Writing Headlines: Why So Many Questions?

In an editor’s column in The Washingtonian, I once wrote a note to readers saying that when they saw a question head at the top of a story, they’d never find the answer in the story. A journalism professor in Baltimore took it too seriously and tried to start a fight over it.

Okay, I didn’t really mean never, but the fact is that most question heads are a dodge by the headline writer. I sweated over writing many a headline—what is this story saying?—and finally gave up and made the headline a question because the story wasn’t clear enough or definitive enough to write any other kind of headline.

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