10 Words to Use When Writing Headlines
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.
It’s no secret that writing headlines is an important skill for any writer.
And I’m talking about headlines of all kinds: the title of an article, the subject line of an email, the teaser on an envelope, the header on a web page, the post title to a blog – even the caption to an image.
Each of these functions as a headline – that is, text that introduces.
A strong headline is important because it can move the reader to keep reading. A weak headline will not. Naturally, you want to write powerful headlines. (Here's a low-cost, high-quality writing course for writing better headlines.)
So if you get stuck in the process of writing a headline, you can try at least 3 ways to get your creative juices flowing.
- You can use a headline formula (see some headline formulas here)
- You can refer to a list of words that have been proven to work for writing powerful headlines
- You can read other headlines to get ideas
So to Point #2, let me give you a list of words that have helped me write headlines. (I wish someone had given me this list years ago.)
10 Words to Use When Writing Headlines
Each of these words has strengths.
- What, When, Why, and How: these help me frame the headline as an explanation, the classic which is, “How To …” followed closely by “What to Do When …” or “What to Do If …” But don’t stop there. Use What, When, Why, and How just as starting points.
- Will: this word is a natural preface to a headline structured as a question: “Will You …?”
Top, Best, and Worst: these combine well with numbered headlines or as lists (“5 Top Reasons to” … or “4 Best Investments for …”)
- New: this word is especially appealing to readers because it is short and because it signals the latest, the freshest, and the most up-to-date. (More tips for using “new.”)
- You and its variations: this is the perfect word to use to personalize any headline. It’s particularly useful when you present technical, financial, or complicated material and want to make it simpler for your reader. (More tips for using “you.”)
Bonus! More Words to Use When Writing a Headline
I get good headline ideas when I study these words, too. I like how these words show the reader that what follows will help her solve problems.
One Very Specific Word
If you can refer to a celebrity (or public figure) or even quote one, use his or her name in your headline.
Avoid This Word When Writing a Headline
If possible, avoid using the word things. If you find things in your headline, go back and figure out why you’re equivocating. Find a way to use a more precise, descriptive word.
More Tips for Writing Powerful Headlines
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How to Write How-To Headlines That Pull in More Readers ...
When Do Question Headlines Work?
The Problem with Clickbait Headlines (and how to solve it) ...
Writing Better Headlines: Simple As 3 + 3 ...
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Write a Better Headline When You Answer One Simple Question ...
27 Tips for Writing Headlines ...
How to Redeem a Bad Headline (So Readers Keep Reading) ...
The 9 Most Surprising Places You Need a Powerful Headline ...
Does Your Headline Do Its Job?
The SELWAB Formula: great for writing leads and headlines ...
5-Point Checklist to Use When You Write a Headline ...
Five Proven Headline Formulas ...
4 U's: a Checklist to Use for Writing Powerful Headlines ...
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