#21: Giving bad headline

A major trend in headline writing over recent years has been for sub-editors to make a simple substitution of one word for another that rhymes with it, no matter how forced or how corny or how awful the end result is.

This technique is particularly prevalent among sub-editors who work for mastheads that project themselves as serious ‘compacts’ rather than trashy ‘tabloids’.

Their aim: to show off their creative skills but just don’t get too tacky doing it.

The Glass House is indebted to today’s edition of the Sun-Herald for a fine example of how often subs fail in that quest.

So here’s the story. The Sharks NRL side is set to lose halfback Chad Townsend for three weeks over an horrendously obvious high shoulder charge on Friday night.

So what does the Sun-Herald sub do? With what’s left of his addled brain after years of heavy drinking – The Glass House at this stage wants to apologise unconditionally for this shameful stereotyping of your typical metropolitan masthead subeditor and vows never to let it happen again – to think: what rhymes with Chad?

Well, the options are plentiful when you’ve already got two potential Walkley-winning headings in your drawer and this effort tonight could clinch this year’s statuette!

There’s mad. Fad. Had. Lad. Bad. Hmmm….bad. BAD!!!!

That’s it! As in ‘bad to worse’!

Okay, okay! It’s not brilliant but when the pressure’s on and there are now only two sports subs in the hub where there used to be six or seven, it will have to do.

Especially as this gun sub probably also had been toying with TOWNSENT OFF! And with an outside chance for … SHOULDER HIT PONG(A)S!


A variation of the old “substitute words that rhyme” trick is that if a word looks a fair bit like another word then why not switch them too!

We’ll leave all of you students of journalism out there to guess what quality “compact” this example comes from.


And, briefly, while we’re on the subject of quality subbing, The Australian, as ever, continues to maintain its reputation as arguably the nation’s best by far national broadsheet.