The Unintentionally Funny Headline

I came across the following headline in a recent publisher-related newsletter:

“Speculative Authors Fight Mental Illness”

I thought to myself “I know what they meant by the headline, but could it also be interpreted that authors who write speculative fiction are mentally ill?” There are some who call science fiction and fantasy writers “weird” but this headline was going too far.

So I clicked the link in the newsletter and was taken to the original article where the headline declared the following:

“Science Fiction Authors Unite to Support Mental Illness”

Again, I knew what they meant but the headline could be saying that “science fiction authors are in favor of mental illness!” Maybe it would have better to have written “… unite to support those with mental illness,” as someone commented on the page.

The news of 100 authors coming together to support efforts to combat various challenges people and families face was nice to read. Unfortunately my editorial mind was distracted.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing either publication. My point is that we can unintentionally distract our readers if our words can be read in unintended ways.

Some infamous headlines:

Statistics Show That Teenage Pregnancy Drops Off Significantly After Age 25

Medical Marijuana Delivery Man Attacked by Ninjas

Man Accused of Killing Lawyer Receives New Attorney

Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons

Students Cook & Serve Grandparents

Homeless Man Under House Arrest

Hospitals Resort to Hiring Doctors

Your Turn:

Have you written an unintentional sentence or headline that would be considered a gaffe?
(Please keep your stories or examples G-rated.)



11 Responses to The Unintentionally Funny Headline

  1. Diane Ashley October 3, 2016 at 5:08 am #

    It’s not a headline but a road sign in Mississippi that always makes me smile: Dry Creek Water Park

  2. Connie Almony October 3, 2016 at 6:05 am #

    We had a local radio station continually run an ad to support a charity that helps abusive children.

  3. Bill Hendricks October 3, 2016 at 6:51 am #

    My personal favorite is an item from the Dallas Morning News: “Man shot in head with arrow saved; no brain damage.” The piece began: “A man who was shot through the skull with an arrow by a friend trying to knock a fuel can off his head survived with no brain damage.” Well, duh! I mean, no brain, no damage, right?

  4. James Scott Bell October 3, 2016 at 7:36 am #

    Iraqi Head Seeks Arms.

    War Dims Hopes For Peace.

    Plane Too Close To Ground, Crash Probe Told

    • Cynthia Herron October 3, 2016 at 8:51 am #

      Priceless. *slugs back coffee* 🙂

  5. Cynthia Herron October 3, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    A local paper ran a heartwarming story about a man who recovered after a near-fatal car accident. BUT…after this headline, I was a little distracted with the mental picture –> Man Stuck in Comma for Three Months.

  6. Lee Carver October 3, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    In a small Texas town, this sign appears in front of a building: “Mental Health Resale Shop.” When someone has used their mental health for a few years, can they resell it there?

  7. Laura Christianson October 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    My favorite is a road sign along the Pacific coast highway in Washington. An arrow points towards the ocean with the words, “Pacific Beach. No water.”

  8. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. October 3, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

    Steve, I haven’t written one, but I saw a sign that said “drop your pants here and get prompt attention.” It was a cleaners.

  9. Dorothy October 3, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

    We have the best road signs here in South Africa. HIJACK ZONE – PLEASE TAKE CAR!

  10. Frenchy Dennis October 8, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

    During my years as an editor, one of my favorites was from the Pastor of Children’s ministry in my church; “To all two-year-old parents.”

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