A headline (sometimes termed a news hed) is text at the top of a newspaper article, indicating the nature of the article below it.


Headlines are usually written in bold and in a much larger size than the article text. Front page headlines are often in upper case so that they can be easily read by the passing potential customer. Headlines in other parts of the paper are more commonly in sentence case though title case is often used in the USA.

Headline conventions include normally using present tense, 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. A headline may also be followed by a smaller secondary headline which gives a bit more information or a subhead (also called a deck or nutgraf in some areas). Words chosen for headlines are often short, giving rise to headlinese.

According to Russ Willison Headlines are the "barb on the hook."

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

Occasionally, the need to keep headlines brief 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.

See also

Further reading

  • Harold Evans News Headlines (Editing and Design : Book Three) Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd (February 1974) ISBN-10: 0434905526 ISBN-13: 978-0434905522
  • Fritz Spiegl What The Papers Didn't Mean to Say Scouse Press, Liverpool, 1965


External links

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