Hilarious headlines

Old font text on a textured paper background with a fountain pen

Whether you’re a copywriter, content writer or journalist, you’ll know all about the importance of a strong headline. You know the type of thing: attention-grabbing, punchy, specific, concise, informative… All that stuff.

With that in mind, how is it that sometimes even the most experienced writers get it wrong – often with rib-tickling results? Let’s take a look at a few of my own all-time favourite corkers.

1. When a hyphen really DOES matter

At first glance, this headline might look completely innocuous. However, read it through a few times and the double entendre will come to light. Of course, we all know the writer is really talking about the students getting first-hand experience in the job market. But there’s also a second potential meaning to the headline which is something completely different…

If only there was a hyphen in ‘first-hand.’ Things would have been just fine and this unfortunate writer could have avoided the inevitable – and widespread – chortling when the headline went viral a few years ago.

2. When the writer looks a bit of a prat

Who’d have thought it? Nothing like stating the obvious is there. I suspect the real meaning here is that ‘flying bugs’ are the species in question, although my knowledge around such things is very lacking. In any case, the headline does make the writer look a bit of a nitwit. If they’d have tweaked the wording to something like ‘a species called flying bugs’, or maybe just rewritten the whole thing, this headline wouldn’t be quite such a howler.

3. When there’s nothing like stating the obvious

In another case of spectacular double meaning, the end result is definitely amusing despite the grim subject matter. After all, how are these homicide victims supposed to talk to the police if they’re already dead? Some of them seem to manage it, though – hence the use of the word ‘rarely’ – but I’m not sure quite how. Through a medium or spiritualist perhaps?

With regard to how this headline could be rewritten to sound more ‘sensible,’ that’s a tough one – because in one of its meanings, it makes perfect sense. I guess you’d just have to write something a bit more clunky, such as ‘Homicide victims rarely tell the police they’re in danger before their deaths.’ Doesn’t sound great, does it?

4. Ditto to number 3…but less serious

This one is pure headline genius when it comes to stating the obvious. Again, what the words say is true but… The funny (or sad) thing is that it could be put right quite easily with some simple rewording. Something like ‘Broken air conditioners cause unbearable conditions at local school.’

I think part of the problem with both examples 3 and 4 is that writers are often under pressure to keep their headlines as short as possible. Unfortunately, that can mean sacrificing the credibility of the wording (and possibly the publication) completely.

5. Another ‘exciting’ double entendre

I know examples 1 and 5 are a bit rude, so I hope no readers are offended. Example 5 does take the cake a little, however. The writer is in reality referring to Obama’s package of political policies or similar, not his other package (ahem). So, why isn’t the word ‘policies’ or even ‘politics’ substituted for ‘package’ here? Even something like ‘ambitions’ would have worked in this context.

Of course, there’s a chance the writer used this wording on purpose, perhaps because they themselves are a Republican. Who knows. It’s still cringe-worthy in the extreme.

Where were the editors?

With good editing, all five of these disastrous headlines could have been rewritten, removing the potential for embarrassment. So, what were the editors of these publications thinking? Maybe it was their day off when the articles in question were published. One thing’s for sure, we’ll never know.

Avoid your own hilarious headlines

If you’d like to make sure your own headlines don’t make people howl with laughter, get in touch today and let’s chat about how I can help. From editorial to press ads, blogs to brochure copy, you can trust me to do a great job with your headlines, every time. (Of course, if you’re actually looking for headlines that are a little on the cheeky side, that’s fine too 😊)