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Guidelines for Writing Titles/Headlines

A headline/title is a short, clear summary of the information which is presented in a news report/article.

When writing titles you should give a clear idea of what the article is about; so, the main topic of your article should be mentioned in the title. You should also try to arouse the readers' interest. There are a variety of ways to do this. For example, if you are writing a description of a holiday destination, you could use adjectives to make the place sound attractive even before the reader starts reading the article (e.g. "The Untamed Wilderness of the Scottish Highlands"). If the article involves the presentation of an opinion, balanced argument or solutions to a problem, etc, you can address the reader directly (e.g. "What You Can Do to Save the Planet"), or present a question (e.g. "Is Capital Punishment the Answer?") in the title. Alternatively, and especially in more formal articles, you could just present the topic in a short statement (e.g. "The Role of the Monarchy in Britain Today"). Try to keep the title/headline short and remember that the style of the title/headline (e.g. formal/semi-formal) should reflect that of the article. If you are writing a review for a book, film, etc the title of your piece should be the same as that of the book, film, etc (e.g. "The People Vs. Larry Ftynt").

Certain rules can be followed when writing headlines:

a) use the Present Simple tense to describe events which have occurred very recently. Typhoon kills ten, for example, means ten people have died, probably in the last twenty-four hours, in a typhoon;

b) omit the verb "be" when using the passive voice to describe a past event. Write: Forests destroyed or Cyclist injured not: Forests were destroyed or cyclist was injured;

c) write "to be + past participle" when using the passive voice to describe a future event, as in: Summit meeting to be held (= A summit meeting is going to be held). When using the active voice to describe a future event, write the to-infinitive form only, as in: Council to close nightclubs (= The council is going to close nightclubs);

d) omit articles (a, an, the) as in: Man questioned in murder case (= A man was questioned in a murder case);

e) put nouns one after the other as in: Murder investigation team baffled, which means that a team of people working on an investigation related to a murder are baffled;

f) avoid using prepositions (to, from, etc.) where possible. Write: New York plane crashes rather than A plane which was flying to New York has crashed; and g) use abbreviations like UK, FBI, DNA, etc. Write: US satellite launched not: A United States satellite was launched.

3 Change the following sentences into headlines, applying the theory above.

1 The wreck of a 14th century pirate ship has been discovered off Ross Sound.

2 Baroness Amelia Phipps will marry Lord Clement.

3 Large-scale fraud has been exposed at Verne's Bank.

4 Teachers from Belfast have been angered by education cuts.

5 The council is going to impose nighttime noise restrictions.

6 The January sales are starting now.

7 Big Ben has been voted the city's favourite landmark.

8 The British Broadcasting Corporation are firmly against television advertising.

9 The roadworks are confusing many drivers in the city.

10 The National Union of Mineworkers will start a two-week strike.

4 Read the following titles/headlines for articles, reviews or news reports and say what you think the type and topic of each piece of writing would be.

i UNICEF to lounch worldwide < campaign against child labour

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