Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Privacy
 

TITLES AND HEADLINES






From: How To Write Special Feature Articles
(Category: PART I)

IMPORTANCE OF HEAD AND TITLE. Headlines or titles, illustrations, and
names of authors are the three things that first catch the eye of the
reader as he turns over the pages of a newspaper or magazine. When the
writer's name is unknown to him, only the illustrations and the heading
remain to attract his attention.

The "attention-getting" value of the headline is fully appreciated not
only by newspaper and magazine editors but by writers of advertisements.
Just as the striking heads on the front page of a newspaper increase its
sales, so, also, attractive titles on the cover of a magazine lead
people to buy it, and so, too, a good headline in an advertisement
arouses interest in what the advertiser is trying to sell.

A good title adds greatly to the attractiveness of an article. In the
first place, the title is the one thing that catches the eye of the
editor or manuscript reader, as he glances over the copy, and if the
title is good, he carries over this favorable impression to the first
page or two of the article itself. To secure such favorable
consideration for a manuscript among the hundreds that are examined in
editorial offices, is no slight advantage. In the second place, what is
true of the editor and the manuscript is equally true of the reader and
the printed article. No writer can afford to neglect his titles.

VARIETY IN FORM AND STYLE. Because newspapers and magazines differ in
the size and the "make-up" of their pages, there is considerable variety
in the style of headlines and titles given to special feature articles.
Some magazine sections of newspapers have the full-size page of the
regular edition; others have pages only half as large. Some newspapers
use large eight-column display heads on their special articles, while
others confine their headlines for feature stories to a column or two.
Some papers regularly employ sub-titles in their magazine sections,
corresponding to the "lines," "banks," and "decks" in their news
headlines. This variety in newspapers is matched by that in magazines.
Despite these differences, however, there are a few general principles
that apply to all kinds of titles and headlines for special feature
articles.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD TITLE. To accomplish their purpose most
effectively titles should be (1) attractive, (2) accurate, (3) concise,
and (4) concrete.

The attractiveness of a title is measured by its power to arrest
attention and to lead to a reading of the article. As a statement of the
subject, the title makes essentially the same appeal that the subject
itself does; that is, it may interest the reader because the idea it
expresses has timeliness, novelty, elements of mystery or romance, human
interest, relation to the reader's life and success, or connection with
familiar or prominent persons or things. Not only the idea expressed,
but the way in which it is expressed, may catch the eye. By a
figurative, paradoxical, or interrogative form, the title may pique
curiosity. By alliteration, balance, or rhyme, it may please the ear. It
permits the reader to taste, in order to whet his appetite. It creates
desires that only the article can satisfy.

In an effort to make his titles attractive, a writer must beware of
sensationalism and exaggeration. The lurid news headline on the front
page of sensational papers has its counterpart in the equally
sensational title in the Sunday magazine section. All that has been said
concerning unwholesome subject-matter for special feature stories
applies to sensational titles. So, too, exaggerated, misleading
headlines on news and advertisements are matched by exaggerated,
misleading titles on special articles. To state more than the facts
warrant, to promise more than can be given, to arouse expectations that
cannot be satisfied--all are departures from truth and honesty.

Accuracy in titles involves, not merely avoidance of exaggerated and
misleading statement, but complete harmony in tone and spirit between
title and article. When the story is familiar and colloquial in style,
the title should reflect that informality. When the article makes a
serious appeal, the title should be dignified. A good title, in a word,
is true to the spirit as well as to the letter.

Conciseness in titles is imposed on the writer by the physical
limitations of type and page. Because the width of the column and of the
page is fixed, and because type is not made of rubber, a headline must
be built to fit the place it is to fill. Although in framing titles for
articles it is not always necessary to conform to the strict
requirements as to letters and spaces that limit the building of news
headlines, it is nevertheless important to keep within bounds. A study
of a large number of titles will show that they seldom contain more than
three or four important words with the necessary connectives and
particles. Short words, moreover, are preferred to long ones. By
analyzing the titles in the publication to which he plans to send his
article, a writer can frame his title to meet its typographical
requirements.

The reader's limited power of rapid comprehension is another reason for
brevity. A short title consisting of a small group of words yields its
meaning at a glance. Unless the reader catches the idea in the title
quickly, he is likely to pass on to something else. Here again short
words have an advantage over long ones.

Concreteness in titles makes for rapid comprehension and interest.
Clean-cut mental images are called up by specific words; vague ones
usually result from general, abstract terms. Clear mental pictures are
more interesting than vague impressions.

