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The national ACES Headline Contest rewards the year's best headline writing in print and digital media. Entries are evaluated not just on the cleverness of the headlines, but on their sophistication, uniqueness, appropriateness, and likely success in capturing readers’ attention. 

Writing a good headline isn't easy. Submit your headlines to the only nationwide headline contest in the country and be recognized for your excellence. 

Volunteer to be a headline judge

Entry eligibility window

This year only, the entry publication period is Jan. 1, 2023–March 31, 2024. Headlines published during this period are eligible for the contest. 

This longer entry period is a one-time adjustment because the announcement of winners is moving to the ACES virtual conference, held in September, for the first time. The awards chosen this summer will be announced at ACES VCON24.

Going forward, entry materials must have been published between April 1 and March 31. 

The deadline to enter is May 31, 2024, at 11:59 P.M. EST

Learn more: "ACES Headline Contest to return in May"


The Headline Contest deadline is May 31, 2024. 

The entry submission form is now available. Please read the following instructions carefully, as they have changed. Entries that do not follow the instructions will be eliminated. 


How to enter

Headlines and titles published from Jan. 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, are eligible.

  • An individual entry (by a single editor) must include a portfolio of five headlines and titles, no more, no fewer. A staff entry (by multiple editors in the same organization) consists of eight headlines, no more, no fewer.
  • Individuals and staffs may enter one portfolio each.

  • All headlines must be submitted through our online form as individual PDFs, generated from the original page file for printed content or, for digital content, by using a "print-to-PDF" function in a web browser. You may crop the PDF to show only the headline and its accompanying story, but you may also submit the full-page PDF if you specify on the entry form which headline should be judged.
  • You need not include the complete text of an article (such as text jumped to another page), but there should be enough text to allow the judges to determine your headline’s appropriateness.

  • Include any related pages in the same PDF file as the headline. A main headline and all related headlines that accompany it — deck heads, story summaries, jump heads, subheads, etc. — that are part of a single package are considered one headline entry within the entry portfolio.
  • Accompanying photos and captions may also be considered for the context in which they place the headline.
  • Judges will be selected from a volunteer database, and a judge is not allowed to judge the categories in which they or their co-workers are entering.
  • The deadline to enter is May 31, 2024, at 11:59 P.M. EST.

See how to style each PDF's filename below. PDFs and the portfolios they’re in must be labeled according to this protocol or they will be disqualified.

How to label submissions

Each type of submission must be labeled in a specific way. PDFs not labeled according to this protocol, and the portfolios they’re in, will be automatically disqualified.

  • For each file of individual entries: Headline writer’s LastnameFirstname_Category_Publication date (in 00000000 form with full year, month, date)

Example: StipeMichael_CategoryC_20240331

  • For each file of staff entries: Headline writer’s LastnameFirstnameCompanyname_CategoryS_Publication date (in 00000000 form with full year, month, date)

Example: StipeMichaelREM_CategoryS_20240331

  • Company names may be shortened or abbreviated. Numerals can be used if needed for multiple headlines by the same person.

Example: StipeMichaelREM2_CategoryS_20240331

Fees per entered portfolio

Fees per entered portfolio

Individual entry, ACES members: free
Individual entry, ACES student members: free
Individual entry, nonmembers: $50
Individual entry, student nonmembers: $20
Staff entry: $50
Student staff entry: $25

Categories

The categories make no distinction between print and digital content and instead are mostly distinguished by the content's intended audience.

Each category includes an individual division, for work by a single editor, and a staff division, for work by more than one editor working on a single coordinated staff.

NOTE: ACES reserves the right to recategorize any entry at its sole discretion.


CATEGORY A (staff and individual divisions): NATIONAL MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS

The intended audience is not limited to a single metropolitan area or region; a broad audience that transcends any single region is actively sought.

  • For entries in the individual division, an editor’s work may come from multiple publications if more than half of the headlines or titles are for organizations that fit this category.

Examples: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, NPR, CNN, The Athletic, editing hubs covering a large part of the country.

If smaller national organizations with smaller staffs wish to enter this category they may; we leave this choice to their discretion.

NOTE: ACES reserves the right to recategorize any entry at its sole discretion.



