Chances are you’ve received one of those viral emails potlighting poorly written headlines: “Something
Went Wrong with Jet Crash, Experts
Say,” “War Dims Hope for Peace,”
“Police Begin Campaign to Run Down
Jaywalkers.” Well, at least those are
amusing. Too often in our business
communications, boring headlines
stop readers before they start. All our
hard work wasted because they stopped
reading after the ho-hum headline.
The art of headline writing is more
useful than you may think. Sure, you’re
accustomed to headlines atop your
reports and proposals, white papers
and web pages, blogs and articles. But
what is a tweet if not a 140-character
headline? And email subject lines?
Headlines in a box. Titles, subtitles
and subheads are simply headlines
with a different name.
Engaging headlines are the antidote
to TMI—too much information—
which has turned us all into skimmers.
Captivating headlines and subtitles
grab our attention, and engaging sub-
heads make us stop skimming and
Let’s explore 10 ways to help you
write headlines that deliver readers—
1. Learn from the publishers
The publishing industry has spent
millions of dollars to discover what
makes people buy magazines. You can
benefit from this research by studying
the cover lines, those teasing headlines
that flash like neon at passersby. Below
are six of the most popular cover-line
• How to (e.g., How to write faster,
stronger, better). People are eager to
• Why (e.g., Why dogs love humans).
“Why” is a magnet for curious minds.
• Questions (e.g., Why do customers
buy?). Questions draw in readers
and offer the promise of solutions.
words at work by lynda mcdaniel
If you want your readers to pay attention,
start by getting their attention