How To: Write headings that work

1 Oct

TOW #6

Headings are important for a number of reasons: they attract readers, they organize your writing into readable chunks, and they allow the reader to skim your article quickly.

In your article, headings include the headline and subheadings.

-Headline: gives readers an idea of the content of the whole story.

-Subheadings: group your writing together in relatable content, making it easier for a reader to look over and direct their eyes to what catches their attention.

Photo credit: Karen ❤ Flower

Here are some tips for writing effective headlines for digital media:

1. Engage your reader. Tell the gist of your story in a few powerful words, yet don’t mislead readers by sensationalizing a headline. If you draw them in, and they find out your article isn’t what they imagined, your credibility decreases.

2. Review your content. Make sure you know precisely what your story is about and your angle, in order to write an accurate headline.

3. Compare your headline to others. Once you’ve decided on your headline, input it into a search engine and compare the results to others. Is your wording more compelling than your competition’s? Look at the top results and see the keywords they have in common, you may want to use it too.

4. Use Subject-Verb-Object structure. This structure puts the subject and action first! Seek to use verbs that are strong (short, urgent, and have only one or two syllables), active (active rather than passive voice and present rather than past tense), fresh (verb that isn’t overused), and accurate.

5. Help readers distinguish between different heading levels. Arrange your headings in decreasing levels of importance.

6. Identify tone of content. Write a headline that reflects the tone of your overall article. Tone should be appropriate for your audience and true to your site’s identity, standards, and voice.

7. Avoid Abbreviations. People tend to spell out full words in searches.

8. Be stingy with punctuation. Headings don’t generally include any kind of ending punctuation. Question marks can be effective if the content answers the headline’s question. But a direct statement is better. Avoid exclamation marks, and use strong words instead.

9. Try to have consistent headings throughout. Whether your subheadings are sentence fragments or complete sentences, either is fine as long as it is used consistently.

10. Proofread! Your headline may end up in an RSS feed the instant it’s published. Double-check for any typos or errors.

Thank you Yahoo! Style Guide for these helpful tips!


3 Responses to “How To: Write headings that work”

  1. blherrman October 14, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    Rachel, I thought this post was really great and well written. You didn’t just give the tips, but elaborated on them even more, which really helped. I really liked your fifth point, because that is something really important that is sometimes looked over and I never would have thought of that. Same thing for number three, as our headline may already be used, and that could cause problems. This was great, and you gave interesting and new points of view on headlines that I really enjoyed.


  1. Blog comments. | Writing for Digital Media - October 14, 2011

    […] on How to Write Headings that Work Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in […]

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