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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A headline is text at the top of a newspaper article, indicating the nature of the article below it.

It is sometimes termed a news hed, a deliberate misspelling that dates from production flow during hot type days, to notify the composing room that a written note from an editor concerned a headline and should not be set in type.



Headlines are written in much larger type size than the article text, and often in a different font entirely. Headlines are often in sentence case, although title case is often used in the USA.

Headline conventions include normally using present tense even when discussing events that happened in the recent past; omitting forms of the verb "to be" in certain contexts; and removing short articles like "a" and "the". Most newspapers feature a very large headline on their front page, dramatically describing the biggest news of the day. Words chosen for headlines are often short, giving rise to headlinese.

A headline may also be followed by a smaller secondary headline, often called subhead or "deck hed", which gives more information.

Production of headlines within the editorial environment

Headlines are generally written by copy editors, but may also be written by the writer, the page layout designer or a news editor or managing editor.

The film The Shipping News has an illustrative exchange between the protagonist, who is learning how to write for a local newspaper, and his publisher:

Publisher: It's finding the center of your story, the beating heart of it, that's what makes a reporter. You have to start by making up some headlines. You know: short, punchy, dramatic headlines. Now, have a look, [pointing at dark clouds gathering in the sky over the ocean] what do you see? Tell me the headline.
Protagonist: But what if no storm comes?

In the United States, headline contests are sponsored by the American Copy Editors Society, the National Federation of Press Women, and many state press associations.

Unusual headlines

A number of newspapers use humour, puns, alliteration or other wordplay devices in their headlines. Equally, the need to keep headlines brief occasionally leads to unintentional double meanings, if not double entendres. For example, if the story is about the president of Iraq trying to acquire weapons, the headline might be IRAQI HEAD SEEKS ARMS, or if some agricultural legislation is defeated in the United States House of Representatives, the title could read FARMER BILL DIES IN HOUSE.

According to Claud Cockburn, the following headline won a competition for being the dullest ever: "Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead."

See also

Further reading

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Headline" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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