Style Guide – How to write an Outstanding Headline

The 13 March 1986 edition of The Sun, with the...

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Headlines are designed to grab the reader and entice them to read further. Some are clever, some are funny while others are perfect. How do you write the perfect headline?

I often start with a working headline which names the document that I am working on. This is often not the eventual headline, but just a starting place. As I write the article, then further headlines suggest themselves to me and I might make a note of them. Once the article is finished, then read the ideas for headlines back to yourself and decide which is best.

If the article is for the internet and to be used for SEO or Search Engine Optimisation purposes, then choosing the right headline is even more critical. You can use a Google search to type in your suggested headline as a search. The search box automatically produces more suggestions for searches. Do any of these match your article more closely? You can also use a free adwords tool to check which yields the biggest search, but for one article, I prefer just to know that other people are searching for that keyword.

Your headline should reflect what your article is about. It should describe it rather than be too clever and obtuse about it. Save clever puns for the tabloids who can describe more fully what the article is about.

The style of your headline can be bold, to make it stand out. Some people choose to make it bigger than the rest of the text: but this depends on what your style on the rest of the site is. To make your heading stand out, capitalise the main words of the headline, but any unimportant or smaller words are left normal.

For example:

How to Write an Outstanding Headline

For further SEO purposes, you might like to check your article to see whether you can insert sub-headings as well. These can also be bold, or just on a new line. They follow the same style as the heading: capitalise important words, but leave the unimportant filler words as normal. Choose the words for a heading and sub-heading carefully to ensure that the words fit in with the keywords that you have chosen.

If you also use the same style to caption photos or graphics, not only have you given your website a professional finish by aligning all the headline and caption styles, but you have also given your website a boost in terms of SEO. Hopefully you have also induced your reader to read on, which will justify your hard work.

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