When I read a headline with a grammatical shortcoming, I often copy it to save for a blog.
Can you spot the error in each headline before you read my analysis?
1) Will Space-Age Houston Survive Into the Future?
The problem: redundancy
Will implies future, so Into the Future is redundant.
Will Space-age Houston Survive?
2) Wayfair Workers to Walkout Over Beds Sold to Border Camps
3) Traffic Backups Already as Labor Day Weekend Begins
Walkout and Backups as single words are nouns.
I’m certain that the writer intended for them to be verbs (phrasal verbs actually, because they combine a verb and an adverb): Walk Out and Backs Up
Wayfair Workers to Walk Out Over Beds Sold to Border Camps
Traffic Backs Up Already as Labor Day Weekend Begins
Traffic Backs Up as Labor Day Weekend Begins
4) California’s Pet Stores to Only Sell Rescue Cats, Dogs and Rabbits
The problem: misplaced modifier only
Only modifies or further explains the word (or phrase) it is closest to. In this case, only modifies sell. A reader might conclude that store staff won’t feed, water or care for the animals; they will only sell them. The rewrite makes clear what I’m certain the headline meant to say: that the stores will offer for sale only rescue animals.
California’s Pet Stores to Sell Only Rescue Cats, Dogs and Rabbits
5) Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez Trim the Tree with Their Kids
Can you picture the children hooked to and hanging from the branches?
Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez’s Kids Help Trim the Tree
Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez’s Kids Join in Tree Trimming
6) If Animals Could Speak, We’d Probably Eat a Lot Less of Them
Less is for uncountable quantities; fewer is for things you can count.
If Animals Could Speak, We’d Probably Eat a Lot Fewer of Them
7) There’s No Rules Against Flight Attendants Fraternizing With Passengers
8) Artist In ‘This Is America’ Plagiarism Debate: ‘There’s So Many Bigger Issues Facing Us’
There’s is the contraction for the singular verb There is. In both of these headlines, a singular verb is paired with plural nouns: Rules and Issues.
There Are No Rules Against Flight Attendants Fraternizing With Passengers
Artist In ‘This Is America’ Plagiarism Debate: ‘There Are So Many Bigger Issues Facing Us’
9) Kylie Jenner Covers Forbes as the Next Youngest Self-Made Billionaire
Is Jenner the next (in sequence) young person to become a self-made billionaire?
Or she is next youngest in age — the closest in age to the existing youngest self-made billionaire?
You have to read the story to learn that Jenner (at age 21) took the title from former young billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (at age 23), and Bill Gates, Microsoft (at age 31). Eliminating Next or using New would have been clearer:
Kylie Jenner Covers Forbes as the Youngest Self-Made Billionaire
Kylie Jenner Covers Forbes as the New Youngest Self-Made Billionaire
10) The Men’s Rights Movement Now Has Their Own Law Firm
11) Tile Just Fixed The Biggest Flaw in Their Bluetooth Trackers
12) The New Everlane Rain Boot Is Here And They Are Only $75
13) Add This One Thing to Your Cat’s Food to Help Them Be Healthier
Each headline has a mismatched noun and pronoun:
Movement (singular) … Their (plural possessive pronoun)
Tile (singular) … Their (plural possessive pronoun)
Boot (singular) … They (plural pronoun)
Cat (singular) … Them (plural pronoun)
The Men’s Rights Movement Now Has Its Own Law Firm
Tile Just Fixed The Biggest Flaw in Its Bluetooth Trackers
The New Everlane Rain Boots Are Here and Sell for Only $75
Add This One Thing to Your Cat’s Food to Help It Be Healthier
If all of those errors made you frown (They did me!), let’s close with a smile from this clever and error-free headline: