What's in a Word | All Blogs


Four fitting words

By Debra Dobbins

“Make it snappy and make it fit” is the injunction that headline writers follow. The “hed” over today’s irrigation story rises to the challenge.

Good headline writers use literary techniques to grab our attention. Here, the writer employed three techniques in just four fitting words.

The writer used two words starting with “I” to make the headline alliterative. (See entry for July 13 for more on alliteration.)

The writer used parallelism by using a noun and a verb and then repeating that grammatical structure. The use of two words with the suffix “tion” further strengthens the parallelism. (See July 8 entry.)

The writer also managed to create not one but two internal rhymes with “irrigation” and “irritations” and “dries” and “rise.”

Such techniques appeal to our inner ears. Our teachers taught us not to subvocalize as we read, which means saying words softly to ourselves, but we subconsciously hear, and appreciate, the sounds anyway.

It’s challenging to write a hed that summarizes a story in a mandated length. When someone can write just four words that encapsulate a story and contain so many literary techniques, it’s downright masterful.
 

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