Say What3

Say What3 - Say What? Writing headlines that intrigue,...

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Say What? Writing headlines that intrigue, inform, and fit Note: Take special interest in boldface words. Headline writing is a craft that the best copy editors elevate to an art. One of the enjoyable parts of teaching an editing class is seeing students discover that they have a “knack” for writing headlines. Even those who have the natural gift will find writing heads a challenge at first. It’s a little like writing a haiku or a sonnet: space is tight and there are firm rules. The really good heads stick in your mind. Headline writing involves each of the main principles we have been discussing: conciseness and vigor in writing, sharp news judgment, and, on many levels, humility and a service ethic. Headlines are written for stories written by other professionals – our colleagues, who love to see their stories get “a good ride,” meaning good placement, headlines and graphic treatment. Headlines are written for the collective, whether it is a newspaper, magazine, web desk, television station (graphic overlays are really just a type of headline, and we’ll work a little on those), or public-relations agency or office. That means our headlines should reflect the attitudes and tastes of the organization at least to some degree. The New York Post may go with “Headless body in topless bar” – and did. The New York Times will not. A smart copy editor at the Times (such as our department’s own Flora Lee, editor of the Lariat in 2002-2003) will know that without having to learn by personal experience. Most important, headlines are written for the readers. For them, we need to catch the most interesting and relevant “heart” of the story. For them, we need to be accurate and careful with language. For them, we need to be catchy, fun and entertaining in our wordplay, or, in our treatment of sad or tragic stories, respectful and sensitive. Read the story carefully. Understand the main point, the tone, and any nuance in the reporting. When you’ve written the headline, read the story again to make sure you haven’t digressed in tone, shading, or fact. Headline writing is a process of writing and revision. The first thing that fits and follows the rules is rarely a good enough headline to publish. Get used to “tweaking” for tone, content, cadence, and fit. Sizes
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Let’s start with how we measure copy and headlines. One column inch, on a six-column broadsheet (i.e., daily newspaper) page, is called a Standard Advertising Unit, or SAU. The base rate for ad sales is set for one SAU. (The Lariat charges $11 before adjusting for volume sales, advance-pay discounts, student discounts, color add-ons, etc. The rate charged is based on circulation – how many papers are produced, sold and/or distributed by subscription and by single-copy sales through stores, coin boxes, kiosks, and street sellers). That one column is about 1 7/8 inches wide. (They used to be wider, but newspapers are
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Say What3 - Say What? Writing headlines that intrigue,...

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