The newspaper industry is very vibrant with many engaging in depth investigations to come up with good stories to attract audience attention. Headline writing is one key area where the competition is fierce and where audience patronage is often won. Newspapers take headline writing seriously because it does the first job of winning audience attention to a medium.
Here are 30 kinds of headlines you’ll find in newspapers and magazines. We have used examples in the video below to make it easy for you to identify these headlines whenever you see them in a newspaper or magazine. This is the second part of our video on this topic. You can watch the first part here.
Here’s a summary of the headlines we discussed in this first part of our lecture series on this topic.
This is another name for the kicker
It provides subject of the story
Appears before the main headline (above or by the right side separated with a comma)
Provides a quick background summary of what the headline is all about or what the story is referring to.
A headline set in a rectangular box
For emphasis or art sake
A headline that comes in different lines after the main headline
It could be flush left, flush right, inverted pyramid or hanging indent
These are riders that come after the main headline
This is a headline that identifies a topic or mentions the theme of a story without saying anything about the story itself. If it is business story for instance, about a decision taken by a company to launch a new product, the headline could say “Business Decision”, or “New Product Launch” without giving an idea of what or who took the decision, or which kind of product was launched. Proper headlines give an idea of these other aspects of the story but the label head only identifies the theme of the story without saying anything further. The label headline identifies the topic but it does not say anything about it. Mary Pretzer, design columnist of Editor’s Workshop, a newsletter, said that good headlines “need at least two things… a noun and a verb.”
Label heads are nouns or noun phrases without verbs. So they look like they are hanging, without enough information about the story. They look like ‘abandoned kickers’, more like they need riders to make them clearer. These kinds of headlines are not used for straight news reports. They are best suited for feature stories. Even at that, they have to be carefully used in order not to make a story dull.
You find these kinds of headlines in newspapers and magazines, especially used for very short, quick informative articles which are often capsule features (articles written in one or two, sometimes three paragraphs). Some examples are as follows: Bulletins, Meetings, Volunteers, Chemical update, Manager’s letter, Appointments, Health considerations, Disposable air cleaners, Innovation & Growth Video Series, etc. You could find headlines like these ones in newspapers and magazines.
The label head is also used to refer to permanent headlines that appear on specific pages of a newspaper to introduce specialized sections. For instance, the business section of a newspaper could have the headline “Business Insight, Business Vanguard, or Business World.” This headline appears permanently to introduce the business page, or to “label” the introductory page of the business section of the newspaper. It could be Sports Today, Punch Sports or Technology Watch.
Why you should avoid label headlines.
There is the possibility that you could lose your reader with a bad headline. This is why having a good and lively headline is very essential. Wylie Communications advises against using label heads especially for stories that are not features. According to Wylie Communications, Label headlines carry a double problem because they skip the verb, so they suck the action out of a headline and they don’t say anything about the topic. Among the reasons given on why label headlines should be avoided are as follows;
1. You miss the chance to communicate
This is because Headlines get twice the attention of text. They change the way we think. “Readers” might not read anything else. If your headline says nothing, you might have lost your best opportunity to reach and impress the huge and growing percentage of your audience who just read the display copy.
2. Label headlines make your story dull and boring
Some readers use headlines to decide whether to read a story while some other readers get all of their information from the display copy. If your headline says Strategy statement, it is almost certain that readers will choose not to dive in.
3. Label headlines sap the energy from your story
Having verbs in headlines make stories lively. Without verbs, your story has no action. Without verbs, there are no benefits. Readers can’t see what they could do differently with your product, service, program or idea.
How you can fix a label headline
Here’s how to correct a problem associated with label headline. You can actually have a simple headline with a verb but without making it a label headline. Wylie Communication also provides solution on how to fix label heads.
1. Always say something about the topic
If you find yourself writing a headlines like “Transport Company,” ask yourself “Transport Company what?” Or what about Transport Company? Are we for it or against it? Should the reader choose the company or not? What kind of transport company is that? The answer will help make the headline more meaningful and capable of attracting the reader to continue with the story. You could have a better option with “Enjoy Affordable Bus Services” or “Bringing You Comfort on Wheels”.
2. Add a verb to the headline
Verbs make a headline lively and the headline gives an idea of how interesting a story could be. “A story is a verb, not a noun,” writes one of the former editors of The New York Times. That means that something essential is missing from a label head. Unless you’re writing a feature headline, use a dynamic verb in every headline. You have added advantage for putting that verb in present tense, especially for straight news stories.
3. Develop creative standing heads
Label heads are better used as standing heads. This refers to a headline that permanently appears in a newspaper or magazine. Such headlines introduce different sections of the publication such as Business, Sports, Art & Life, Entertainment, Metro, Crime, etc. Label heads are better used as the name of a recurring column or section of a newspaper or magazine. Even while using them as standing heads, you also need to make them a bit creative so that a reader would want to know what the stories in that section are saying. Instead of “Properties” you could have “Property Watch” as a standing head.
