So You Think You Write Great Headlines

Is it catchy? A headline needs to grab a readers’ attention and stand out from the crowd. This doesn’t mean you should write something that’s not true, but a little sensationalism can go a long way. Just make sure the headline doesn’t oversell the actual content.
Is it useful? Does the headline actually inform the reader on what they will learn from reading your article? The best headlines clearly and succinctly tell what the article is about without promising things that the article doesn’t deliver.
Does this headline tell the main point of the article? If you’ve ever read book titles or article titles from about a hundred or hundred fifty years ago, you’ll know that your headline can go way out of its way to try and explain everything that an article is about. After all, if you’ve written up a long article, you’ll probably give a lot of useful information in it about a number of different topics. It’s your job when writing the title to be aware of what the overarching idea and theme behind the article is, the main idea that encapsulates the whole and doesn’t attempt to summarize everything the article says.
Does your headline challenge or create some controversy? Controversy is good, Controversy, properly done, is nothing more than a challenge that starts discussion. After all, if something isn’t controversial it just means that everyone tends to agree with it, which means no one is going to take the time to talk about it, which means that no one is too interested in it, which means that no one will read or remember what you wrote. Stir things up a bit with your article, and make sure the title throws this challenge out to the status quo.
Does your headline ask a question that the reader will want to answer? Headlines can do this in one of two ways. There’s the more blunt way, such as the title of this article, where you explicitly ask the reader a question that they’ll want to know the answer to. This works even better when, like this article’s headline, it challenges an assumption of the readers. They’ll want to know if they actually stand up to the challenge and answer the question as they think they do. You can also implicitly ask a question in a headline. This involves raising a doubt or a question in your readers head, without actually throwing in a question mark. For instance, this article could also be titled “The Absolute Best Way to Write a Headline.” While that title doesn’t actually ask a question, the reader will ask themselves if they know the “Absolute Best Way to Write a Headline” and they will want to read your article to answer that question.
Headline writing isn’t difficult; it just demands that you get into your potential reader’s head. Think about what it would take to convince yourself to read your own article, and take it from there.

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