What’s Wrong With These 9 Headlines?

Newspaper - breaking newsHeadlines are to a ruthless editor what presidential candidates are to a comedian: great fodder for commentary.

Whether in the form of a misspelled, misused, misplaced or redundant word, online lessons abound. Can you find the errors in these headlines?

  1. Clinton: Drug Firms Benefitting From Trade Deal Should Offer Discounts
  2. Jeb Bush: ‘Jeb Is Different Than George’
  3. J. Crew Flounders In Fashion’s Shifting Tides
  4. Tiger Falters Down In Final Round
  5. Dragon Tattoo Controversy Flares Up
  6. Dead Body Found On Queen’s Estate
  7. If You Only Read One Book About The Water Crisis: Cadillac Desert
  8. You Own A Pair Of Chacos, And You’re Darn Proud Of It
  9. Who Says Cats Are Any Different From Dogs?

The problems:

  1. Benefitting is spelled wrong. It should be benefiting (one t).
  2. Different from, not than, is preferred, per Associated Press style.
  3. Flounder means to flop about, to move jerkily or clumsily. Founder means to bog down, to stumble. The story explained that J. Crew’s sales have fallen and profit margins are shrinking. The company is foundering, not floundering.
  4. Falter down is redundant. To falter is to move hesitatingly or haltingly, to stumble or founder. It’s unnecessary to add a direction.
  5. Flares up is redundant. To flare is to burn with a sudden intensity, regardless of the direction.
  6. Dead body is redundant. If a live person had been found, it would be person found, man found or woman found. And why would that be news? Body in this case implies corpse, which might have been a better choice.
  7. Only is a misplaced modifier. It should be closest to what it modifies:
    If You Read Only One Book About The Water Crisis …
  8. To darn is to weave together with interlocking threads. Darned is either the past tense of darn or it means extremely or markedly. My grandmother will darn my heavy woolen socks. She does a darned good job. The headline should read: You Own A Pair Of Chacos, And You’re Darned Proud Of It
  9. This is a fine point, but I included it because it has so much everyday relevance. Any is redundant: Who Says Cats Are Any Different From Dogs? Consider how often we close an email with: “If you have any questions, please contact me.” Would the meaning change if you deleted any? Good writing is lean, so pay attention to how often and where you slip in any.

Reminder: I follow the Associated Press Stylebook. Conforming with style guide recommendations ensures consistent usage, which is helpful to readers. Your organization might have a house guide that differs from AP.

Send me headlines you question in terms of grammar, word misuse or clarity. Believe me, there is no online shortage!

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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Kathy Watson
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