Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Pun time
Word play and puns in headlines and standalone cutlines are fine, even desirable, on occasion. As my former colleague and fellow blogger Pam Nelson advised at an ACES meeting last summer: Make the pun if it works on more than one level.

We also have to use moderation and subtlety; timing and tone are essential. Does the story or photo have the mood appropriate to word play? When we go too far too often, a backlash (such as this one) can result.

Here are a couple of examples of what to and what not to do:

THIS WORKS: The headline on the story about feeble apologies hits the mark. It's a clever play of words that uses the multiple definitions of "sorry" in a subtle manner. The headline's tone matches the tone of the story. And it won't make your reader groan.

THIS DOESN'T: The standlone cutline shows what can go wrong when things get too punny. (Click on the image for a closer look.) The kicker (or catchline, if you prefer) is tolerable. But this becomes irritating and distracting when we get to the cutline about the subject of the photo having "a lot of time on his hands." As if that weren't enough, the cutline ends with: "Still, he's not ticked off." This string of puns is contrived enough to make you wonder whether the cutline is even accurate.

A sincere apology is in order.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 9:52 AM | Permalink |