CATEGORY B (staff and individual divisions): REGIONAL/LOCAL MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS

The intended audience is limited to a single metropolitan area or subnational region. Corporate editing hubs qualify for this category only if their individual publications and websites are all locally or regionally focused.

  • For entries in the individual division, the editor’s work may be for multiple publications if more than half of the headlines are for organizations that fit this category. If there is ambiguity about whether an entry fits in Category A or B, Category A should be assumed.

Examples: The Miami Herald, The Des Moines Register, Texas Tribune, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Billy Penn, editing hubs covering a certain region of the country.

NOTE: ACES reserves the right to recategorize any entry at its sole discretion.


CATEGORY C (staff and individual divisions): INDUSTRY/MARKETING/PR/OTHER

Most professional content that does not fit in the first two categories and is not solely student-produced goes here. The publishers are individuals, corporations, or other organizations operating in the interests of an industry, corporation, interest group, client base, charitable cause, scholarly community, or membership organization. The intended audience is not the general public, or is only incidentally so.

  • For entries in the staff division, a single, coordinated staff working on multiple publications or for multiple clients can submit a single entry portfolio if fewer than half the headlines or titles would fit in Category A and/or B.
  • For entries in the individual division, a single editor’s work on multiple publications or for multiple clients can be treated as a single entry portfolio in this category if fewer than half the headlines would fit in Category A and/or B.

Examples: Advertising Age, AARP Magazine, HR Professionals Magazine, Plastics News, corporate/nonprofit digital news feeds, corporate/nonprofit blogs and newsletters.

NOTE: ACES reserves the right to recategorize any entry at its sole discretion.



CATEGORY S (staff and individual divisions): STUDENT MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS

The publication (print or digital) must be managed and crafted solely by students enrolled in a secondary school or institution of higher learning; it must not be subject to pre-publication editing by a nonstudent professional.

  • For entries in the staff division, a single group of students working on multiple publications at the same institution can be treated as a single entry portfolio.
  • For entries in the individual division, a student’s work for multiple publications can be treated as a single individual entry portfolio; however, headlines or titles crafted for nonstudent publications (e.g., a professional newspaper where the student was an intern) are not eligible for entry in Category S.
  • Students may enter individual portfolios in Categories A, B, and C if their work is eligible for those categories, and staff portfolios in those categories may include the work of student interns.

NOTE: ACES reserves the right to recategorize any entry at its sole discretion.

Prizes

Professional individual prizes

1st place: $300 and a plaque
Honorable mention: A certificate and eternal bragging rights.

Student individual prizes

1st place: $125 and a plaque
Honorable mention: A certificate and eternal bragging rights.

Staff entry prizes

1st place: Plaque for the office
Honorable mention: A certificate and eternal bragging rights.

Scoring the entries

1. Small teams of judges will assess headline portfolios, scoring their favorites with first-, second-, and third-place votes.

  • First-place votes award three points.
  • Second-place votes award two points.
  • Third-place votes award one point.

2. Scores will be tallied to determine winners and honorable mentions.

There can be only one winner; judging teams will do run-off votes to break ties.

Judges will be selected from a volunteer database, and a judge is not allowed to judge the categories in which they or their co-workers are entering.

ACES invites members to volunteer to be a judge.

How winners will be announced and prizes distributed

Winners of the ACES Headline Contest will be announced in September 2024 at ACES VCON24, ACES' third annual virtual conference.

Winning and honorable mention portfolios, along with judges’ comments, will be displayed online.

After the announcement, winners will be invited to send their individual (or in the case of staff entries, group) photos to display alongside their portfolios.

ACES will mail plaques, cash prizes, and certificates after the conference.

Submit entries to the 2024 Headline Contest

Be a Headline Contest judge

Previous winning headlines

2023: 2022 headline contest winners announcement

2022: 2021 headline contest winners announcement

2021: 2020 headline contest winners announcement

2020: 2019 headline contest winners announcement

2019: 2018 headline contest winners announcement

2018: 2017 headline contest winners announcement

2017: 2016 headline contest winners announcement

2016: 2015 headline contest winners announcement

Past contest winner announcements (website search)