Choose this type of summary blurb for news heads
Your headline and deck — that one-sentence summary under your headline — are San Francisco real estate. Make sure each word does new work.
So don’t repeat words from the headline in the deck. That’s right: Not. One. Single. Word.
Not the name of the product. Not the name of the company. Not the name of the topic or story angle or the subject matter expert.
Not. One. Single. Word.
Add new details to the second layer.
Your deck is an extension of the headline. It should expand on the headline, not duplicate it.
Here’s a deck, from USA Today, that adds information to the headline:
Kidney stone cases could heat up
Global warming cited as culprit
And here’s one, from The Wall Street Journal, that just repeats the head:
Low Income Could Be Tax Bonanza
A year without much income could actually prove to be a tax bonanza
(Ah, now I understand. So you’re saying low income could actually be a tax bonanza? I didn’t get that from the head.)
I repeat: Don’t repeat.
Why avoid repeating? So that you:
- Say something new. Repeating words from the head to the deck is a clue that you’re saying the same thing twice. Say something new in the deck.
- Streamline the headline. Too often, headlines get too long because we cram primary and secondary angles into them. Cover the secondary angle in the deck, and you’ll take a load off — and words out — of your news head.
Hey! Don’t repeat your headline or deck in your lead, either. Your headline, deck and first paragraph probably get more readership than the rest of your message combined. To make sure you’re making the most of these essential elements, don’t repeat your headline or deck in the lead.
(And that’s nothing compared to email, where you should avoid repeating a single word in any of the four key elements of the “envelope.” )
5 news headline-deck combos to try
To avoid repeating the headline in the deck when you’re covering news, put your primary story angle in the headline, your secondary story angle in the deck.
Here are five types of headline-deck combos to consider:
1. Put the primary angle in the head, secondary in the deck.
Put the most important angle in the headline and the second-most-important one in the deck:
In China’s earthquake zone, a culture fights to survive
Beijing reverses course, moves to help the Qiang
2. Go from general to specific.
Put the general news story in the headline, the specific details in the deck:
Systems go for new runway safety lights
FAA touts anti-collision, $400M plan
3. Explain what happened and how.
Is something facilitating a trend? If so, steal an old copy editors’ trick and make that your deck. Explain what happened in headline, explain how in the deck:
Cyberbullying grows bigger and meaner
Far-reaching photos and video add another element of pain
4. Tell what happened and why.
Answer “What happened?” in the headline and “Why?” in the deck:
Vacant shipping containers given new life on land
Steel boxes being reused as building blocks for eco-friendly, affordable housing
5. Telegraph what happened and now what.
Show the likely effects of the news by answering “What happened?” in the headline, “Now what?” in the deck:
Sudan rejects accusations against leader
Lawmaker warns there are no guarantees for safety of U.N. staff
Why waste words telling people something twice? Instead, make sure your decks complements, and doesn’t just repeat, your headline.