Newspaper Headlines Made Simple

Newspaper Headlines Made Simple

If you have ever been confused by the language of newspaper or TV news headlines, this post is for you. We’ll shed light on the style and provide a couple of exercises for practice.

Certain words are used very often in newspaper headlines because they are short (e.g. big, oust, plea, quit) or sound dramatic (e.g. blast, boost). Some of these words are not common in ordinary language or are used in a different sense. Headlines also omit certain words and use colloquial expressions, abbreviations and different verb tenses, e.g. “STAR TO WED” (A film star is going to get married).

More examples

 Mother’s plea to kidnappers plea (formal) – an urgent and emotional request
 Arms deal probearms (formal) – weapons, especially those used by the armed forces
probe – an investigation into something
Ten-hour ordeal for tourists ordeal – a difficult or unpleasant experience
 Senate urgest caution to urge something – to forcefully recommend something
 Bid to oust rail chief bid – an attempt
to oust somebody (out of something) – to force somebody out of a job or position
 Bomb blast wrecks factory blast – an explosion
to wreck something – to destroy or badly damage something
 Boost for voters  boost – a thing that helps or encourages something
 Injury blow for United blow – bad news (when something unfortunate has happened)
 New flood alert alert – a warning
 Talks on brink of collapse If something is on the brink of something, it has reached a point where it is about to happen (often something very bad).
PM rules out referendum to rule something out – to reject the possibility of something

Exercise 1

For each of the headlines, find the sentence which expresses it as it would appear in an ordinary news announcement. Click the link here to do the exercise.

Useful vocabulary:

  • to rig sth. (e.g. a poll) – to influence something such as an election in a dishonest way in order to produce a particular result
  • reshuffle – the process of changing the jobs or responsibilities of the people in a particular group or organization
  • to gag sb. – to officially prevent a person, newspaper etc. from talking about or publishing something
  • haul – an amount of things that are stolen at the same time
  • swoop – a sudden and unexpected attack on a place, especially by police

Exercise 2

Match the words from the headlines above with their meanings. Click the link here to do the exercise.

Materials used: “Advanced Vocabulary and Idioms” by B.J. Thomas; “Oxford Word Skills. Advanced” by R.Gairns and S.Reman

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