Heads up

Headlines need to be accurate, attract attention and give readers a preview of the story. Good headlines also draw on our shared culture to establish a connection for the reader.

Here is a good example from today’s (Oct. 14) paper of a headline that makes a connection: Lab’s big production: breeding Nemo

This works on several levels. First the headline makes allusions to a movie, a “big production,” and to a particular movie, the phenomenally successful 2003 animated film “Finding Nemo.” The headline writer cleverly echoes the title of the movie by using the same structure, “breeding Nemo.” This is no obscure literary allusion.* Millions of people have seen the movie and know that Nemo was a clownfish. The headline tells most readers right away what the story is about. The headline writer connected something the reader knows to something the reader doesn’t know yet.

* I am very fond on obscure literary allusions, but I recognize that they aren’t always the best choice for a headline in the newspaper.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.