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Top 27 Copywriting Headlines Tips

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Updated 4.5.24

Writing headlines is an acquired skill. These practical copywriting headlines tips can help you not only write better headlines but also create them faster.

Which tip helps you the most? Let other writers know in the Comments section below. You never know when one little idea can help someone else.

27 copywriting headlines tips with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

3 Tips to Get Started 

Try these tips to get your headline juices flowing.

  1. One stumbling block to writing a piece’s headline is simply getting started. Here’s how to side step that problem: 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.
  2. 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. Also write a few headlines during the process. And write a few after you’re done. Soon you’ll discover which approach is best for you – before, during, or after.
  3. Check out these 10 words to use when writing headlines to jumpstart your writing.

6 Tips for Headline Content

  1. Identify the main idea of the piece. Create a headline around it.
  2. Identify your main keyword. Use it – or a word that is closely related – in the headline.
  3. Write plenty of headlines for just one piece. Give yourself a selection of headlines to re-work, edit, and choose from.
  4. Try different headline formulas. They work.
  5. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader. What will pull her into your piece? Write a headline to suit her.
  6. Be as specific as possible. (Generalized headlines are boring.)

8 Tips for Headline Mechanics

  1. Capitalize the first word in your headline.
  2. Keep it simple. Write headlines at a grade 7 reading level or less. Use your word processor’s readability statistics function to check your headline’s reading level.
  3. Use more verbs and fewer nouns.
  4. Use short, active verbs: kill, jump, shout
  5. Avoid forms of the verb "to be" (is, are, was, and were.)
  6. Write headlines in present tense (“Johnson wins in Ventura”).
  7. Avoid writing in first person (I, me), unless using a quote. (Here's more on Point of View.)
  8. Avoid puns and fancy wording, which often confuse or mislead readers.

10 Tips for Refining Your Headline

Use this checklist of copywriting headlines tips to evaluate and re-work your material.

  1. Does the headline grab attention or incite curiosity?
  2. Does the headline address something specific?
  3. Does the headline offer useful information or a benefit to the reader?
  4. If the headline makes a promise, does the content that follows deliver on that promise?
  5. Is it true? (Readers hate being lied to.)
  6. Does the headline convey urgency, moving the reader to take action or motivate them to want to know more right away?
  7. Does the headline convey uniqueness? (Boring headlines mean your piece won’t get read.)
  8. Is the headline clear and direct – avoiding pun, elaborate wording, or double-entendre?
  9. Does the headline use strong, interesting, active verbs?
  10. Is the headline’s length appropriate for the medium (article, email campaign, web page, direct mail package, social media post, and so forth)?

If you answer “no” to one or more of these questions, go back and rewrite your headline.

Which tip helps you the most? Let us know in the Comments section!

More Headline Writing Tips

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How to Redeem a Bad Headline (So Readers Keep Reading) ...

Write a Better Headline When You Answer One Simple Question ...

The Most Surprising Places You Need a Powerful Headline ...

Basics for copywriting headlines ...

5 proven headline formulas ...

10 words to use when writing headlines ...

Does your headline do its job?

5-Point checklist to use when you write a headline ...

The 4 U's for writing powerful headlines ...

The SELWAB Formula: great for writing leads and headlines ...

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More tips on our Writing Headlines Pinterest board...

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