Grandma's Tales

December 13, 2006

How important are headlines?

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:21 pm

Very, I would say. Or so many people would not insist that writing a good heading is a must-do to invite traffic to your blog. And so many bloggers wouldn’t be following this advice.

What is a “good” headline?
[1] “Use a number of words to make the content clear,” my daughter said. “People might pass it if it is cryptic and doesn’t say much.” Someone else had the same idea. See the one below. It appeared on
Questions I Want to Ask Potential New Roommates, Based on Experiences with the Roommate He Will Be Replacing Phew!

This reminds me of the famous limerick:
There was this bard of Japan,
Whose poems they could never scan.
When they told him so,
He said, “Yes, I know.
And that’s why I always put
as many words in the last line as I possibly can.”

[2] When I taught regular school, we made a presentation on “How to write a Headline”. We said:

  • the headline should match the content. Example:
    Pakistani journalists walk out of briefing
    However, the first line of the report said that they walked out of the briefing shaking their heads in disbelief. “Walk out” implies protest. But these guys left only when the briefing ended.
  • Try a bit of play on the words. Examples:
    All the headlines that appeared in the press following the Chinese Premier’s visit – Look Hu’s here!
    Hu’s endorsed the nuke deal?
    Use your head (line)
  • Next is the question. A question demands a response, so is a good hook. Examples:
    Obama, the next US President?
    Are Abhishek and Ash already married? (To each other, of course)
  • Improbable opposites. Examples:
    Terrorism vs. Kabaddi
    Culture vs. Candyfloss
  • Similar-looking but clever words. Example:
    Today’s school pinics are more about fun than funda (long with fun words)
  • A (false) promise of giving away a secret. Examples:
    The climax of Dhoom 2
    Want to know who did it?
    Who murdered Mr. Murgatroyd?
  • Go with the Greek plays. Evoke pity and horror. Examples:
    Bloodbath as sensex crashes
    Panic in the city as tree falls
    Thousands dying of Chikungunya
  • One negative word in upper case followed by a couple of exclamation marks. Example:
  • All caps spreading across the entire box. Example:

Can you think of anything else?

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