Josh’s Secrets to Headline Writing

Oh-My-Headline-300x248Hello, everyone. My name is Josh Hurst, and I am the senior writer on the Grammar Chic team. Any time between the hours of 8 and 5, you can find me in my home office, listening to Spotify, sipping coffee, and writing blogs, press releases, social media content, and more.

But today, it’s a very different kind of writing project I want to talk about: Headline writing. As recently as yesterday one of my clients called me and said he had a full website that was written, coded, and ready to launch—all save for one key element: He needed some catchy, attention-grabbing headlines at the top of each page.

“Can you work some of your headline magic?” he asked me.

Now, let me be clear in saying that I do not necessarily fancy myself a headline magician, and the headline-writing secrets I’m about to offer you are in fact not secrets at all: They’re just common sense.

With that said, I do think headlines are significant, and I spend about as much time thinking about the headline as any other part of the content I write. Simply put: If you don’t have a compelling headline on your Web page, the rest of the content doesn’t really matter, because nobody’s going to read it.

Short, snappy, value-driven headlines draw readers in—but how do you write them?

5 Rules for Headline Writing

Here are five pointers I’d offer to anyone who wants to develop their own headline writing magic.

  1. Don’t get cute. You know the old rule of writing: Always avoid annoying alliteration. Your headlines should be snappy and they may even be clever, but remember that the point is ultimately to summarize your content and to convey value. Don’t make your headlines too cute or too clever for their own good with dumb gimmicks, puns, alliteration, or the like.
  2. Don’t overpunctuate. This may sound silly, but I see a lot of headlines that come laden with punctuation—sometimes forming two or even three full sentences in the span of a single headline! You probably want to avoid the parentheticals and any superfluous pauses or clauses. Punctuation can slow the reader down, and if you find yourself needing a lot of it, you’re probably writing overly complicated headlines anyway.
  3. Don’t forget the pain points. That’s where your headlines should emanate from: What are your reader’s problems, and how are you going to position your headline as a solution? That’s the most important part of the headline: It needs to communicate value and benefit to the reader.
  4. Don’t be passive. I like to start headlines with strong action words whenever I can: Uncover. Explore. Experience. Why state facts when you could actually create energy and momentum with a strong, specific verb?
  5. Don’t overthink it. Finally… remember that the mission of the headline writer is really pretty simple. Again: Think value, pain points, specifics. You want to show your readers that there’s something to be gained from reading further. Sometimes the best headlines are the simplest, most direct ones, then. Don’t force yourself to be wordier or more sophisticated than the situation calls for.

Good luck with those headlines, then—and if you do need further assistance, call the Grammar Chic team: 803-831-7444, or on the Web at www.grammarchic.net.

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Filed under Content Marketing, Content Writing, Email Writing, Press Release Writing, Social Media, Web Content

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