Sunday, September 14, 2003

The Buffalo News uses two recent headline awards as an occasion to laud its copy editors and explain the craft of headline writing to readers. The author does a good job, too, even delving into the "big story, tight headline" problem.

But perfection is hard to come by: I must take issue with one of the headlines she extols.
Some are clever, like features editor Elizabeth Barr's headline on a story about Celine Dion's Las Vegas concert: "Diva Las Vegas."
Now, I'll never say that all headlines that play on words are bad. I'll leave that fight to Phil Blanchard. But then what makes a pun OK? It has to work both ways — as a play on words and literally. Yes, "Diva Las Vegas" plays on "Viva Las Vegas." But it means nothing literally.

Puns heds are easy. But making them work both ways while still encapsulating the story is damn hard.

Two publications that often do it well: and Entertainment Weekly. (In Entertainment Weekly: "Heaven and Mel; Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson stirs up a religious firestorm in The Passion.") Even they sometimes write groan-inducers, though. (Also in EW, a deck head about goth band AFI starts out "You've goth to be kidding. …" My thoughts exactly (well, close enough).


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