Now that I have your attention, I will say that’s a horrible headline that has appeared many times in newspapers although not the ones I’ve worked for. A better headline would be “Falling tree kills man” or “Man killed by falling tree.” Either gets to the point faster with fewer words.
When I worked for a daily newspaper Back East my last job was a copy editor. Besides giving stories a second read, I worked with the editor who was in charge of the front page and wire stories. She’d tell me what size headline — hed in newspaper lingo — she needed for a story and I had to come up with the right combination of words that fit. I’d like a four-column one-deck, Deb would say. Or, a one-column, two-deck hed with three-deck drop-hed. One-column headlines were the hardest. It was a great exercise to get the gist of the story down to a few words while enticing readers.
So, how does it work with blogs? Clever titles seem to generate more page views. I knew my last post, The Devil’s Machine, about my disdain for microwaves, would do well and it did because of the devil. The same happened with My Cheating Job and Sweating It Out at the MVD. So did Smoke and a Derailed Train on New Year’s Eve. The most popular so far? Finding the Invisible Man, about scoring a 1952 edition of Ralph Ellison’s book in a thrift store.
Things didn’t go so well for Big Sky, Teenage Hypnotist, and Big Feet. Too bad. I liked the posts that came with them.
So, here’s another lesson I learned about blogs.