TV headlines and intros: Sian Williams

The skill to headline writing is to hook the audience without being sensational. Sian Williams is a TV and radio presenter.

Intros or cues, which are longer introductions to a television package, should act as a teaser for what the correspondent is about to report without repeating what they say.

Headlines

Headlines have traditionally been the place a journalist can be most creative with witty references and wordplay.

"Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious" was a headline in the Sun in 2000 that captured the seismic moment in Scottish football when underdogs Inverness Caledonian Thistle beat old firm giants Celtic in the third round of the Scottish Cup.

Journalists, readers and even, apparently, football managers consider it to be one of the best headlines ever written, for its summing up of a momentous event in a catchy phrase that mimics a cultural reference everyone can relate to.

Although headlines that work well in print may not always lend themselves to television, the principle is the same: the writer has to grab the audience’s attention to persuade them to stay with the story.

For BBC news programmes the trick is to interest, intrigue and give a real sense of the story to the widest possible audience - without being sensational.

Intros

Presenter Sian Williams describes television news intros as a balancing act. Write too much and you bore the audience or steal the following item’s best lines. Write too little and the audience may be mystified by what follows.

"Presenters like to read cues and scripts that are punchy and to the point"

Good preparation is key. You need to keep up with the story as it develops and understand the background.

In this video, Sian gives some tips for selecting the all-important top line: keep the viewer in mind - and the producer and editor up to date with what you’ve written.