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Theheadline or heading is the text indicating the nature of the article below it.
The large type front page headline did not come into use until the late 19th century when increased competition between newspapers led to the use of attention-getting headlines.
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 in English often use a set of grammatical rules known as headlinese, designed to meet stringent space requirements by, for example, leaving out forms of the verb "to be" and choosing short verbs like "eye" over longer synonyms like "consider".
A headline's purpose is to quickly and briefly draw attention to the story. It is generally written by a copy editor, but may also be written by the writer, the page layout designer, or other editors. The most important story on the front page above the fold may have a larger headline if the story is unusually important. The New York Times's 21 July 1969 front page stated, for example, that "MEN WALK ON MOON", with the four words in gigantic size spread from the left to right edges of the page.
MUSH FROM THE WIMP - The Boston Globe in-house joke headline for an editorial, not changed before 161,000 copies printed. Theo Lippman Jr. of the Baltimore Sun declared "Mush from the Wimp" the second most famous newspaper headline of the 20th century, behind "Wall St. Lays an Egg" and ahead of "Ford to City: Drop Dead".
FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER – The UK Sun (1986), claiming that the comedian had eaten a fan's pet hamster in a sandwich. The story was later proven false, but is seen as one of the classic tabloid newspaper headlines.
GREAT SATAN SITS DOWN WITH THE AXIS OF EVIL – The Times (UK) on US-Iran talks (2007)
UNDERWEAR BANDIT CAUGHT, ADMITS BRIEF CRIME SPREE – Kodiak Daily Mirror (Alaska, US) on the arrest of a panty-pilfering suspect who had admitted his short involvement in the crime. (2014)
WE ARE POPE (in German: Wir sind Papst); Bild after a German was voted to become pope Benedikt XVI in 2005.
Editor of The New Republic, Michael Kinsley, began a contest to find the most boring newspaper headline. According to him, no entry surpassed the one that had inspired him to create the contest: "WORTHWHILE CANADIAN INITIATIVE", over a column by The New York TimesFlora Lewis.
Research in 1980 classified newspaper headlines into four broad categories: questions, commands, statements, and explanations. Advertisers and marketers classify advertising headlines slightly differently into: questions, commands, benefits, news/information, and provocation.
Headlinese has a long history. This example is the front page of the Los Angeles Herald issue of May 29, 1916.
Most verbs are in the simple present tense, e.g. "Governor signs bill", while the future is expressed by an infinitive, with to followed by a verb, as in "Governor to sign bill".
The conjunction "and" is often replaced by a comma, as in "Bush, Blair laugh off microphone mishap".
Individuals are usually specified by surname only, with no honorifics.
Organizations and institutions are often indicated by metonymy: "Wall Street" for the US financial industry, "Whitehall" for the UK government administration, "Madrid" for the government of Spain, "Davos" for World Economic Forum, and so on.
Many verbs can be converted into nouns, e.g. "rap" could be understood as either "criticize" or "criticism" depending on context.
The use of "slam" in headlines has attracted criticism on the grounds that the word is overused and contributes to media sensationalism. The violent imagery of words like "slam", "blast", "rip", and "bash" has drawn comparison to professional wrestling, where the primary aim is to titillate audiences with a conflict-laden and largely predetermined narrative rather than provide authentic coverage of spontaneous events.
'Crash Blossoms' is a term used to describe headlines that have unintended ambiguous meanings, such as The Times headline "Hospitals named after sandwiches kill five". The word 'named' is typically used in headlines to mean "blamed/held accountable/named [in a lawsuit]", but in this example it seems to say that the hospitals' names were related to sandwiches. The headline was subsequently changed in the electronic version of the article to remove the ambiguity.
This term was coined in August 2009 in the Testy Copy Editors forum. The term comes from the headline of a Japan Times article which was worded "Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms". The article has since been re-titled to "Violinist shirks off her tragic image".
Mårdh, Ingrid (1980); Headlinese: On the Grammar of English Front Page headlines; "Lund studies in English" series; Lund, Sweden: Liberläromedel/Gleerup; ISBN91-40-04753-9
Biber, D. (2007); "Compressed noun phrase structures in newspaper discourse: The competing demands of popularization vs. economy"; in W. Teubert and R. Krishnamurthy (eds.); Corpus linguistics: Critical concepts in linguistics; vol. V, pp. 130-141; London: Routledge