Thursday, February 25, 2010

This Is Not a Headline

I've been working with headlines for most of my professional life. I'm a longtime writer, editor, and copy editor, and crafting headlines has often been part of my job (as well as cover lines--I hate to show my age, but I started in technology publishing back when print was the primary medium).

And headlines are not easy--there is a science to them, as well as an art. Working within a very limited space, you have to choose words that explain complex ideas and persuade readers to go further--to stay on a page, or to click on a link. Pro writers and editors have very particular ideas about what constitutes a good headline. Just check out all the how-to guides a simple search revealed.

A lot can depend on a headline.

And when they go very wrong, it can be very embarrassing. And hilarious. Some of the cover lines recently collected by the Huffington Post are so funny they seem almost intentional. ("Tiger Woods plays with own balls"? Come on, now!) But I live in dread of similar mistakes--somehow writing pubic when I mean public, or accidentally libeling someone, for instance.

It's a scary job, but someone has to do it.

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