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[Word Wise] Headline Basics: What You Need to Know
January 17, 2014

Word Wise Newsletter

Copywriting Basics and Writing Techniques to Help You Write Better

Volume 10, Number 2 ... ISSN: 1933-9690

Dear fellow writers,

Welcome back to Word Wise! Once or twice a month, we’ll send you this newsletter packed with practical and useful writing tips and copywriting basics to use whether you’re a marketing professional, nonprofit leader, or copywriting newbie -- to help you write better.

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FEATURE: Headline Basics: What You Need to Know

Eight out of 10 people read headlines. Just 2 out of 10 read the rest of the piece. Those who actually read your headline will decide within an estimated 5 – 10 seconds whether or not to continue. A headline is your introduction, first impression, opening line, and sales pitch all rolled into one.

That’s plenty intimidating … but never fear! Writing good headlines is an acquired skill, made easier when you have practical information about what makes a good headline and how to get started.

Try one or all of these headline tips to get going.

  • Side step the “getting started” writer’s block problem this way: instead of writing the headline first, jump in and work on the piece. Once you have all or part of your ideas on paper, go back and write a few headlines.
  • Or try this method: write a few headlines before you start writing the piece, as a way to guide you through putting together the content. Write a few headlines during the process. Write a few after you’re done. Soon you’ll discover which approach is best for you – before, during, or after.
  • Identify the main idea of the piece. Create a headline around it.
  • Identify your main keyword. Use it – or a word that is closely related – in the headline.
  • Write plenty of headlines for just one piece. Give yourself a selection of headlines to re-work, edit, and choose from.
  • Try different headline formulas. They work.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the reader. What will pull her into your piece? Write a headline to suit her.
  • Be as specific as possible with your headline content. (Generalized headlines are boring.)

Read more practical tips for writing good headlines on our Top Copywriting Headlines Tips page.

And find additional useful information for writing good headlines on our Writing Headlines Pinterest board.

One Common Question About Headlines

"How long should a headline be?" You are not, by far, the only writer who asks.

The answer is that it depends.

  • Article headlines are typically short – 3-6 words or less.
  • Email subject lines vary in their optimal length between 27 to 77 characters depending on which kind of device is used to view them, but those subject lines with 35 characters or less get the best open rates.
  • Web page meta titles – the text that appears on the browser header – should be 90 – 150 characters. (Various browsers allow different lengths.)
  • Facebook post titles with 90 characters or less receive the highest number of shares.

Get more answers to frequently asked questions about copywriting headlines here.

More about Writing Headlines Better and Faster

Basics for Copywriting Headlines Try These 5 Proven Headline Formulas Does Your Headline Do Its Job? Top Headline Tips: Mechanics

Finally ... A Wise Word

"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."
Thomas Edison (1847-1931 American inventor

Check out our Inspiring Quotes board on Pinterest for more words of wisdom.

That’s it for now. See you next time!

Good writing matters,

Kathy with Nonprofit Copywriter
Email me with your comments and questions!

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