Learn How to Write an Effective Headline

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's the first thing that a reader sees when looking at a newspaper article or even a website? If you said the headline you would be correct. The headline is what can either make or break a story, depending on whether it catches the interest of the reader. Here are 7 tips on how to write an effective headline and not to have your headline end up on a list of worst headlines ever.

1.First off you need to understand the purpose of having a headline. It is to interest the reader enough to keep them reading further. The point is not to entertain them or to crack a funny pun. In certain occasions that is acceptable, but that should not be your goal.

2. Know your audience and target your headline specifically to them. Ex: "Conquer Your Smoking Habit Using this Simple Step" instead of "Stop Smoking Using this Simple Step"

3. Use active voice. By using active voice you will tap into the readers emotions making them want to read further. Ex: "Hitter Blasts Record Distance Homerun" instead of "Hitter Blasted Record Distance Homerun"

4. Summarize it all in one sentence. Ex: "Scientists grow human ear on back of mouse" instead of "Scientists conduct cell transplant experiments"

5. Possibly propose a question as a headline, but make sure the question is something your reader wants to know the answer to. Ex: "Is the Zune anybetter than the iPod?" instead of "Zune not much better than the iPod"

6. Use a list or bullent points to stress your main points. It will catch your readers attention more than just a paragraph. Ex: "Top 10 films of 2010" instead of "Great films released last year"

7. Lastly, do not capitalize the letter of every word in your headline. You should only capitalize the important words.

Hope these tips help you create headlines that will draw readers into your story.

Photo Credit: Via Creative Commons


Tess Myer March 9, 2011 at 5:38 AM  

This is very interesting, especially since we haven't learned anything about headlines yet. Now I am very interested to learn the purpose of a headline in class. Did you, by any chance, run across that information when researching this topic?

Erin Gerken March 9, 2011 at 6:25 AM  

These tips were very interesting. I know I personally have trouble distinguishing active from passive voice. Headlines are very important though. Without a good headline, why would readers want to read your story?

KatieSchober March 9, 2011 at 8:51 AM  

These are great tips, and I love your examples. I will be keeping these tips handy-- in fact, I'll use them when I'm posting my blog later today! Being reminded about active voice is always nice...even though I have a pretty good grasp of what it is, I know that I lapse sometimes and forget to use it.

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