Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Headline News

Herein, some newsflashes for writers regarding headlines. Some of you need them.

Headlines Are Not 20 Words Long. Ever. And, if you ever submit a headline like this one:
Call the Doctor, I Think I Am Gonna Crash: What You Need To Know, But Are Afraid To Ask About the New Designated Doctor and Required Medical Examination Rules and Processes
that landed on the Editrix's desk, you will rot in writer's hell. The Editrix will see to it personally. Here's a clue: 5 words or less. That's the number of words most headlines should contain. You can cheat, particularly in b2b pubs, by using subheds on those unruly complex ideas. But keep that main title short. Remember, brevity is . . . Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Footnotes and Headlines Do Not Mix. Seriously, the Editrix cannot believe she has to say this. But in the aforementioned headline, there was a footnote after "crash," to let us all know the excruciating details of the Eagles, "Life in the Fast Lane," Hotel California, and changes in band personnel on that album (yes, it was an album). Um, thanks, but no thanks. If you need to footnote a headline, it's not the right headline!

Pop Culture References in Headlines Must Connect to the Story Content. They cannot relate only tangentially, as the alleged headline above did. The story is about new legal requirements for the use of particular doctors in workers' comp cases. It is not about drug abuse, drug overdose, needing a doctor on the spot, or even about driving rapidly. Doubtless the song reminds the author of some fond memories of a well-spent youth, but readers don't care! Use a hook whose line is connected to your story. The Editrix will thank you, not to mention your readers.

No comments: