TITLES AND HEADLINES





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, anæmic 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





TIMELINESS IN DOING GOOD. To Be Great Concentrate facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback