Thursday, July 03, 2008

It did?

Not to stack the deck or anything, but -- quick, what does this hed mean?

Apparently one of the kitties* unplugged the clue-charger overnight, because I didn't get the intended meaning until halfway through breakfast. The problem isn't that the meaning is unclear; it's that two meanings are perfectly clear, and my lingering first impression was the one that doesn't fit. "Walk" is the noun, no problem, and there's a prepositional phrase telling you which walk it is, and then the walk ... well, there's your trouble.

The hed-scanning part of the brain figured "stops" was a standard present-tense-equals-immediate-past-action sort of hed verb (as in "river stops rising" or "grandma stops shrinking"), which made "bus" the object of the preposition:

Walk [to bus] [stops growing]

But the hed writer meant:
Walk [to bus stops] [growing]

... with the auxiliary understood. Makes perfect sense when you think about it, and unfortunately that's the point. If you have to read the story to make sense of the hed, you have the wrong hed.

The easiest answer is to fix the verb. Just make it "will grow." In a perfect world, heds would never predict the future, but if the originating desk is confident enough not to hedge the lede, you certainly wouldn't be going beyond what's in the text.

* Probably Woodchuck


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