Headlines are essentially one-sentence summaries of your story, but with some changes. Read this list of rules to help you out.
- Use the present tense (with rare exceptions).
- Use strong, active verbs that add punch to your headlines. Avoid passive voice.
- Avoid using forms of the verb "to be" unless they are essential to the meaning of the headline.
- Have a subject and a verb, even if it is understood.
- Don't split parts of the verb and proper nouns between lines. Avoid splitting adjectives and nouns, and prepositions and their objects. People read the lines of a headline as complete thoughts. Don't make readers work to find the meaning of your headline.
- Don't repeat words. The real estate is too valuable.
- Don't use articles unless their elimination causes confusion. They waste space.
- Use single quotation marks.
- Keep acronyms to a minimum. Only use acronyms that are very familiar to your readers.
- Avoid “headlinese.”
- Watch out for ambiguity. Read the headline a second time, looking for possible hidden meanings.
- The headline should reflect what is in the story. Don't go beyond the story or sensationalize the headlines. Stick to the facts.