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Headlines: how to write your icing

Witty headlines. How do editors seemingly whip them out of clean air, sprinkling the perfect words on top of a news story like icing on a cake? Everybody Was Kung Fuel Fighting. Genius! Naming Private Ryan. Amazing! Where do they come from? There are certainly none in my brain.

Well actually, there are. But only found after….a little prompt shall we say. As I’ve discovered, there are a few (sort of) cheaters ways of constructing a headline.

First of all, take a word from your story – the key word, what it is will depend on the piece. If it’s a celebrity profile feature, either their first name or surname. If it’s a news story, use the subject, i.e. fuel from above example.

Type it into here, and bingo! You should get loads of ideas.

Second way: again, take the same word and type it here. Pick a word from the list, type it in here and keep doing it with different words until you come up with the perfect headline – by replacing the rhyming word with the original word.

I did this for a recent Annie Mac (VERY cool Radio 1 DJ) interview. I typed in Mac (important word), picked Jack from the list of rhyming words, typed it into the idioms function and came up with…drum roll please…Mac Of All Trades. For an interview in which she talks about the million things she’s done throughout her career. I know, I know. Genius. Amazing. See?

One more. Consider words that are similar to the important word, but don’t rhyme: i.e. Common as Mac (muck).

Of course, use your brain and initiative first of all – because you might come up with something stellar with any contextual/historical/well-known information about the particular subject or person that the story focuses on. But if nothing springs to mind, cheat, cheat, and cheat some more. Editors: you’ve been rumbled.

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About Rhian Jones

I am a freelance music business journalist based in London. My career began when I saw an apprenticeship with freelance education journalist Janet Murray advertised in the Guardian. I applied, and after a gruelling two-day Alan Sugar style assessment, got the job, quit university and relocated to London to pursue my dream of a career in the media. The apprenticeship ended on a high when I secured my first journalism job at Music Week. I spent my week days writing news stories, interviewing and learning all about the fast paced nature of putting together a weekly magazine, all while gaining invaluable insight into the inner workings of the music business. After three years and a few promotions, I left my position as news editor to go freelance in 2015. Alongside two regular gigs as London correspondent for US trade rag Hits, and contributing editor for Music Business Worldwide, I've written for publications including Company, Grazia, The Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, The Independent, Music Ally, Billboard, The Journalist and Music Teacher.

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