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Try These 5 Proven Headline Formulas

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.

Some writers argue against using headline formulas, saying they are too predictable.

5 headline formulas to use in content writing and copywriting with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter. #WritingTips for #FreelanceWriters and #ContentWriters

But there’s a good reason why master copywriters use certain headline formulas over and over: they work.

A good headline draws in the reader by showcasing a benefit – something that helps the prospect, meets one of his needs, or interests him, such as –

  • a solution to a problem
  • an answer
  • a key
  • a way out
  • a curiosity
  • a route to take that will make life better
  • something urgently needed
  • something desperately wanted

5 Proven Headline Formulas

The How-To headline

This formula benefits the reader by offering a practical, step-by-step solution to a problem. For this formula to work, make sure your body copy delivers the goods.

Example: How to write headlines that guarantee you’ll be read

The Question

This formula benefits the reader by raising curiosity about your reader’s problem. Your question implies there’s a solution in the content. For this formula to work, make sure you provide one in the body of the piece.

Example: Are you sure your headline works?

The News Item

This formula benefits the reader by angling a nugget of new or unusual information about your reader’s problem.

When he bites, he’ll find more detail in the text.

Example: Why 5 times as many people read the headline over the body copy

The Command

This formula benefits the reader by challenging the reader with a concrete action step (a Call To Action) they can take to fix their problem. Command formulas use a strong, second person verb.

Example: Try these 5 proven headline formulas

The Testimonial

This formula benefits the reader by building trust.

A beneficiary, donor, or celebrity gives credibility to your product or service by speaking from experience, explaining how you provided an answer to his problem.


“These 5 tried-and-true headlines doubled my open rate!”

More Tips for Writing Headlines

Basics for copywriting headlines ...

Top copywriting headlines tips: getting started, headline mechanics ...

Does your headline do its job?

The 4 U's: use this checklist for writing powerful headlines ...

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

1-2-3-4 Copywriting Formula: answer 4 simple questions for great content....

More writing tips on our Writing Headlines Pinterest board...

More on writing formulas

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Star-Chain-Hook: A Simple (and Persuasive) Content Writing Formula ...

Understanding writing formulas: why they work, when to use them ...

The 4 Ps: a writing formula and a persuasive writing tool ...

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