The importance of a good headline by Leigh Goessl

Posted by | March 14, 2014 | AP Style, Guest Blog, Instruction | No Comments

A good headline can make or break your article. Not only does it set the first impression, it’s your opportunity to give readers a good “teaser” to your article, and the way you phrase it can determine whether or not readers are enticed to want to read more. While the words you choose should pique curiosity, you also need to balance interesting with accuracy. There should be no contradictions, and it’s important your headline remain true to facts and tone as to not mislead the reader. It should have enough detail so readers know what they can expect to find. Good headlines are attractive, yet simple and direct in description.

A strong headline uses an active voice with a distinguishable subject and strong verbs, as the passive approach is less alluring to readers. Use humor/cleverness, but avoid groaners and also keep in mind that if the subject is someone’s family member or friend, a level of empathy is recommended (Poynter).Most reputable news sources  follows AP style in headlines; this means only the first word should be capitalized and subsequent words should be lower-cased, with the exception of proper nouns, which should always be capitalized. It is important headlines are uniform in style.

Avoid headlines such as:

Problems with spying

Congress fails again

Children like to read

Facebook buys another company

Better examples:

Privacy advocates cite ‘spying’ concerns with smart TVs

Congress fails to pass budget for 2014

How to encourage children to read

Facebook acquires WhatsApp in $19 billion deal

Other tips:

• No double quotations in headlines for quotes, phrases or movies, etc. where quotations are generally used. Instead, use single quotations in the headline, double quotations in the body of articles

• Always capitalize proper nouns in headlines

• Do not use a period at the end of a headline, but if the headline asks a question, do use a question mark

• Use numerals– i.e. 5 ways to ace a job interview vs. Five ways to ace a job interview

The Poynter website offers some terrific tips in headline writing.

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.