SUB-TITLES. Sub-titles are often used to supplement and amplify the
titles. They are the counterparts of the "decks" and "banks" in news
headlines. Their purpose is to give additional information, to arouse
greater interest, and to assist in carrying the reader over, as it were,
to the beginning of the article.

Since sub-titles follow immediately after the title, any repetition of
important words is usually avoided. It is desirable to maintain the same
tone in both title and sub-title. Occasionally the two together make a
continuous statement. The length of the sub-title is generally about
twice that of the title; that is, the average sub-title consists of from
ten to twelve words, including articles and connectives. The articles,
"a," "an," and "the," are not as consistently excluded from sub-titles
as they are from newspaper headlines.

SOME TYPES OF TITLES. Attempts to classify all kinds of headlines and
titles involve difficulties similar to those already encountered in the
effort to classify all types of beginnings. Nevertheless, a separation
of titles into fairly distinct, if not mutually exclusive, groups may
prove helpful to inexperienced writers. The following are the nine most
distinctive types of titles: (1) label; (2) "how" and "why" statement;
(3) striking statement, including figure of speech, paradox, and
expression of great magnitude; (4) quotation and paraphrase of
quotation; (5) question; (6) direct address, particularly in imperative
form; (7) alliteration; (8) rhyme; (9) balance.

The label title is a simple, direct statement of the subject. It has
only as much interest and attractiveness as the subject itself
possesses. Such titles are the following:

(1)
RAISING GUINEA PIGS FOR A LIVING
One Missouri Man Finds a Ready Market for All He Can Sell

(2)
HUMAN NATURE AS SEEN BY A PULLMAN PORTER

(3)
THE FINANCIAL SIDE OF FOOTBALL

(4)
CONFESSIONS OF AN UNDERGRADUATE

(5)
BEE-KEEPING ON SHARES

(6)
A COMMUNITY WOOD-CHOPPING DAY

(7)
WHAT A WOMAN ON THE FARM THINKS OF PRICE FIXING

The "how-to-do-something" article may be given a "how" title that
indicates the character of the contents; for example:

(1)
HOW I FOUND HEALTH IN THE DENTIST'S CHAIR

(2)
HOW TO STORE YOUR CAR IN WINTER

(3)
HOW A FARMER'S WIFE MADE $55 EXTRA

(4)
HOW TO SUCCEED AS A WRITER
Woman Who "Knew She Could Write" Tells How She Began and
Finally Got on the Right Road

The "how" title may also be used for an article that explains some
phenomenon or process. Examples of such titles are these:

(1)
HOW A NETTLE STINGS

(2)
HOW RIPE OLIVES ARE MADE

(3)
HOW THE FREIGHT CAR GETS HOME

Articles that undertake to give causes and reasons are appropriately
given "why" titles like the following:

(1)
WHY CAVIAR COSTS SO MUCH

(2)
WHY I LIKE A ROUND BARN

(3)
WHY THE COAL SUPPLY IS SHORT

A title may attract attention because of the striking character of the
idea it expresses; for example:

(1)
WANTED: $50,000 MEN

(2)
200 BUSHELS OF CORN PER ACRE

(3)
FIRE WRITES A HEART'S RECORD

(4)
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SECOND HELPINGS

The paradoxical form of title piques curiosity by seeming to make a
self-contradictory statement, as, for example, the following:

(1)
SHIPS OF STONE
Seaworthy Concrete Vessels an Accomplished Fact

(2)
CHRISTIAN PAGANS

(3)
A TELESCOPE THAT POINTS DOWNWARD

(4)
SEEING WITH YOUR EARS

(5)
MAKING SAILORS WITHOUT SHIPS

(6)
HOW TO BE AT HOME WHILE TRAVELING

(7)
CANAL-BOATS THAT CLIMB HILLS

A striking figure of speech in a title stimulates the reader's
imagination and arouses his interest; for example:

(1)
PULLING THE RIVER'S TEETH

(2)
THE OLD HOUSE WITH TWO FACES

(3)
THE HONEY-BEE SAVINGS BANK

(4)
RIDING ON BUBBLES

(5)
THE ROMANCE OF NITROGEN

A familiar quotation may be used for the title and may stand alone, but
often a sub-title is desirable to show the application of the quotation
to the subject, thus:

(1)
THE SHOT HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD
America's First Victory in France

(2)
"ALL WOOL AND A YARD WIDE"
What "All Wool" Really Means and Why Shoddy is Necessary

