Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Headline writing: you're doing it wrong

So we've established that if you write a headline in the form of a question, or pepper it with misleading quotes, or "scare" quotes, you're doing it wrong. While we're on the subject of doing it wrong, another minor law of headlines (which I just made up) springs to mind. I'll call it Garber's Law. It goes like this:
If you keep churning out headlines telling everybody else 'you're doing it wrong', you're doing it wrong.
Kudos to Megan Garber, who wrote this piece in The Atlantic:
Are you having a good day? Are you feeling rested, and happy, and ready to conquer the week ahead with your signature mixture of aggression and aplomb? Are you on top of your game, and thus on top of the world?

Then you might want to get off the Internet. Because the Internet does not agree with your sparkly sense of optimism. The Internet ... does not think you are on top of your game. Your capacity to work? To love? To live your life? You may not have asked for the Internet's opinion on these matters, but it will tell you anyway: It thinks you are Doing It Wrong.

Well, not the Internet (if, when it comes to precision, we are Doing It Right). The people who are employed to write things for the Internet. 
I'd quibble with the implication that 'agression' is a good state of mind in to start your week in (unless your job is writing passive-aggressive articles about how everybody else is doing everything wrong)* but, apart from that, spot-on.

*which, paradoxically, is exactly what I just did there. I wonder how much Slate is paying for this sort of stuff?


Update - post title was sloppily dashed off as 'Headlines: you're doing it wrong', and later corrected, thus neatly demonstrating the chief occupational hazard of criticising other people's writing on the Internet (see Muphry's law / Hartman's Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation / The Iron Law of Nitpicking).