Good headline example: Coup that is Oprah has Howard gushing
Yes, whoever who wrote this April 3 WashingtonPost.com headline broke the rule that writers should use active voice in headlines. That said, they also managed to pack news (Oprah is doing something for Howard), its effect (everyone at Howard is excited) and context (getting Oprah involved is a coup) into a seven-word slug. The story folows the headline’s fun, conversational tone, and the two elements mesh well. My only criticism is that the headline fails to let readers know just how Oprah is involved at Howard. The story and the subhead that is displayed under the headline explains that she’s their scheduled graduation speaker.
Bad headline example: Edwards has more treatable type of cancer
This April 4 USAToday.com headline confused me so much that I had to click on the story. Maybe it worked in that way. However, I didn’t think it did a great job of saying anything. The Associated Press story that went with it is a little muddled as well. Apparently, Elizabeth Edwards found out in a doctor’s appointment Friday that her cancer—which her husband, John Edwards, and the media have said is “untreatable”-- is “more likely to be controlled by anti-estrogen drugs.” Huh? I wondered if the reporter and the headline writer were trying to write around saying that their earlier reporting may not have been accurate. Also, most of the story is about what kind of life expcetancy Edwards has and how she is vowing to fight regardless of how long doctors project she will live. Was the headline writer confused by the story too?