Be it feature story or straight news report, labels are dull and not very good as headlines. If you can avoid them just do so. Here are a few examples of how to avoid label heads either for feature story or straight news report. So instead of “Charity Collection for Flood Victims”, you can say “Help Flood Victims Get Back to Life”. Instead of “Pensioners’ tears and troubles”, you can still use this caption for feature story but add “Pensioners tears over government neglect”, or better still, “Treat pensioners like human beings”, or “Is being a pensioner now a Curse?”. Make the headline interesting enough to arouse curiosity. Instead of “Face Masks and Coronavirus”, you can say “No Face Mask? You could be at risk for Coronavirus”.
Label heads are usually not regarded as proper headlines, going by the true definition of a headline. You have to ensure your headline does a good job of attracting readers’ attention and making them want to read your story. Otherwise just having a caption in the form of label head will be an exercise in futility and that way you could lose your readers right for the story title.
A short-line headline in smaller type often underlined, which appears above the main headline.
It is also called teaser, highline or strap.
Provides subject of the story
Appears above the main headline
Provides a quick background summary of what the headline is all about or what the story is referring to.
It’s a kind of kicker
Also called strap line
Appears like a strap across the main headline
A headline that runs across all the columns in the inside pages of a newspaper
A newspaper headline that runs across the entire page
A kind of sub headline within a story
Small subsidiary headlines in the body of the story
Used to break down a story into different segments
A headline set further to the right having a diagonal shape
First line is flushed left while subsequent lines of the headline are indented right to give a diagonal shape
Also called the step line headline
This patter is of 2-3 lines, each approximately of the same length.
Where you have two lines, the first line is set to the left of the column and the second line is set to the right.
Example: COVID-19 victims condemn poor
facilities in isolation centres
Where you have three lines, the first line is set to the left of the column (flush left), the second line is indented one or two spaces to the right (flush right) and the third line is indented one or two spaces to the right. The spacing of the second and third line must be equal (one it is one or two spaces you decide to use)
Example: FG orders release
Palliatives to flood
victims in Anambra
Literary Allusion Headline
A headline that makes use of a quotation from a popular literary work (novel, movies, biographies etc.)
It is mostly used for feature stories
“Things Fall Apart”
This could be a title for a feature story talking about crisis in the parliament. It was taken from the popular novel by Chinua Achebe. That’s actually the title of the novel.
This is a title derived from a combination of the writer’s words and popular literary work (may be the title of a novel or quotation from a novel)
While writing about crisis in the Senate you could use a parody from Chinua Achebe’s novel.
Instead of “Things Fall Apart” you could say “Senate Falls Apart”
Instead of “There was a country” you could say “There was a State” or “There was a University” (while writing about backwardness in a State or University).
“Much Ado About National Budget” – This could be the title of a story about endless debate by the parliament over the nation’s budget. The title is derived from Shakespeare’s novel Much Ado About Nothing.
“The God’s Can Now be Blamed” – A parody derived from Ola Rotimi’s Novel.
This is a headline that does not give an idea of what the story is all about
It is used to arouse readers’ curiosity
Mostly used for feature stories
“To be or not to be” – This could be the title of a feature story talking about failure of government to meet promises, or to complete a project that will impact the economy positively.
It doesn’t give an idea of any of the Five Ws and H of the story. It just drops a word, phrase or summary statement to arouse readers’ curiosity by creating tension, suspense of stirring emotion.
Catchy headlines used to arouse readers’ curiosity
They are short, sharp and punchy
They are creative headlines that sometimes sound poetic
Some of them are also blind headlines
“Slave Camp” – this could be the title of a feature story describing poor work environment and welfare package in a particular company or even government ministry.
“Killer Drugs” – This could be title of an article describing menace of fake drugs in the society. It is similar to a label head.
Summary Statement Headline
This is a headline or title that comes in form of a statement which summarizes the theme of an article.
It is often used for feature stories.
It is not written in present continuous tense like the headline of a straight news report.
Sometimes it gives an idea of the position of the article writer or the angle of argument supported by the writer.
A Welcome Magnanimity
Unrepentant Prodigal State Governors
Saving Nigeria’s Education Sector
Improving Agriculture in Nigeria
This is a title or headline that asks questions to arouse readers’ curiosity.
Its basic feature is that it ends with question mark.
It is used to draw readers to an article by asking them a direct question.
Try not to ask questions that will easily attract a “yes” or “no” answer without being powerful enough to make the reader want to probe further by reading the article.
Why does your vehicle breakdown?
Do you know why your customers are leaving?
Why do tourists visit Kaduna?
Do you know you have these right as a Nigerian?
Direct Address Titles
Titles that are used to address the readers directly
They use the second person narrative approach – “You”, “Yours” approach
You Should Have This Skills
Do You Know Why Your Customers are Leaving.
In the second example you could see that the question headline was combined with the direct address headline.
Watch Video Here;