(3)
THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE
And Why She Won't Stay in the House

A well-known quotation or common saying may be paraphrased in a novel
way to attract attention; for example:

(1)
FORWARD! THE TRACTOR BRIGADE

(2)
IT'S LO, THE RICH INDIAN

(3)
LEARNING BY UNDOING

(4)
THE GUILELESS SPIDER AND THE WILY FLY
Entomology Modifies our Ideas of the Famous Parlor

Since every question is like a riddle, a title in question form
naturally leads the reader to seek the answer in the article itself. The
directness of appeal may be heightened by addressing the question to the
reader with "you," "your," or by presenting it from the reader's point
of view with the use of "I," "we," or "ours." The sub-title may be
another question or an affirmation, but should not attempt to answer the
question. The following are typical question titles and sub-titles:

(1)
WHAT IS A FAIR PRICE FOR MILK?

(2)
HOW MUCH HEAT IS THERE IN YOUR COAL?

(3)
WHO'S THE BEST BOSS?
Would You Rather Work For a Man or For a Machine?

(4)
"SHE SANK BY THE BOW"--BUT WHY?

(5)
HOW SHALL WE KEEP WARM THIS WINTER?

(6)
DOES DEEP PLOWING PAY?
What Some Recent Tests Have Demonstrated

(7)
SHALL I START A CANNING BUSINESS?

The reader may be addressed in an imperative form of title, as well as
in a question, as the following titles show:

(1)
BLAME THE SUN SPOTS
Solar Upheavals That Make Mischief on the Earth

(2)
EAT SHARKS AND TAN THEIR SKINS

(3)
HOE! HOE! FOR UNCLE SAM

(4)
DON'T JUMP OUT OF BED
Give Your Subconscious Self a Chance to Awake Gradually

(5)
RAISE FISH ON YOUR FARM

(6)
BETTER STOP! LOOK! AND LISTEN!

The attractiveness of titles may be heightened by such combinations of
sounds as alliteration and rhyme, or by rhythm such as is produced by
balanced elements. The following examples illustrate the use of
alliteration, rhyme, and balance:

(1)
THE LURE OF THE LATCH

(2)
THE DIMINISHING DOLLAR

(3)
TRACING TELEPHONE TROUBLES

(4)
BOY CULTURE AND AGRICULTURE

(5)
A LITTLE BILL AGAINST BILLBOARDS

(6)
EVERY CAMPUS A CAMP

(7)
LABOR-LIGHTENERS AND HOME-BRIGHTENERS

(8)
THE ARTILLERY MILL AT OLD FORT SILL
How Uncle Sam is Training His Field Artillery Officers

(9)
SCHOLARS VS. DOLLARS

(10)
WAR ON PESTS
When the Spray Gun's Away, Crop Enemies Play

(11)
MORE HEAT AND LESS COAL

(12)
GRAIN ALCOHOL FROM GREEN GARBAGE

HOW TO FRAME A TITLE. The application of the general principles
governing titles may best be shown by means of an article for which a
title is desired. A writer, for example, has prepared a popular article
on soil analysis as a means of determining what chemical elements
different kinds of farm land need to be most productive. A simple label
title like "The Value of Soil Analysis," obviously would not attract the
average person, and probably would interest only the more enterprising
of farmers. The analysis of soil not unnaturally suggests the diagnosis
of human disease; and the remedying of worn-out, run-down farm land by
applying such chemicals as phosphorus and lime, is analogous to the
physician's prescription of tonics for a run-down, anĉmic person. These
ideas may readily be worked out as the following titles show:

(1)
PRESCRIBING FOR RUN-DOWN LAND
What the Soil Doctor is Doing to Improve Our Farms

(2)
THE SOIL DOCTOR AND HIS TONICS
Prescribing Remedies for Worn-Out Farm Land

(3)
DIAGNOSING ILLS OF THE SOIL
Science Offers Remedies for Depleted Farms

Other figurative titles like the following may be developed without much
effort from the ideas that soil "gets tired," "wears out," and "needs to
be fed":

(1)
WHEN FARM LAND GETS TIRED
Scientists Find Causes of Exhausted Fields

(2)
FIELDS WON'T WEAR OUT
If the Warnings of Soil Experts Are Heeded

(3)
BALANCED RATIONS FOR THE SOIL
Why the Feeding of Farm Land is Necessary for Good Crops





Next: PREPARING AND SELLING THE MANUSCRIPT

Previous: STYLE



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed: 2948