Headline Rules (from Riblet)
1. Headlines should tell something – Don’t write non-heads
2. Headlines should not start with a verb
3. Conjunctions, prepositions and modifiers should not be placed at the end of a line. Don’t split modifiers.
4. Commas usually go at the end of a line except when describing age, as in "Boy, 4, found in woods"
5. Don’t modify modifiers
6. Don’t split parts of a very from one line to another
7. Don’t leave pronouns alone and unattended
8. Headlines should usually have a verb; if not, it should be a better head without it.
9. Hit, flay, rap, score, blast, cite, hike, set, slate – examples of the dreaded Headlinese.
10. Fill out the count. Don’t leave trapped white space.
11. Never edit without improving.
12. Cutting can improve most stories.
More Headline Rules (from www.jteacher.com )
Readers expect headlines to be direct and enlightening.
The lead of a news story summarizes the story, and the headline should summarize the lead, and it must do so in a limited amount of space. The headline should be reader-friendly, so there are some basic rules to guide the headline writer in this task.
• Headlines should emphasize, summarize and help sell the stories’ contents.
• There should be no opinion stated in a headline, with the exception of headlines for editorials and columns.
• Readers generally scan headlines very quickly to see if there is anything that they want to read about, so the most newsworthy information must be featured.
• The headline should not give information that is not given in the story.
• The headline should inform the reader through a simple declarative sentence: subject, verb, direct object.
• The best headlines are in active voice and use action verbs rather than “being verbs”
• To reflect past action, the headline should be written in present tense.
• To show future or possible action headline should be written with the infinitive form of verb: to + verb
• Headline writers should use “can” or “may” rather than “will” unless they are absolutely sure their predictions are accurate.
• Headlines should let the reader know who is doing what, along with other necessary Ws and H. The “when” is generally not necessary.
• Abbreviations should be avoided in headlines. Initials should be used only when the readers are familiar with what they stand for.
• The vast majority of the student body knows what school they attend, so it is not necessary to tell them repeatedly in headlines. Don’t use the name of the school or its initials in headlines.
• Avoid the use of “a”, “an”, and “the”. Eliminating these words makes room for more interesting subjects, verbs and objects.
• Headline structure should be varied. Use multi-line headlines as well as one-line headlines on news stories. For special stories and feature stories, use specialty or feature headlines.
• When writing multi-line headlines:
a. Keep verb phrases on the same line.b. Keep adjectives and the words they modify on the same line.c. Keep adverbs and the words they modify on the same line.d. Keep prepositional phrases on the same line.e. Keep words that go together, such as a first and last name, on the same line.f. A line of a headline cannot end with a hyphen.
• Keep capitalization to a minimum. Most newspapers use down-style, that is, capitalizing only the first word in the headline and proper nouns and adjectives. All-cap headlines are difficult to read and should only be used in small doses for emphasis.
• Punctuation in headlines should be minimal:
a. Use single quotation marks rather than double.b. Use a comma in place of the word “and”
c. Colons can be used to replace the word “said”.
Coach: Best Season Ever
d. Use semicolon to complete two separate thoughtsExample:Bears victorious;Coach resigns
Write these seven heads on a separate sheet.
2-24-1 -- With four months to go before the Iowa state caucuses on Jan. 19 officially kick off the presidential nomination race, two recent polls of likely caucus voters found that about 35 percent had yet to choose a candidate.
2-24-1 and 1-18-3 -- The 11 federal judges who could decide the date of California's on-again, off-again recall election today are known for moderate to conservative rulings in high-profile cases. –
3-30-1 and 1-18- 3 -- President Bush said yesterday that he is prepared to allow the United Nations to oversee the first postwar election in Iraq, a limited concession to demands that he give the world body a more vigorous role in rebuilding the country. Bush made the offer as he prepared to address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, when he plans to challenge reluctant allies to show the relevance of the world body by increasing international financial and military support for Iraq.
4-24-1 Kicker and 1-24-3 -- On August 29, Randolph Sill headed to a Mariners game with a homemade sign decked out with slogans written in Japanese kanji, along with the number of Sill's favorite player, Ichiro Suzuki. Whenever Ichiro came up to bat, Sill would hold his sign high. Sill, who's spent time in Japan, knows Japanese television regularly broadcasts Mariners games and spotlights signs for its native son Ichiro.
Here's what Sill's sign said: On one side, the kanji read, "President Bush is a monkey's butt." On the other: "Americans are ashamed of our corrupt president." Sill, who hoped his sign would be broadcast on TV here and in Japan, says many Japanese fans at Safeco Field smiled and winked when they read his sign.
Mariners security staff, however, were not amused. When they caught on during the seventh inning, a cop escorted Sill and his sign to the security office, and seized the sign. "I haven't heard, yet, if the sign was broadcast to all of Japan," Sill says.
Australian tennis champWins at Wimbledon
/ or /
Girl from down under
Comes out on top
Memphis fireclaims livesof 4 persons/or/Fire flashesup stairwellto kill four
Headlines: The Good, the bad and the ugly
Something went wrong / in jet crash, expert says
Police begin campaign / to run down jaywalkers
Safety experts say school bus / passengers should be belted
Drunk gets nine months in violin case
Survivor of siamese twins joins parents
Farmer Bill dies in house
Iraqi head seeks arms
Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
Stud tires out
Prostitutes appeal to Pope
Panda mating fails; Veterinarian takes over
Soviet virgin lands / short of goal again
British left waffles/ on Falkland Islands
Eye drops off shelf
Teacher strikes idle kids
Reagan wins on budget, / but more lies ahead
Squad helps dog bite victim
Shot off woman's leg / helps Nicklaus to 66
Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
Plane too close to ground, crash probe told
Miners refuse to work after death
Juvenile court to try shooting defendant
Stolen painting found by tree
Two soviet ships collide, one dies
2 sisters reunited after / 18 years in checkout counter
Killer sentenced to die for / second time in 10 years
Never withhold herpes infection from loved one
Drunken drivers paid $1000 in '84
War dims hope for peace
If strike isn't settled quickly, / it may last a while
Cold wave linked to temperatures
Enfiels couple slain; / Police suspect homicide
March Planned For Next August
Blind Bishop Appointed To See
Lingerie Shipment Hijacked--Thief Gives Police The Slip
L.A. Voters Approve Urban Renewal By Landslide
Patient At Death's Door--Doctors Pull Him Through
Latin Course To Be Canceled--No Interest Among Students, Et Al.
Diaper Market Bottoms Out
Croupiers On Strike--Management: "No Big Deal"
Stadium Air Conditioning Fails--Fans Protest
Queen Mary Having Bottom Scraped
Henshaw Offers Rare Opportunity to Goose Hunters
Women's Movement Called More Broad-Based
Antique Stripper to Display Wares at Store
Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
Teacher Strikes Idle Kids
Lawyers Give Poor Free Legal Advice
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
Fund Set Up for Beating Victim's Kin
Killer Sentenced to Die for Second Time in 10 Years
Cancer Society Honors Marlboro Man
Nicaragua Sets Goal to Wipe Out Literacy
Autos Killing 110 a Day--Let's Resolve to Do Better
20-Year Friendship Ends at Altar
War Dims Hope For Peace
If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last A While
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Half of U.S. High Schools Require Some Study for Graduation
Blind Woman Gets New Kidney from Dad She Hasn't Seen in Years