A headline is the title of an article, designed to convey the article's essential information contained and attract the reader. This is sometimes called "tell and sell".


Newspaper copy editors usually write headlines for articles they edit.

Headlines are written in large type to catch the reader's eye, so they are relatively short. Those that are exceptionally short are described as having a "tight count."

Certain conventions are used to be more concise. These include using figures instead of spelling out numbers, and using commas to represent the word "and."

They generally use present tense and are often written in active voice, rather than passive.

Good headlines are often punchy and colorful, but they must also accurately impart the article's meaning and tone.

They sometimes rely on puns or other witticisms to attract the readers. Reactions to puns are mixed.

Rules and guidelinesEdit

  • Use present tense.
  • Try to fill the space.
  • Use commas to represent "and."
  • Use semicolons to indicate periods.
  • Write in subject-verb-object form.
  • Use single quotation marks, not double.
  • Make puns of names.
  • Write double entendres.
  • Use the words "is" and "are."
  • Use imperatives and questions.
  • Split phrases (known as "splits" or "bad breaks").
  • Use the words "still" and "continue." You might as well tell the reader, "No news here."
  • Overuse of abbreviations, which looks like alphabet soup, are hard to read, and may be unclear.

Bad headlinesEdit

Poor headlines can be vague or inaccurate. They may also be accidentally funny from unintended puns.

For years, the Columbia Journalism Review has included a feature called "The Lower Case," which includes examples of poorly written headlines. One of their most famous examples is "Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge." That is also the title of a book the magazine published of the best bad examples of "The Lower Case."

Headline contestsEdit

In the United States, headline awards are given by:

More informationEdit


"The Art of Editing," by Floyd K. Baskette, Jack Z. Sissors, Brian S. Brooks

Alex Cruden's panels
Cruden conducts panels in which readers typically respond to headlines.