My criteria for 'good' here is "not linkbait"

I'd like to avoid all kinds of useless linkbait articles in my various social feeds, ("This guy does blah...", "She comes on stage and smeh...") and it seems like the simplest way might be just to filter anything that has a pronoun in it, but I don't want to miss anything that might contain genuine content.

Are there circumstances where a pronoun is relevant in an article headline?

  • 1
    Google "you site:nytimes.com". E.g. "When Hitting ‘Find My iPhone’ Takes You to a Thief’s Doorstep" or "What You Get for... $1,400,000". – user5645 May 8 '14 at 19:22
  • Try narrowing down to "3rd person pronoun, and a verb". – SF. May 9 '14 at 14:00

I know I'm late to the party, but here's my advice: Don't filter out the pronouns.

The reason why pronouns never made it into print (and by extension, web versions of print publications) was to save space in the paper. This is why copy editors would always change "due to the fact that" to "because." The same went for headlines. "Man bends over, splits pants" would save more space in print than "A man bends over and splits his pants".

But in the Internet age, this is really nothing more than a holdover from print, and as far as I've observed, it's a trend that's slowly changing. So if you were to filter out all pronouns, you'd eventually start snagging a lot of articles from reputable sources.

To answer your original question, even in print pronouns would still appear as part of publication titles, films, music and anything trademarked.

I think a better approach would be to filter out obviously sensational words or phrases. Common ones I've seen are mostly adjectives: "awesome," "amazing," "phenomenal," and (everyone's favorite) "you won't believe".

Source: I'm a journalist.


My original thought was "Of course a good headline can have a pronoun," but wow, a bit of research shows having any pronouns in headlines is actually quite rare.

  • NY Times: Moving Your Show to Broadway? Not So Fast
  • WSJ: Hedge Funds Extend Their Slide
  • Newsweek: Her Biggest Race

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