Headlines That Make You Smile

By Mike Feinsilber

Writing newspaper headlines — six or eight words that accurately summarize a story and draw a reader in — is a skill. Writing headlines that have all that and a sense of humor is a gift.

Here are some I’ve collected, starting with a perfect one from the Washington Post’s Style section that appeared on November 25  over a story about a traditional silly presidential ritual:


The rest of these come from the New York Times, which uses more flexible fonts than the Post. The Times can get more words into a headline than the Post, which gives it an advantage when it wants to be cute.

From June 28, 2020 about the State Department’s efforts to recruit beyond white men with Ivy League educations:

State Dept. Wrestles
With Culture Skewing
‘Pale, Male and Yale’

From a July 3 story about a drug company that agreed to pay a big penalty to settle a suit charging it with giving kickbacks to doctors for prescribing its drugs

Novartis Paid Kickbacks. Now It Will Pay $678 Million

From a July 4 story about the troubles of Maine lobstermen:

Too Many
Not Enough

The jump headline on the same story:

Maine Has More Lobsters Than Tourists to Eat Them

From September 9:

London’s Bridges Really Are Falling Down

And from a pandemic-caused shortage of coins:

People Nationwide Want Change,
But the Coins Aren’t Circulating
And this one:

Grin-worthy headlines have been around a while. A daily department on page 2 of the Times carries  a “This Day in History” section. The November 27, 2010 entry recalled a play-on-words headline that appeared on that date in 1977:

Mike Feinsilber spent about a quarter century with UPI in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Harrisburg, Newark, New York, Saigon and Washington and about a quarter century with AP in Washington, with a spell as assistant bureau chief and a stint as writing coach. He was a deskman, reporter, and editor, and he covered Congress and 18 political conventions.

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