Headlines need to excite, entice and entertain. The best grab a reader’s attention in a short amount of space and lure him or her into a story. They create evocative thoughts and images. They summarize smartly and succinctly the meaning of what will follow. They don’t go on forever like an abstract for a research paper (you can’t bore people into reading your story!). Here are some quick tips for writing better headlines.
1. Read the Media You Are Trying to Reach! How Would They Write the Headline?
2. Think About Your Target Audiences and What’s Important to Them
3. What’s the News (breaking, feature, opinion)?
4. Get Creative. How Are You Going to Stand Out from the Crowd?
5. What General Approach to Take (fact-based, humorous, the ever-present pun, positioning and visionary, provocative, diplomatic)?
6. What Are the Most Important Facts and Impressions You Want to Leave with Your Audiences?
7. Be a Stickler for Style
• Brainstorm on key words and tags to use for search engine optimization
• Use a two-line headline and two-line subheadline wherever possible to make it easy for the reader and search engines to put it into context
• Have the client name in the first line wherever possible
• Use active verbs
• Have complete thoughts on each line
• Have logical line breaks and balanced lines, to mirror the standards set by the media; don’t just wrap text from line to line
• Be smart about punctuation (including commas, semicolons and dashes)
• Use the “So What, Who Cares?” test to see if you’ve got it right (or should start over)
• Read the headline and subheadline aloud and see if they flow, plus have the creative power to connect
• Edit, edit, edit!