The Headline Challenge
No deadline. No slot. Just you, the story - and a chance to hone your heads.

Phil Ochs, who described himself as a "singing journalist," once said that "every newspaper headline is a potential song." Others have described headlines as poetry, with just the right words filling just the right space. Good headlines are haiku on newsprint and have the passion of an Ochs song.

But good headlines can be downright difficult to write. You can read all the tips - look for key words, stretch your vocabulary, relax - but the only way to truly improve your headline writing skills is to follow the advice given to writers: To be a better writer, you must write.

Here's your chance to write headlines without the boss looking on, without the stress of an early deadline, without the fear that your work will be at best pedestrian and at worst in error. Copy editors from around the country have volunteered to share their work in this headline-writing workshop. Read the story, write your headline in the same space they had to work with, then read their comments on how they wrote their head. You may have a problem with their head, or you may like your headline more. Not a problem. Another way to get better at headlines is to critique them.

And if you get a great headline in print, take a few minutes to write down how you did it - and then send it to Deborah Gump to be shared with other copy editors.

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