Here was the headline in my recent paper:
S.C. vets want
to be private
When you first saw that, what was your initial reaction? That the story was about veterans?
Here was the deck:
bill to gag citizens
in animal cases
Now that helps a little (except perhaps for the disputed use of "citizens") -- but when I showed the hed to five people, they all read right past that deck and thought the story was about veterans. It's about veterinarians.
This points out something to always remember with heds: It can be technically right but contextually wrong. Sure, as pet owners might easily say, "I'm taking Fido to the vet," but Fido gives it special context in that case.
In Columbia, home of the Army's biggest basic-training base (Fort Jackson) and nearby McEntire Air National Guard Base and Shaw Air Force Base, the context of "vet" means veteran. (This, by the way, is probaby yet another argument against universal copy desks in some removed location -- not the case here, but I throw it in just to chew on.)
So how could this hed have been rewritten. I count it at 12 1/2 (maybe 13 max based on that first line, which squared out).
Here's my alternative (with a 12 count for Veterinarians)
Got any better ones? How about sharing?