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January 30, 2003 at 10 AM

Headlines Often Written Poorly: Attaboy

Newspaper headlines are almost always written by a copy editor and not by the writer of the article. While a scrupulous editor should read the story carefully and turn out an eye-and-ear-catching phrase to attract interest, too often we see lazy headlines like, "City spending over budget: report." Worse yet are the endless parade of groan-inducing double entendres which I shall fail to mention here.

Fortunately there are still some nice zingers out there. One of the better headline and sub-head combos, from the : "On the trail of cactus rustlers: Unscrupulous collectors and growers raid the Chihuahuan Desert of its rare cacti."

Comments

In defense of (some) headline writers, it should be noted that almost all heds have to fit into the space determined by the layout. Many a time (er, okay, at least twice) at HOUR I had a killer line that I couldn’t use because it was a character or two too large. Arrgh. But I agree with your general point: Headline writing is a lost art; I pine for the days of “Headless body found in topless bar.” (NY Post, the masters.) Worst hed I ever saw was in our own Montreal Gazette, which managed to be simultaneously wrong, offensive and have a cutsey rhyming scheme: “Cambodians still have soft spot for Pol Pot.”

M-J | Jan. 30, 2003 — 11 AM

Ouch. Perhaps some of the fault lies with the layout staff, who are too eager to have big type in small places. I realize it’s trite to use the New York Times as an example of a good paper since they are awash in cash and notoriety, but one thing they do right besides good writing is give space for descriptive headlines.

— Luke | Jan. 31, 2003 — 9 AM

Previously: Initiative 831

Subsequently: The Further Argument for Sharing Music

January 2003
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