Why was the bear on the bike?

Okay, I read the Odd News through Yahoo every day between blog posts and playing WoW. There have been times when a headline will grab my attention... and then there are times when I almost want to write to the editor and ask if s/he fell asleep at the desk, just due to basic errors with subject verb agreement, tense shifts, and then there are sentences that are just worded wrong (which is how it ends up on Headlines on Monday Nights).

Anyways, I ran into an article this morning titled, Teacher OK After Crashing into Bear on a Bicycle. When I first saw it, I thought, car crash + biking bear statue... this did come out of Montana after all! But, no. Its the fact that a teacher, riding a bike, crashed into a black bear at about 25 miles an hour. Now, that in itself is a news piece. Its just the title is worded badly.

My HS journalism teacher would have asked me, with one eyebrow raised, "Why is the bear on the bike? Was it driving?!" if I'd turned in such an article headline. In fact, he'd have grinned over the idea, then gone scary serious and tossed the entire thing back at me, pages ruffling, and reach for the next article of the person that was standing in line.

I'd have scurried back to my little thirty year old wooden desk (I swear my Dad had it when it was new), feeling like an idiot, and frantically tried to find a new title, because if the title sucked? There was no way Cecil was even going to LOOK at the rest of the article. That English Teacher -who taught Comp 3, Comp 4, Journalism, Poetry, and Greek and Roman Myth- did more to teach me the basics of journalism and creative writing than any course I've taken in college to date.

I try and keep such things in mind when writing- even here, because it makes my writing better. And you'll never catch me writing about a bear on a bike, or even implying it. He taught me a lot... that gruff, barking bear of a teacher.

So, next time you are writing up a blog entry, take careful stock of your title, is it implying what you wish for it to, or is it saying something completely different from the body of the article? And if its different, which is easier to re-write, the title, or the entire article?

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