Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Horror in Headlines

For your edification, I'd selected a few of the least helpful headlines I've seen recently and attempted to explain just what, in my ever-so-humble opinion, has gone wrong with the things.

Feds balk at Google book deal, hopes for changes The Feds hope for changes, and Google hasn't made a deal to publish a book but to re-publish out-of-print books from many authors. This headline not only misleads readers but appears to confuse singular and plural—Feds hopes for changes—when adding the word “have” would at least have clarified the grammar. The writer of this mess thought brevity would work, but they were wrong.

EU officials warn of disappearing cod Foolishly, I thought this headline referred to the theft of a shipment of fish or perhaps to a prank pulled by a fishy magician. Imagine my surprise at reading that the poor cod faces extinction from overfishing. I feel bad for the cod and the writer of this ambiguous teaser-gone-wrong.

Mich. stares down 2nd govt. shutdown in 3 years So, three years from now Michigan will have a staring contest? Is the state trying to intimidate a shutdown for the second time within three years? Wait just one minute—Michigan is a state. It has no eyes. I'm confused, and that puts the authors of this headline in the wrong. Speaking of wrong...

White House stiffens against illegal immigrants Yes, I did find this one hilarious, but it was still a poor choice of words. I don't think a preposition exists that could have saved this one from the mental image that it generates. (Or do I just have a dirty mind? No, it must be the construction.)

I have more examples from published bits and pieces, but these headline horrors seemed only appropriate for a Halloween post. Please share any badly-written headlines you may have seen, as well. Unfortunately, writers do not limit such terrifyingly-bad language to one day a year.