Investigating the Meaning of Newspaper Headlines: The Issue of Ambiguity

  • Michael Alozie Nwala
  • Blessing Akpevweoghene Umukoro


One of the major reasons why newspaper readers cannot effectively interpret the actual messages of writers by glancing at the headlines is because the headlines are almost often ambiguous. This makes newspaper readers to struggle in trying to give possible interpretations to the headlines which undeniably have more than one conceivable meaning. The paper investigated data collected from three Nigerian newspapers (Vanguard, Guardian and Punch) and qualitatively analysed them, identifying linguistic features which make the headlines ambiguous. The analyses revealed that newspaper headline is a type of in-house journalistic market strategy, which puts costumers on suspense with the sole aim of promoting readership and merchandise, and that interpretation of newspaper headlines should be hesitated until the entire text has been read. It is only through this that the exact operational and contextual interpretation of a headline can be precisely and accurately achieved.

Key Words: Ambiguity, newspaper, headline, strategy, meaning, punchy, catchy


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2070-0083
print ISSN: 1994-9057