1. Numerals are fine. Proper AP style in a story requires you to write: “The man robbed three women at gunpoint.” But the heds for that story could say: 3 women robbed…or Man robs 3 women. The second one is better because “robs” is active while “robbed” is passive.
2. Periods are not needed! Very rare that you will need to use a period in a headline unless you are trying to write complete sentences, which is also rare. A semi-colon can be used to introduce a new thought. For example: Jobless rate hits 10 percent; 2 million people lost jobs in Oct.
3. Almost always OK to replace the word “and” with a comma. For example: Obama, Biden to visit Iraq….or Obama visits Iraq, Iran, Japan, China
4. Heds do NOT need to be complete sentences. Sometimes they are, but they do NOT need to be as long as they are clear and accurate.
5. Active verbs are the best! As noted above, the headline: Man robs women at gunpoint…..is better than….Women robbed at gunpoint…or Man robbed women at gunpoint.
6. If you’re stuck, look around for some headlines that grab you. The AP’s top 4 stories of the day at any given moment can be found here. Sometimes you will see the 50-character version; other times the longer ones.