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Rules for Headline Writing. Basic rules for writing captivating, correct headlines. Material property of the AR Dept. of Education Distance Learning Center. It may be used for non-profit, educational use only after contacting the ADE DLC at http://dlc.k12.ar.us ER.

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Rules for Headline Writing

Basic rules for writing captivating, correct headlines.

Material property of the AR Dept. of Education Distance Learning Center. It may be used for non-profit, educational use only after contacting the ADE DLC at http://dlc.k12.ar.us ER


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Use fact-filled secondary heads and eye-opening primary heads.

Use contrasting type styles between primary and secondary heads: bold and italic, for example


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Do not split an infinitive or prepositional phrase from one line to the next.

Don’t split a word with a hyphen from one line to the next.

There should not be any opinions in a news headline.


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Do not split a proper name from one line to another. line to the next.

There should not be information in the headline that is not in the story.

Don’t split a verb phrase, prepositional phrase or infinitive phrase from one line to another.


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Omit the articles line to the next.a, an and the.

Use numerals rather than spelled out number names

Don’t abbreviate unless the readers will understand.


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Avoid passive forms of the verb “to be”. line to the next.

Headline should use simple construction: Subject, verb, direct object.


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Primary head should be tied to the main photo if there is one.

Avoid using the name of the school or mascot in the headlines.


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Avoid stating the obvious. Tell the reader something new. one.

Do not include the “when” in the headline.

Do not repeat key words from one part of the headline to the other.


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Use literary techniques such as alliteration, puns, satire if appropriate.

Quotes make great secondary heads, but not primary headlines.

Avoid abbreviations in a headline. Use initials only if your readers will know what they stand for.


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Write in present tense if the event has already happened. if appropriate.

Use “can” or “may” instead of “will.” Predictions change.

Write in future tense or use infinitive (to + verb) to show that something will happen in the future.


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Primary headlines do not necessarily have to have a subject and verb – if there is a secondary headline included.

Secondary headlines should always have a subject and a verb.


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Keep capitalization to a minimum. Headlines are written in downstyle.

Keep punctuation to a minimum. Use single quotes instead of doubles. Use a comma instead of word ‘and.’ Use a colon instead of word ‘said.’


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  • When writing multi-line headlines: downstyle.

  • Keep verb phrases on the same line

  • Keep adjectives and the words they modify on the same line

  • Keep adverbs and the words they modify on the same line


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  • When writing multi-line headlines: downstyle.

  • Keep prepositional phrases on the same line

  • Keep words that go together on the same line

  • A line of a headline cannot end with a hyphen


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