Thursday, June 14, 2007

Heds - Word order does matter

Here was a recent headline from a local paper:

Fewer
state
layoffs
so far


OK, a first impressions quick quiz. Did you think this was a story about state employees being laid off?

I'm betting a good percentage of you did.

We're culturally hard-wired to take certain combinations and make assumptions. In the U.S., state often stands for state government, and pairing it with "layoffs" reinforces that.

But this story was about private-sector layoffs in the state -- and that little preposition is the key. Sometimes you can't ditch it and keep the same meaning.

So try this:

Fewer
layoffs
in S.C.
so far

Now, the meaning is far clearer.

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