Hurried Headlines Mislead

Here are some headline yea’s and nay’s I’ve chosen to share, convincing myself that the misleading ones were written in a hurry during our rapid news cycles.


Fewer People in Prison Could Actually Mean Less Crime

Because fewer and less are so often mismatched with what they are describing, it was refreshing to see each used correctly.

  • Fewer is used for items you can count: fewer almonds, fewer cats, fewer paper clips … fewer people
  • Less is used for quantities you usually can measure or weigh: less wealth, less ice cream, less coffee … less crime


1) The End of Apple and Samsung’s Epic Legal War May Be Approaching

On first reading, I thought someone was predicting that Apple was going out of business and that Samsung was embarking on an epic legal war. In reading further, I learned that Apple and Samsung had agreed to scale down their legal war over patents.

This would have been clearer:

Apple and Samsung May be Approaching End of Epic Legal War

2) Meet the Sleep Artist Who Can Only Draw When He’s Subconscious

Ahhh, where to begin …

  • Sleep artist: Has this guy taken sleeping to a new level?
  • Subconscious can be a noun (a thing: the part of one’s mind that has ideas and feelings the person is not aware of), or it can be an adjective (a descriptor: subconscious memory is something that exists in the mind but is not consciously known or felt).

So there is no such thing as a person being in a state of subconscious. Unconscious, yes. But subconscious, no. Subconsciousness? Perhaps, depending on your dictionary.

  • Then there’s the problem with only. If he can only draw when he’s in a supposed state of subconsciousnesss, that implies he can do nothing else while in that state. He can’t breathe, for example. He would not be able to do much drawing if he couldn’t breathe.

If I were to guess what the headline really implies, this likely would be more accurate:

Meet Artist Whose Subconscious Enables him to Draw Only When Asleep

3) Typhoon Haiyan Wrecks Major Destruction

This headline writer took a shortcut, eliminating the a from what should be wreaks. There no doubt was a lot of wreckage, but the storm did not wreck the major destruction that already existed. The storm caused, inflicted — in other words wreaked — destruction.

4) Little Known Facts About LED Lighting

We know that LED lighting consists of little bitty light-emitting diodes, but are the facts we know about them also tiny?

All this headline needs is a hyphen: Little-known Facts makes clear that the facts are not small, but rather are not well known.

Little-Known Facts About LED Lighting

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson 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)