Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to write a great article headline

Ready, aim, fire!

This headline is the title for an article about taking great pictures. It’s a good headline because it achieves a number of objectives:

1. It’s short and to the point
Imagine an article about taking better pictures with a title something like this:

101 techniques for taking quality pictures that are guaranteed to take your photography skills to the next level!

You might be tempted to laugh, except for the fact that there are already plenty of articles with headlines like this online. It’s almost as if the writer thought it would be a good idea to put in everything he or she could think of. Whether or not it would pass Helium’s title restrictions is not the point; the point is that it doesn’t get and hold your attention.

It’s too long. There are too many words. We don’t have the time to wade through it all in the hope that the rest of the article will be good in spite of the clumsy title. Because, deep down, we know it won’t be.

How could it be? It was likely written by the same person.

2. It arouses curiosity
An article with the title Ready, aim, fire! might be about a lot of things. Unless you find it on the front cover of a photography magazine, it’s not necessarily obvious.

That’s good news, because if you can make the reader curious about something, he or she will be forced to read on. The need to know will be overwhelming, and your article will have a better chance of being read from start to finish.

3. It’s clever without being corny
There’s nothing wrong with being clever. But titles that rely on word play, puns or similar literary devices can get boring very quickly.

The trick with “being clever” is to balance it out. For example, if you were the cinematographer that filmed a movie starring Omar Sharif, you could write an article with the title...

Go to my Helium page to read the rest of this article :)

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