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  • Category: Improve Your English

    Ambiguous and confusing headlines

    Many times news headlines confuse us because of the ambiguity they create.

    My trigger came from a recent headline 'Train teachers to teach special students'. Here actually there is no ambiguity or confusion, because there are no class of teachers called 'train teachers'. So it is clear that the word Train is used here as verb. But this led to me think on confusing headlines.Suppose the headline was like 'Train passengers not to cause delays '.

    Headlines and titles of articles need to be short and crisp to attract reader attention. The sub-editors who usually give or edit the headings make it as crisp as possible within the challenges of space and time. Here though unintentionally happened, the phrase 'challenges of space and time' itself can be interpreted in two ways at least.

    Many of us may be familiar with effects of the positioning of a punctuation mark. We would have taken the example of Hang them don't spare them at that time.
    Just imagine a headline 'Father of three kills one'. is it not ambiguous and confusing?

    Please give ambiguous and confusing headlines and titles you came across in newspapers , articles and forum threads in ISC, or from any other context.
  • #618029
    It is true that there are some headings in the newspapers confusing. Many times there is a chance to misinterpret. I will give an example in Telugu
    In a small town, there is a writing on the board. Vedi Teeneeru Uchitam which means the hot tea is free. A customer thought it is a good offer. So he has gone to that hotel and taken two cups of tea. The supplier brought the bill and given him. The customer told that as per your board tea is free. Why you are giving me a bill. The owner came there and told him please see the sentence correctly, vedite Neeru uchitam(On request water is free). A little twist in the sentence has given a different meaning.
    Like that we find many headings are very confusing.

    always confident

  • #618030
    Creating headings is the art and in that regard I credit the Telugu news papers which has created niche as every Telugu news paper carries banner headings of their own creation and towing their party affiliations. In Tamil Nadu even small matter is carried as big heading and even the first page is prominently placed in news paper stands and that will induce the buyers. But no one can match the heading selected by The Hindu News paper which is trusted and respected by every elder of the house. I have never seen this paper creating any controversy with their headings.
    K Mohan
    'Idhuvum Kadandhu Pogum "
    Even this challenging situation would ease

  • #618062
    I would add one more word to Ambiguous and Confusing, it would be Misleading. Many headlines, billboards, titles are of the above class. It can be lack of space or time to think a suitable title. Often meaningful title gives way to catchy or rhyming titles. Commonly we see ads in papers. 'buy today pay nothing till 6 months'(we have to pay the EMI but only for the first 6 months it's interest free, 'Buy pants alterations free' ( only the length is free, waist you have to pay for it), Master health check for Rs:1200 only (its only for people under 35 years and does not include a stress test for heart). This is often done with the intention of attracting potential customers who once inside learn about the fine print or hidden charges later. Short two or four word titles focus on eye stopping nature rather than grammar or correctness. If you look from their viewpoint, they are not entirely wrong, they have given a title which cleverly can be argued both ways.

  • #618182
    Yes, some titles are ambiguous and confusing. I don't remember the titles now to mention here but I have seen such titles mostly in Facebook. Especially such titles create a feel of masala news or an odd one. Readers will actually be interested to know whether something like that happened and when we open and read it, we will feel like slapping the author. It is a technique to attract readers by fooling them with the title.

    But if the content is worth reading, then I am ok with such vague titles. Sometimes I have felt like appreciating the author after reading the titles. Some people are just creative and the way they put words is amazing. But the very point of fooling or confusing readers irritates me. The cheap newspapers and magazines normally adopt this technique.

    When we are in a hurry, we might just read the headlines and won't go deep into the content. If such headlines are given, then surely we will understand something else when the content has no or little relation with the title. Titles should be catchy and striking but not confusing or misinterpreting.

    "Do not give up, things might not favour you always"

  • #621193

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