I spent part of yesterday advising on sales copy. My client felt their existing copy wasn’t punchy enough and was – in parts – ambiguous. We talked a bit about ambiguity and then got onto the inevitable conversation about ambiguity in newspaper headlines, like this: “Stolen Painting Found by Tree.” Clever tree. And these: “Miners Refuse to Work after Death” and “Police Found Safe Under Bed.” Lovely.
From ambiguous to apparent, it’s always possible to swing too far the other way. Two cherished but quite hopeless headlines from the States: “Official: Only Rain Will Cure Drought.” And this one from the Collinsville Herald-Journal in Illinois: “Economist Uses Theory to Explain Economy.” Great!
Finally, from apparent to accomplished, my all-time favourite headline from Private Eye – on the library strike in Essex: “Book Lack in Ongar.”