Framing and Headlines

Framing an issue and writing a headline require the same skill of knowing how to distill your point in a few, catchy words.

They also share an important distinction — how an issue is framed and how a headline is phrased may make the difference of whether anyone pays attention.

Clever framing and headline writing don't guarantee readership, but they sure help. Poor framing or weak headlines are proven attention-killers.

Framing an issue and writing a headline require skill. But more important, they demand focus and a willingness to discard your first idea for a better one.

Some people just have the knack for summing up an issue or story. For others it takes a village. That doesn't matter. Unlike works of arts, well-framed issues and reader-fetching headlines don't carry signatures or bylines. Their value is in their impact on intended audiences.

Common characteristics of framed issues and good headlines include concise description, crisp wording and a memorable twist of phrase.

One of the best current examples of a reframed issue is shifting from "same-sex marriage" to the "freedom to love." It is hard to find a word to hate in the expression "freedom to love." Moreover, it fits well in a sequence of mentioning free speech and freedom of religion. While more opaque than the literally correct "same-sex marriage," freedom to love carries more emotive value and avoids other charged words such as gay, lesbian or transgender.