I’ve written newspaper headlines for money. Actually, I did it for a lot of years. And I have made some serious doozy mistakes in heads, one or two of which have required a correction. Maybe five, actually. Okay, nine.
None were as bad as these, which turned up this week at failblog.org, the fifth-funniest website on the Internet:
Or this new and instant classic, a key example of why you shouldn’t use text to fill space in Quark or InDesign templates:
This resembles an error I made once, early on; I composed a cutline for a photo while the photog was processing it (this is pre-digital), using XX to placehold the two people’s names until the photog could give me his notes (and the PMT). He did, and I added the names, but the version of the Quark page that went to production was the original. The photo ran the next day, starring XX and XX. I was embarrassed, but the people in the photo, more so.
This taught me a big lesson: don’t fuck up.
Headline-wise, I tended to lean toward tabloidy heads, big, bold declaratives, rather than more straighforward Man bites dog type of all-keyword jobs. This led to some interesting discussions with other editors over the years, and now I’m a blogger.
Writing headlines is a tricky science, and one I never quite mastered (which you know if you read this site regularly.) One guy who did get it right can be found here, in this great article.