That’s why these are the three worst places to make a grammar error.
Here are four headlines that don’t pass my Ruthless Editor grammar test and how they could be better:
1. 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
2. France’s Political Parties Are Banding Together To Stop Le Pen
The problem: redundancy
Not all sources agree — including Grammar Girl — 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
3. 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
4. Poll After ‘Obamacare’ Vote: McCain Is More Popular With Dems Than GOP
The problem: Who is more popular with whom?
Is the claim that McCain is more popular with the Democrats than the GOP is with the Democrats?
Or is it that McCain is more popular with the Democrats that he is with the GOP?
Poll After Obamacare Vote: McCain More Popular With Dems Than With GOP
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 there was a better way to compose them.
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 send them to me: