Newspaper writers try to write short, meaningful headlines that capture the heart of the story and can still capture a readers attention.
The problem comes when the writer either spends too much time tweaking the headline or simply gets too close to the story to read their shortened headlines with a truly fresh and unbiased perspective. And these final, edited headlines can create some unexpected results.
Year’s 15 Best Actual News Headlines
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
War Dims Hope for Peace
If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
And the winner is…
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
The above headline examples are leads for some very serious stories, yet the importance is not only lost, but resulted in some very funny headlines — a consequence I’m sure that neither the writer or newspaper editor intended.
One of the best ways to avoid having your story turned into something other than intended — outside paying a professional proofreader — is to have an objective third party review your copy and then give you their “unprofessional” opinion.
For example, whenever I thought I had a great headline or concept, I’d ask the office receptionist for feedback.
I can tell you from personal experience, this saved me many times from turning in work I thought was really great — only to find out that it was only “really great” in my own head. I was simply too close to the project to be objective.
Because when the receptionist looks up at you with a truly confused look in their eyes, you know it’s time to rethink what you’re writing.