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5 tips for writing compelling headlines

By Rachel Eidan

June 2, 2017

Email Writing, Writing Skills

5 tips for writing compelling headlines - social-media-phone-screen
5 tips for writing compelling headlines - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1
5 tips for writing compelling headlines - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1

Headline writing know-how is more important than ever as social media dominates how we interact with news, information, and networking.

Posts and updates are limited in length on most platforms which has created a culture of headline-style writing. Although you can share entire blog posts, your audience will need to click “read more” to get the full story. Writers, whether professionals on LinkedIn or marketers on Facebook, need to know how to grab their audience’s highly sought-after attention.

Fingers scroll fast, so headlines must hook even faster. Here are five strategies to help you capture your reader before your post falls to the bottom of their feed.

1. Keep it short and sweet.

Never use two words when you can use one. Remember that today’s readers decide whether or not to click through to your post in a split second. Give them more time to consider by cutting down on the time they need to spend reading your headline. The faster you can express your idea, the better the chance they’ll relate and click through to read the rest. Minimize your words to maximize your clicks.

2. Use a numbered list.

Busy readers like to know that you have gone to the trouble of organizing your information clearly for them. Mentioning a numbered list in your headline makes your post appealing because the reader knows it’s organized in a familiar way that enables them to jump around, skipping over items they’re not interested in.

3. Break it up with punctuation.

Use punctuation, like a colon or hyphen, to make your headlines easier to digest. Just as it’s easier to read information structured in two short clear sentences rather than one long complex one, it’s easier for headline readers to digest two short ideas instead of one long complex idea. For example,

“Punctuation Tips—Do Hyphens and Colons Confuse You?”

instead of

“Tips to Help You Learn About Confusing Punctuation Marks”

Break it up into bite-sized pieces.

4. Ask a question.

When you read a question, you unconsciously begin to answer it in your head and assess whether or not you relate to it. By framing your headline as a question, you take your reader one step closer to clicking! Keep your question open-ended and broad, while still providing enough specifics about the post’s content, and you’ll hook not only more, but better quality, engaged readers.

5. Turn to your swipe files.

In the past, headline writing was left to professional copywriters who have a tradition of keeping swipe files—samples of advertising, sales letters, brochures, websites, prospecting emails, or blogs that they collect. When struggling to generate copy, they pull out their swipe file and look through it for something they can adapt. It’s a fantastic way to jumpstart your creativity.

Whether or not headline writing comes naturally to you, adopt some of these tips and tricks and you’ll be writing headlines that hook your readers in no time.

What strategies do you use to help you write great headlines? Please share in the comments!

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