.
Strive for action verbs.
Use the active voice
Avoid a clutter of punctuations
Try to write headline which phrase line by line
Put modifiers and words modified on the same lines.
Put all parts of any verb on the same line.
Do not end a line with preposition
Personalize where you can
Avoid the anonymous
Avoid over brutal words
Write strap (kicker) lines at the last
Watch the shape of the headings