By Kathleen Watson (used with permission)
News headlines draw us into a story. Report titles summarize what our readers can expect. Email subject lines should do both. That’s why these are the three worst places to make a grammar error.
Here are three headlines that don’t pass a grammar test and how they could be better:
- Bill Nye Only Needs 10 Seconds To Explain The Toughest Science Theories
The problem: misplaced modifier
Modifiers are words that add meaning or clarification. The emphasis of this headline is the minimal amount of time Science Guy Bill Nye needs to explain complex science theories.
Modifiers should be placed close to—preferably next to—the words they modify.
Bill Nye Needs Only 10 Seconds To Explain The Toughest Science Theories
- France’s Political Parties Are Banding Together To Stop Le Pen
The problem: redundancy
Not all sources agree but I consider banding together redundant.
My test for redundancy: Would the opposite descriptor—in this case banding apart instead of banding together—make sense? Do people ever band apart?
Of course not. So there’s no need to clarify that people—or political parties—band together.
As a verb, band is described this way: to unite in a troop; to come together in a group because of a common purpose or belief
Synonyms are to connect, to join, to unite, to merge.
France’s Political Parties Unite To Stop Le Pen
- Stabbing At Flint Airport Deemed Potential Act Of Terrorism By FBI
The problem: This wording could be interpreted as the FBI having committed a potential act of terrorism.
FBI Deems Flint Airport Stabbing Potential Act of Terrorism
FBI Deems Stabbing At Flint Airport Potential Act of Terrorism
News cycles rapidly, and writers are under pressure to publish stories in minimal time. Yet when I read these headlines, it took me just seconds to recognize better ways to compose them without a grammar error.
Whether you’re reporting the news, writing a title for a report, or crafting an email subject line, allow time to review what you’ve written. You’ll be more likely to catch these kinds of oversights that avoid detection when you write in haste.
If you see silly or questionable headlines, please note them here or send them to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathleen calls herself the Ruthless Editor. She has created Grammar for People Who Hate Rules to help people write and speak with authority and confidence. Kathleen can be reached at email@example.com.