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Make It or Break It with Headlines

  • By Althea Tan
  • Published 10/17/2008
  • Article Writing

Anyone who has experienced trying to read the front page of a daily paper that measures 13 by 22 inches knows how headlines wrestle for a reader’s attention. Although the page layout has a lot to do with which piece is read first, the way a headline is worded can also make or break a story. Let’s put it this way: a so-so story with an extremely catchy headline might prove to be disappointing, but it will still be read. The same story with a humdrum headline will be dismissed in a split-second. While writing headlines for journalistic articles and for web copies are different in terms of their target audience, the principles under which they work are basically the same: to capture the essence of a piece and, hopefully, catch attention. The need for brilliant headlines In a nutshell, a headline can determine whether a user will click through to a copy or not. Writers for an online audience always have this in mind. The possible downside of this thinking is sacrificing accuracy. Some opt to misguide intentionally just to get hits. Remember that clicks alone will not translate to business automatically. Hence, it’s not worth trying to misguide prospective customers through deceptive headlines.

A headline, in journalism parlance, is the gist of the gist of a story. When writing copy for the web, this can be over

ly simplistic. There are more things to consider than just condensing a piece into several words. For instance, remember to be creative and inspired when thinking of your headlines. The World Wide Web is astronomically bigger than any single newspaper. And even with the help of a search engine to narrow down results, the webpages and headlines competing for a user’s attention is unimaginably voluminous. This is where a good headline edges out a mediocre one. The writing itself When writing headlines, it is best to strike a balance between accuracy and creativity. The first part means saying what you want to say, no complication, no catch. Trying to impress via headlines is not only needless and arrogant, it can also backfire in the long run. Thinking about it, writing for the sake of trying to impress often works to one’s disadvantage. After figuring out what you need to say, figure out the most effective, creative, catchy, clever way of saying it. While you tirelessly try to excite and reel people in through your headlines, remember that your headline is the bait, and your copy is the fishing rod that reels people in.

As with writing for journalism, headlines of web copies vary depending on the purpose they will serve. The tone of your headline usually sets the mood for the rest of the article. Reserve funny headlines for comic pieces, satirical ones for parodies, academic ones for research papers. You get the picture.



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