This is the second in our series on the Basics of News Reporting and Writing. Before proceeding with this segment, it is advisable that you go through the first segment by clicking on its title below.


In this segment of the series, we shall look at how to write a news story, particularly the headline.


Once you’ve concluded your coverage of an event, you should not delay to write the story. In fact, professional journalists begin composing their stories while an event is going on.

When there is a break or lull in the proceedings, you see them working on their tablets or laptops. As soon as the event ends, they complete their stories, tidy them up and forward to their editors via the internet.

This is the beauty of working in the digital era. People’s devices, including their cell phones, have different apps that make them serve many functions that they would have needed separate equipment for. These devices also operate in a multi-media format and they process content much faster than equipment in the analogue era.

Thus, a reporter can record both the audio and video of an event; conduct interviews; take still pictures; type, edit and format his story as well as make up a page (if need be) combining the text, sound and images within a short while.

At the very least, he can get his story ready with a word processor, edit selected pictures with his photo app and upload them as attachments to his editor via a dedicated Web platform or email the attachments to him.

At The Record newspaper, we usually cut students some slack because they often need to engage in a back-and-forth with the editorial team to sort out issues in their stories and they have competing academic demands to attend to.

Therefore, while we excuse their inability to submit their stories the same day the events they covered occurred, after two or three days, they have duds on their hands. (For feature stories, we grant a few more days due to the extra work required to write such a story.)

We shall now look at how to write various parts of a news story.


The title of a news story is called a headline. Although headline writing falls under News Editing, we expect students to submit one with their story, hence the need to learn how to write them.

Characteristics of headlines

  1. Headlines should be concise.

It’s just meant to give a glimpse into the essence of the story, not tell the whole story.

How do we ensure that headlines are concise?

a. They are not full sentences. They are skeletonised.

b. Headlines omit articles (a, the).

c. They omit period signs at the end like other story titles.

d. Headlines replace conjunctions with commas.

e. Headlines use simple words (just like the bodies of news stories).

f. Headlines avoid repetitions.

g. Headlines use abbreviations.

h. Headlines use numerals, rather than spell out numbers.

i. Headlines are mostly written in the present tense.

The present tense is usually shorter than other tenses and gives a sense of immediacy to the story.

Examination of a Sample Headline

Now, let’s take a look at the headline of the UNN matric story (the story we pointed out will be used as a reference point in the first segment of this series).

UNN Places High Premium on Character, Humanity – VC to New Students

Points To Note:

a. Notice that this headline is not a full sentence.

b. Does it say, “The University of Nigeria, Nsukka,” or “The Vice-chancellor of …”? No, it doesn’t. It omitted the articles and used abbreviations.

c. Instead of “Character and Learning,” it says “Character, Learning.”

d. UNN and VC were each used only once in it.

Characteristics of headlines contd.

  1. A headline should contain the essence of the story.

The headline of a news story should be written from the most important part of the story.

“UNN Holds Its 48th Matric. Ceremony” is not a good headline. It is a label title. It does not capture the news of the occasion.

Ask yourself:

What was the most important thing that happened?

What was the most important thing that was said?

That will give you the information needed for your headline.

In a match story, people love to hear the outcome of the match in the headline. When an important event happens, people want to immediately hear what the government official or captain of industry who was a special guest said. Consider the headlines of the story on ManCity’s defeat of Arsenal in the FA Cup and the one on the census referred to in the first segment of this series:

Match story:

City Knock Arsenal Out From FA Cup

A poorer headline would have read like this:

Manchester City Meets Arsenal in FA Cup Match at Etihad Stadium

Census/conference story:

2023 National Census Will Be Fully Digital – DG, NIPSS

This declaration was made at an event which would have been mentioned in a bad headline like this:

Association of Nigerian Geographers holds 62nd Annual National Conference at UNN


  1. Correct the following hypothetical headlines based on what you have learned so far:

a. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Has Assured Nigerians that He Has Their Best Interests at Heart.

b. Nigerians Are Anxiously Awaiting the Presidential Elections.

c. The Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Paul Obi-ani, Reveals He Supports NUC Directive to Close Universities

d. Veteran Nollyword Actor and Lawyer, Kenneth Okonkwo, Calls Atiku and Tinubu Tried Politicians

e. Ohaneze Ndi Igbo Has Declared that Igbos Love Nigeria.

