Betteridge’s Law, or: Are Questions in Headlines a Good Idea?

Pick up any tabloid newspaper today and take note of how many article headlines are phrased as a question. I understand that these headlines are an attempt to pique our interest (or the result of lazy copy editors/writers), but are they a good idea? What is the end result of using a question as a headline or article title?

Now we know, thanks to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines:

Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’.

Named for Ian Betteridge, this simple maxim was first explicitly found in journalist Andrew Marr’s 2004 book, My Trade. This is why the law tends to be “universally true”:

Because of a simple principle of headline writing: if a story has enough sources to have a high chance of accuracy, a headline will be assertive (e.g. “Microsoft to release OS update on Friday”). If sources are weak, or only a single source is found, headline writers will hedge their bets by posing the headline as a question (e.g. “Will Microsoft release an OS update on Friday?”).