Good & Bad Headlines

A. Bad headline: "Shaq attacks fat"

I found this on the home page of www.washingtonpost.com in the television section. Although the full story (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/19/AR2007061901498.html?hpid=features1&hpv=national) has a different (better) headline, this headline is more impotant because it helps determine whether readers click through to the story.

I assume that editors at the Washington Post were looking for something short and catchy. "Shaq attacks fat" is both, but it doesn't really make sense. What does it even mean for someone to attack fat? Is he perhaps verbally attacking fat? (But what else? Supporting fat? This reminds me of the "dry wood best for burning" headline.) The headline is also too vague. Whose fat is Shaq attacking? His own? Someone else's?

Another bad headline: "Court Rules for Cleaners In $54 Million Pants Suit"

This is in the metro section on www.washingtonpost.com. This headline caught my eye becuse it has the same "suit problem" as one of the headlines we talked about in class. This has become a big enough story that many (if not most) people would immediately understand the headline, but there is still the risk that readers would confuse "suit" for clothing instead of a legal case-- or at least a risk of slowing the reader down, which you always want to avoid, especially online.

See the full story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/25/AR2007062500443.html?nav=hcmodule.

B. Good headline: "Deputy Mayor Robbed at Gunpoint"

This headline is also from www.washingtonpost.com's metro section. This is an effective headline because it is immediately understandable and attention-grabbing. The headline is appropriate for the tone and content of the story; it doesn't use any cute phrases. Instead, it is to-the-point and informative.

It is important that the headline refers to the deputy mayor by his title rather than his name since it is reasonable to assume that the majority of readers have not heard of Victor Reinoso. The use of the word "gunpoint" is also effectice because of the image it conjures up. It gives the headline a dramatic edge without going overboard.

See the full story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/26/AR2007062600732.html?nav=hcmoduletmv.

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