The series continues with its third and final segment. Share and send me feedback and questions via the Comments section below.



  • Treasure Emone

    I would like to ask a question ma, concerning the five “W”s and “H”as the components of news writing are we to follow it accordingly in writing news.

    • Hi! What do you mean by following it/them accordingly? You need to answer those questions in your story as much as you can. In fact, you start in the first paragraph if it’s straight news and you add what you can’t fit there into the bridge.

  • Egbue Precious

    Oh my goodness I just realised that an headline is required to write in present tense and we should avoid articles ma you are really helping me God bless you

  • Akamadu Oluoma Francisca

    What we don’t know is bigger than us. See me thinking that I know how to write good headline. Kaiii, I have honestly known how to write good headline. Thank you, Aunty Edith.

    Also, I have a question. I noticed that each word in the headline started with a capital letter. Is there a reason for that?

  • Evelyn Johnny

    Thank you ma for this wonderful piece
    But I want to ask is this the standard for writing a headline like starting each word with a capital letter
    Can’t we just write everything in a capital letter and also write everything in a small letter

    • I’ve answered this question before. Check other comments. And using small letters throughout is not acceptable. You need to start with a capital letter and put proper nouns in caps even if you’re using sentence case.

  • Ahueze Vivian Isioma

    Another insightful Lecture Series
    What i learnt from reading this Segment is that there are certain rules to follow when writing an Headline, and as a Communication student I find this segment
    very educative.
    And also Aunty Edith you are a rare gem, I love your consistency.
    I always look forward to learning more from you.

  • Chukwuebuka J. Uzochukwu

    It’s amusing how we riffle through newspaper pages and occasionally have our eyes held rapt by some headlines and never take the time to inquire: “Why does this work so well?” “Why did this catch my attention?” Thank you for introducing us to the regulations that govern good headlines. God bless you, ma’am.

  • Chinenye oguanya

    Thanks ma’am for this educative post.
    Here I was thinking I know how to write a headline.
    I learnt that I could actually use abbreviations when writing a headline and the use of past tense.
    I have a question though
    Is there any similarities between the headline and the lead?

  • Muanya

    It’s your ability to make seemingly complicated things easily comprehensible that excites me, thank you aunty edith.

  • Odoabuchi Joy Ngozika

    Thank you,ma for the lesson.

    I want to attempt excercise 2

    Nigerians Best Interest First, CBN Governor.

    • Tochukwu precious

      I never realized that writing headlines is so easy as long as you follow the guidelines and understand the characteristics. 😮📝
      Thank you, ma🙏

  • Tekevwe Macaulay

    This is great ma. I learnt a lot.

    I attempted the exercise but I found C and D a bit hard to answer.

    Please can you give the correct headline to them.

  • Chidimma Ezejiofor

    Thanks ma for sharing with us this amazing piece, please is it only the headline that should be written in present tense or can the body of the text also be in present tense.

  • Wow
    Now I am corrected about using the article A and THE.
    Thank you Ma for this write-up

  • Chidiebele Ojuanu O.

    WOW! The realization that periods are not meant to be used in writing an headline is a shocking eye-opener I must confess. Your search for perfection when it comes to writing is a virtue to be admired ma.

  • Just like they say with food, “the eyes will first eat before the mouth.” That’s exactly the point your lesson on ‘how to write headline’ is making. Obviously, clumsy and wordy headlines could be automatic turn offs for any potential reader who stumbles on a news story, with eagerness to get the gist of the story. Hence, the need to keep it simple, following strictly, the rules guiding the writing of headlines.

    Time and again, you have unmasked another masqueraded knowledge and I’m really grateful ma’am.

    But then, I have a question: speaking of using commas in place of conjunctions in headlines, does that apply to a particular house style, say ‘The Record’ for instance. Or is it a general/standard style in journalistic writings. Thank you ma!

  • Omeke Chidimma Happiness

    ”The more you grow, the more you learn”. Sincerely speaking I never know
    headlines are more than a glimpse into the essence of the story .all thanks to you Ma for this educative post.
    I like to try out some exercise
    a)CBN Governor assured Nigerians of their best interest at heart
    b)Nigerians anxiously await the presidential elections

  • Tom Teme

    Just when we think we know enough, we realize that we know little to nothing. Thanks for the innovation ma. God bless you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.