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Tag Archives: Writing for journalists

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.