Friday, April 08, 2011

This headline may be misleading.

I'm sure this has happened to you. You're skimming through your regular newspaper/news website, reading all the headlines to make sure you don't miss anything interesting. And then it catches your eye. A headline that uses a clever play on words, perhaps. Or one that seems to pronounce judgement on a controversial topic. Or one that selectively quotes or interprets the contents of an interview. Or one that is polemic in nature. I've found that such headlines serve their intended purpose quite well. They make me stop and read through the corresponding article out of sheer curiosity, if not interest. Often times though, the article does not convey the message that the headline does, highlighting the dangers of paraphrasing in our age of 140 character messages. A case in point - this article.

The headline got my attention and I began reading the article with the mental image of another condescending columnist shining light on topics they 'know' nothing about. To my surprise, I found that the article was nicely written, not know-it-all in tone and was well intended, if somewhat obvious to a reasonably tolerant person. All good. What then is my point? Compare the headline with the concluding para in the article. While the headline itself conveys that the author somehow 'knows' how God thinks, the concluding para has a more careful, even wishful tone regarding God's thought process.

It's a tight rope to walk, keeping those headlines short, simple and yet conveying information on the one side and grabbing eyeballs without misinforming on the other.