Writing a Headline

Headlines. The bane of every reporter and editor’s existence.

A bad headline can ruin a great story, and a great headline can save a bad story.

Here are 7 things to remember:


  1. Headlines need active verbs!!! Always use present tense. Think Subject-Verb-Object structure.
  2. Only capitalize the first word of a headline. Unless there are proper names, then capitalize those too.
  3. Here’s a good rule of thumb, and a way to make your designers love you… Think of 3 different versions of your headline. (1 short, 1 medium, 1 large/long)
  4. Repeat after me…. Don’t repeat the lede!!! So many of us reporters and editors fall into this trap. But if your lede repeats your headline or vice versa, you’re redundant. That’s a huge NO-NO in journalism.
  5. Don’t be obscure. Get to the point. Remember our job is to tell our facts to the public clearly, and concisely. An obscure headline only confuses and infuriates a reader.
  6. Tone. Tone. Tone. Always make sure your headline is appropriate and matches the tone of your story. Let’s not call Big Red a furry blob in a headline.
  7. Most importantly, headlines need to be accurate. A great headline is engaging, but it shouldn’t exaggerate or misrepresent the topic of the story. As Shakespeare wrote, to thine own (story) be true.

For more: check out these helpful tips.