Tag Archives: How to write headlines

How To Write 9 Headlines That Make You Sticky

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Did you link into this blog because you thought it would be awesome or because the headline grabbed your attention? Luckily, you’re in for a treat because both reasons hold true.

Any headlined content you publish on the Web, whether it’s a blog, video, infographic, or webpage, needs to spark interest in readers. Headlines create expectation for an article’s content, set the stage, and force readers to learn what the headline means.

There are two basic principles for writing effective, viral-esque headlines:

  1. Recycling headline structures that are relevant
  2. Tapping into the viral mindset to attract attention

The first idea is easy to play with. Go to any of your favorite time-waster sites that generate thousands of page views merely because their headlines and crummy stock photos show up on your newsfeed. They are algebraic in nature, and most utilize forms of:

  • [#] Things [Person] Lies About
  • [#] Tragic [Nouns] That [Blank] Can’t Resist
  • [#] Ways You Are Just Like [Famous Person]
  • Why Your [Blank] Has Sex With [Blank]
  • The Government [Blanks] and Doesn’t [Blank]
  • Which [Blank] Are You?

Look familiar? These headlines pull in viral traffic. But hey, they work, don’t they? Yes. They work so effectively because of how familiar they are and easy to adapt to a specific blog or article’s needs. Writing these headlines is as easy as removing nouns and replacing them with keyword triggers that match the content.

Writing Viral Headlines

Businesses and bloggers trying to write creative, attention-grabbing headlines are up against a wall. The trick here is pulling in clicks without copying pulp headline skeletons. But what makes something viral? Facebook, of course. And what makes someone want to share something on Facebook? It makes them look smart, attractive, and pulls in likes, comments, and shares.

These headlines need to be loaded with social currency. Besides, the headlines are what go viral on social media, not the content. Viral headlines have a number of innate characteristics as well, such as:

  • A trigger that causes an emotional response. “96 Puppies Dead in Subway,” for example, may trigger intense empathy in a reader and lead to a click. The same goes for headlines with humor, anger, fear, and those that reek of intelligence.
  • Viral headlines need to be practical at the same time. People don’t want to click on “8 Ways to Look like Anne Hathaway” and be taken to a blog about bank loans. This example is extreme, but to build social sharing, writers need to build trust by delivering what a headline suggests.
  • Finally, headlines need to pass the movie theater test. This is when a group of friends are debating which movie to see and one friend, likely the annoying one with a smartphone, starts laying out the premise and plot of each film. A headline needs to attract our primal need for storytelling with a hook and later deliver the promise in the content.

What’s In a Headline?

The above advice is highly subjective and doesn’t always work. Online publishing is a crazy industry, and there is yet to be a cookie-cutter formula for writing successful content and attractive headlines. But in all this chaos a few definite truths have surfaced that can easily be used to fortify headline writing.

Numbers, for instance, strike interest in headline skimmers. An article with a number means that a reader can skim through, read a paragraph here or there, and spend less than a minute doing so. When you add a number to the front of a headline, make sure the content is structured in a way for quick reading.

The infamous “How To” headline works wonders. The Internet, it seems, was created to answer all of our questions. A headline can remind us, “Oh, yeah. I was always meaning to ask how I can lose weight without losing confidence,” or, “I never thought about Googling ‘How to kill two birds with one stone.’”

Note: The two examples in the above paragraph would make terrible headlines.

Want to get really crazy? Try a, “How to [Blank] in [#] Easy Steps” on for size.

Headlines also need to be as minimalistic as possible. Who has time to read more than 10 words, anyway? Keep them short and avoid overenthusiastic superlatives that take up space. By the way, a superlative is an adjective that describes the degree of quality (like Greatest, the Best, a Sterling diet for the Hottest singles, etc.).

Write your headline, write your content, then go back to your headline. How has its meaning changed? What can you do to improve it? The headline is the most important element of your blog or Web content, which is why Grammar Chic is here to help. Ring us any time at 803-831-7444 or visit our site at www.grammarchic.net.

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Filed under Blog Writing

How to Write Wow-Worthy Headlines

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With so many e-mails flooding our inboxes each day, it takes something special to get a busy person to click on your communication. Some marketers get so sidetracked by writing the perfect body text that they forget about how important the subject line of an e-mail is. You can write the most compelling and fascinating content in the world, but if your subject line is “blah” then you won’t get clicks. When you’re crafting your next e-mail—whether it’s to your team or to a customer—keep these tips in mind:

Make it informative

You want to make it easy for your readers to know what they’ll get by opening your e-mail. You also want to make it easy for them to go back into their stuffed inboxes and find your e-mail later on should they need to reread the information. No matter what kind of e-mail you’re creating, a descriptive subject line is important. Instead of just titling the e-mail “Discounts,” you should shift that to “30 percent off this weekend!” Though it technically conveys the same message, option 2 is far more eye-catching than option 1.

Explain exactly what needs to happen

In a pinch, your reader should be able to scan the e-mail’s subject line and understand what needs to happen without even reading the body of your e-mail. While you want people to read the whole e-mail, the subject line must give a snapshot of what’s to come in the rest of the text. Consider adding a call-to-action in your e-mail in order to quickly grab a person’s attention and encourage them to follow your instructions.

Don’t abuse the privileges

Though tools such as the “Urgent” marker can make communicating via e-mail easier, it’s possible to become The Boy Who Cried Wolf. If you mark every single e-mail that you send as “Urgent,” then this label will lose its potency. Only use this marker when it’s absolutely necessary, otherwise it’ll quickly stop being effective.

Understand the lingo

There are a few abbreviations that you should learn in order to communicate via e-mail more effectively. One such abbreviation is NRN, or “No Reply Needed.” Use this when you need to get a message across, but don’t require every single person who is looped in to reply. For example: “Running 15 minutes late. NRN.” Instead of having 30 people reply all saying, “Okay,” the message is received and the thread is over. Another important piece of lingo to know is EOM. Instead of forcing the reader to keep scrolling and scrolling, wondering if they’re missing anything, make it easy for them to know when they can move on to the next thing. For example: “The meeting has been moved to 4pm. EOM.”

Regardless of whether you’re trying to make contact with clients or are hoping to communicate clearly with your team, knowing the fine art of crafting a catchy subject line is an important step.

The team at Grammar Chic specializes in a variety of professional writing and editing services. For more information about how we can help you, visit www.grammarchic.net or call 803-831-7444. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @GrammarChicInc for the latest in writing and editing tips and to give a “like” to our Facebook page. Text GRAMMARCHIC to 22828 for a special offer.

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Filed under Content Writing, Email Writing