Let’s discuss a tongue-in-cheek law and then PARADOX IT TO DEATH.
Bettridge’s Law of Headlines is one of those tongue-in-cheek life aphorisms like Murphy’s Law or the Streisand Effect. It states: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with the word ‘No.'”
Questions in headlines have historically been frowned upon — at least until clickbait was invented, they became a necessity to compete. Now every website uses them; still frowned upon, now just mainstream. Like the use of “irregardless.” Or people openly discussing their “brand.”
Bettridge’s Law is a reminder and a subtle omnipotent judgment, reminding quality writers to craft quality headlines. After all, if you ask a question in a headline and the reader’s answer is instinctively “no,” your article is thereby rendered useless.
I’ve certainly fallen victim. I’ve pumped out such articles as:
I caught a LOT of “NOs” on social media over that last one.
Am I ashamed? (No.) Wow, it works.
Well, maybe. Blogging is a different animal with a different set of mores. It’s a medium that requires a direct action (a click) to earn a reader. Compared to a newspaper, when the headline’s job is to inform and the reader’s only required action is slightly shifting the position of their pupils, headlines take on a monumentally different sense of import.
Plus headlines have evolved so much — to the point where Facebook was overrun a few years ago with the Upworthy-style “He Thought the Woman Was a Turtle, But Watch This Video. 19 Seconds In, Wow. I’m Crying” — that questions are almost an oasis. From a trusted website, they might even be an indication that you’re going to read something surprising, enlightening and well-reasoned.
But that’s not really why I’m writing this. No, I’m here because I just beat Bettridge’s Law of Headlines.
How? Read the headline of this post.
Now try to follow the Law.
BOOM. WarGames computer status: Destroyed.
For reference, I’ve been sick all week.