Struggle with Writing Headlines?

I really struggled with writing catchy and effective headlines and e-mail subject lines during my internship this summer. I’ve been told many times how important these seemingly small elements can be in media relations, and I really want to work on these skill sets.

Copyblogger’s Jonathan Morrow offered this list of 12 things not to do when writing headlines, and I thought it was helpful!

  1. Don’t be original- “the only time to experiment with new headlines is you know you’ve truly mastered the fundamentals, and almost every headline you write is a hit,” the site explains.
  2. Don’t blend in. “You need to zig when others zag.”
  3. Don’t be clever, especially if you are targeting a large audience. “Too many people are not going to get it.”
  4. Don’t get desperate
  5. Don’t ignore your readers. “The first step in writing any headline is considering what topics your audience is interested in, and then crafting the headline around that interest.”
  6. Don’t ignore your peers. Write something that will impress other writers.
  7. Don’t ignore social media. Keep social media sites in mind when writing headlines.
  8. Don’t ignore your personal style. Find a way to inject your personal voice.
  9. Don’t ask for opinions. “Friends usually pick whatever headline is most clever or funny, not the one that’s best suited for your audience.”
  10. Don’t settle.
  11. Don’t sweat the failures. Just keep moving.
  12. Don’t ask too much. Albeit important, headlines are only one piece of the puzzle.

Are you guilty of breaking any of these rules? What advice do you have for those of us who struggle with writing headlines?

One thought on “Struggle with Writing Headlines?

  1. I hated, hated writing headlines when I wrote for the Daily Free Press in college. Fortunately, my editor usually trashed what I wrote and submitted something new (and better). Now, I find it a little easier.

    I think it helps to not even think about the headline until the body is complete. If you have the time, put the story aside for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes. Read it as an outsider and think about the main draw.

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