A while back, I had a little rant about terrible, punny article/post headlines. I referred to the body of “stock” headlines for articles with particular subjects, like “To dye for” for articles about hair colour, and “Fringe benefits” for articles about, predictably, fringes. Not sure why the two examples that spring to mind are hair-related – I’m obviously in a hairy mood.
Anyway, since that post, I’ve officially encountered THE worst headline ever written. It’s not a stock headline, probably because it makes no sense, is mind-numbingly terrible and has rather unusual subject matter. But it’s still the worst I’ve ever seen. I hope it can’t be bettered (worsened?).
I spotted it in someone else’s copy of a tabloid newspaper on the tube. I can’t specify which tabloid because the fellow passenger in question was holding the paper in such a way as to obscure the front page for me – which is to say he was trying to use the paper to block his view of the passenger to his left. Who was drooling.
From what I could see, the article was about the amount of paperwork nurses in the NHS are burdened with. Of all the possible headlines in the world, why they came up with, shortlisted, selected and printed this one is beyond me.
I repeat. IN-PEN-SIVE care.
They stuck the word “pen” in the middle of a common hospital phrase and thought that somehow, that made an acceptable headline about paperwork. Because you fill it in with a pen. Though you probably actually fill it in with a keyboard these days, on paper made of pixels.
Another example of crappy copy is this online ad for a tanning product:
The fact that this is an awful, obvious and unsophisticated pun isn’t my issue. My issue is that they were so unsure whether people would get the joke that they felt the need to resort to inverted commas. “That’ll do it!” they guffawed to themselves, “Everyone will get the pun now! TANtalising! Genius”.
It’s the same with “in-pen-sive” and its hyphens. They’re there to say: this isn’t a typo, people. Oh no, look again. It’s a brilliant double entendre.
Only it isn’t. If your headline requires superfluous punctuation of any kind to point out the joke, said headline is not brilliant and should be vetoed immediately. Followed by a quick Hail Mary to make absolutely sure it’s dead.
EDIT: Another terrible stock headline just sprang to mind – “Storm in a D cup”, on articles about breasts, bras and lingerie. And those three words should up the traffic to this blog at least tenfold.
EDIT 2: “The eyes have it”
EDIT 3: “Hair apparent”