Headline Humor: Beyond ‘Weiner’s Rise and Fall’

Guest post by Mickie Kennedy of eReleases.

This is a guest post by Mickie Kennedy, owner of press release distribution service eReleases.

Imagine the reactions when newspaper readers unfurled their New York Post and read this:

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Yes, that was an actual newspaper headline during the Anthony Weiner scandal. Better yet, this headline succeeded in being not only humorous, but doing the main thing a newspaper headline is supposed to do: telling the reader, in as few words as possible, what the story is about.

Using humor in your headline can be one of your greatest assets. It not only stirs up emotion, but it will also keep people reading on in hopes of more witty comments.

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All of these headlines make you want to keep reading about the story, because they are well written, short, and funny! You can also write headlines that utilize a play on words or a well-known phrase. Say for example, you are writing a press release for a new Thai restaurant that just opened. You can title it with something like, Spice: The Last Frontier. Referencing a well-known show like Star Trek deepens your relationship with your readers. It shows that you understand what makes them tick and makes them want to keep reading.

Tips for Writing Humor

That said, humor writing is hard.  Humor relies on that element of surprise, that “aha” moment where your reader suddenly “gets it.” And where she, hopefully, gets the giggles.

Here are a few tips for writing humorous headlines:

Put the Funniest Words at the End of the Sentence – This assists with the element of surprise. Your readers were just reading what they thought was a plain old headline and then – boom! – humor.

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Draw Conclusions Between Two Completely Different Things – See the example above. Who would think to combine cows and unemployment rates? It’s silly, and will give your readers a smile.

Try, Try Again – The first headline that pops into your head isn’t always the best. (This can be said even for non-humorous headlines.) Spend time on your headline. Brainstorm a plethora of possibilities and then let them mellow for awhile.

Like the headline above, one will likely “rise” to the occasion.

All of these headlines make you want to keep reading about the story. You can also write headlines that utilize a play on words or a well-known phrase. Say for example, you are writing a press release for a new Thai restaurant that just opened. You can title it with something like, Spice: The Last Frontier. Referencing a well-known show like Star Trek deepens your relationship with your readers. It shows that you understand what makes them tick and makes them want to keep reading.

Tips for Writing Humor

That said, humor writing is hard.  Humor relies on that element of surprise, that “aha” moment where your reader suddenly “gets it.” And where she/he, hopefully, gets the giggles.

Here are a few tips for writing humorous headlines:

Put the Funniest Words at the End of the Sentence – This assists with the element of surprise. Your readers were just reading what they thought was a plain old headline and then – boom! – humor.

Finally, unless you’re writing for a certain style of publication that warrants it, remember to always keep your humorous title in good taste. You won’t keep readers if you offend them.

Also make sure that it is clear what you are writing about. A funny headline is no use to you if it makes no sense to the reader. After that follow the 5W content rule and inverted pyramid of information with the 5W at the top. You should be golden!

mickie headshotMickie Kennedy writes the eReleases blog PR Fuel. He lives in Baltimore.