Grammar

Headline Leaves One Victim Unaccounted For

iStock

In a suicide, someone kills himself.  In a murder, someone kills another person.  In the case of a murder-suicide, the killer ends the life of at least one person, then takes his own.

I know, there’s nothing earth-shattering in this bit of news.

But in Raleigh, according to a headline from one affiliate, a victim has gone missing:

Murder-suicide leaves one dead.

It’s impossible for a murder-suicide to leave less than two people dead.

The details of the story indicate that a man reportedly shot a woman then turned the gun on himself. He is dead; she is not. They could have said, “Double shooting leaves one dead,” which would have been accurate. But the murder isn’t a murder.

I actually called the newsroom, and after waiting through at least twenty rings, a female finally answered. I told her that I was calling about a story on the station’s website:

ME: There’s a story under local and state news with the headline, “Murder-suicide leaves one person dead.”
HER: Okay?
ME: Well, you know that’s not physically possible, right? If it’s a murder-suicide, that means there has to be at least two people dead.
HER: Oh. Okay, well I will let the web department know about that. Thanks for calling.

Within minutes, the headline was adjusted to read, “Attempted murder-suicide leaves one dead.”

Accurate, at least.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.