Small Business Resource Power Point Series Writing Winning Headlines
The Importance of Headlines There’s no doubt headlines are one of the most important things to get right, unfortunately they can also be the most problematic too. A good headline grabs the readers attention, and compels them to read on.
Memorable Headlines Who could forget that gem from the ‘Sun’ newspaper: “Freddie Starr Ate my Hamster” Although some years ago, it sticks in the memory, no doubt Mr Starr still gets taunted with it!
Headlines on-line So maybe you’re not writing for a tabloid newspaper, but the principles of headline writing still apply. Especially on-line, people tend to scan, so headlines must be short, sharp, and snappy.
Easy to read Make the headline short, no more than 7 words. Ensure it is in a clear, easy to read font, and is large enough to stand out. Use action verbs, for example: - “This Product Will Halve Your Phone Bill!”
What’s in it for Me? Tell your reader why they should bother reading your article! Get the benefit into your headline. If you find the headline has multiple benefits, consider splitting the text up to simplify it.
Limited Offer – Act Now! If you’re selling, introduce a sense of urgency with a time limited offer, or offer something free. How many times when shopping have you seen “FREE Widget With Every Item Bought!” Shops know these offers work – they can work for you too!
Make it Believable Unfortunately most people in the real world are a tad cynical. So if your headline claims “Lose 5lb a week – with no dieting!” They’re just not going to believe you, and move on.
Target Your Audience It is unlikely that your product or service will appeal to absolutely everybody, so it’s pointless to try to interest everyone. Aim your headline at your niche market, and try to make it personal, as if it was specifically designed for that particular person.
“Quotations” Quotations can be very useful indeed, providing you can find something relevant to your audience, and preferably, amusing. Always say where your quote is from, you could achieve this as follows….
Using Quotations “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” These were the despairing words of Lady MacBeth in the famous Shakepeare play. What a shame she didn’t have Brillant XtraClean Soap, only £4.99 a bar!
Grammar Check your grammar and spelling too. Bad spelling especially, looks unprofessional and sloppy. Also be careful of using long words or jargon, remember you want to be easily understood and read by all.
Abbreviations & Nicknames Avoid being obscure. For instance, consider the headline - “BDA in Cash Crisis” - To whom does this refer? It could be British Deaf/Diabetic/ Dietetics Association! Unless aimed at a very specific group of people, do not assume knowledge.
Be Specific A good headline will encompass what the following text is about. The headline “Clean up Your PC” is too vague. One wonders if the is writer taking about dusting, perhaps? A better headline might be “Organising Files on Your PC”
Generate Curiosity Consider these headlines: “All about Big Brother this week” – or - “Big Brother – we tell you who’s being evicted!” Which do you think is the better headline??
Headline Format A number of different formats may be used, it doesn’t matter which you choose as long as you are consistent: Sentence case, the first word only is capitalised UPPER CASE, ALL WORDS IN CAPITALS First and last words only Capitalised Words That are Over Three Letters Capitalised
Standing Alone Does your headline make sense out of context? You may wish to use it in a table of links. If so, it is doubly important to ensure it is informative without being too long.
Is Your Title Pertinent Does your title really reflect your writing? Perhaps you started out with the title in mind, but got sidetracked during the course of your writing. Re-read your article, does the title still fit? Perhaps a new title would be more relevant?
“Practice Makes Perfect” Boring maybe, but true! The more you practice writing headlines the better you will become. Try starting with a working headline and base your text around that. Then when complete, consider your headline again, following the advice in this PowerPoint.
Conclusion Make your headlines: • Easyto understand • Memorable • Believable • State the benefits Short Interesting Relevant Easy to read
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