Friday, October 06, 2006

Heds not to write

A quick (and not scientifically sampled) set of reminders of Stuff Not To Do:

Scandal turns off voters, GOP fears
(South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
Too many ideas, not enough tenses (and one too many potential direct objects). We need a progressive or a future to distinguish what the scandal is doing or might do from what the GOP fears it might do. And with the first verb in the hed-traditional present tense, the poor coffee-deprived brain has an extra reason to read "fears" as a noun at first glance.

There are a couple different ways to help:
1) Leave the structure as is, make the main-clause verb progressive. Still leaves the emphasis on the supposition, rather than who's supposing it. Not always a bad idea, but it is here.
2) Splitting the phrasal verb ("turns voters off").
3) Put the GOP into the main clause.

Corp of Engineers unable to predict timetable, cost to upgrade levee
It's a Corps, not a Corp (and in yet another big-type element, an it, not a they). Hate to think South Florida's spending all its time on writing all the decorative stuff called for by that new redesign and not leaving time to read the words on 1A.

Subpoenas approved in page probe
Hastert apologizes for failures to investigate Foley's messages but won't step down
The NYT fell for the same construction, which makes it a bad idea that happened to get on the front page of the Times. We have no idea whether Hastert will or won't step down. All we know for the Friday front is what he said Thursday: He says he won't step down. Stick to what you know and you'll never be sandbagged when, oh, some politician who backed his running mate a million billion percent turns around and dumps the loser three days later.

3 Comments:

Blogger nicole bogdas said...

Much like we at the Palm Beach Post nixed headlines such as "The rise and fall of Mark Foley" and "Public drive, private demons" (focus on, ahem, the congressman's RISE as well as his, ahem (sex) drive), papers should be doing their best to avoid suggesting voters are "turned off" and refering to the investigation as a probe. I'm no prude, but these heds aren't clever, just sloppy.

9:44 PM, October 07, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Nothing wrong with an editor -- or am editor wearing the Visual Journalism hat -- having a dirty mind. Better a dozen of us laugh at it tonight than a few hundred thousand laugh in the morning.

9:57 PM, October 07, 2006  
Anonymous Denise Covert said...

We ran a front-page photo about a bizarre and foul-smelling pink algae bloom. When it was reproduced on the Web, the headline for the photo was "Stinky pink." I personally emailed the web editor to insist he take it down -- he said only a few people "got it," but that's more than enough, thanks. :-P

12:31 PM, October 10, 2006  

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