The Art of Writing Good Headlines

Most times when I write a new post I struggle with the headline.

Not because I'm trying to be witty or clever, but simply because it's often difficult to come up with a title that covers the following requirements:

  1. It's brief and to-the-point
  2. It adequately describes the post
  3. It's interesting enough to make people to want to read more

For that reason I typically throw something in as a placeholder and come back to finalize the headline after the post is written. However, even after several re-writes, I still frequently find it hard to think of something that really works.

As a consequence, I am regularly impressed by the quality of the headlines that I read on my online news sources.

Here's a selection on a current story concerning the US government looking at people's bank data in their effort to track down terrorists:

  • Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror (New York Times)
  • US secretly tracked bank records (BBC News)
  • U.S. Secretly Tapping Global Bank Records (Washington Post)
  • Secret Bank Tracking Raises Privacy Concerns (LA Times)
  • U.S. tracks bank records in terror investigations (MSNBC)
  • In tracking terrorists, U.S. taps bank data (Chicago Tribune)
  • US taps into bank data to fight terror (Aljazeera.net)
  • Secret Program Tracks Terror Financing (CBS News)

It's amazing how succinct these headlines are, how much information they convey and how interesting they make a potentially very dry subject.

I wonder how many hands and rounds of edits they go through before they get published?

Here's a quote I like about the art of writing headlines:

Heads are a little like poetry. (Not a lot, but a little.) There's no room for extraneous words. The formats are uncompromising. How they sound counts. How they look counts. And getting just the right word is what makes them fun.

I've been trying to learn a few tips from the pros for my own headlines in order to keep them as short yet informative as possible. Here are some resources I found useful:

Posted on: June 23, 2006 | 1 Comment

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1 Comment Posted (Add Yours)

Writing headlines seems quite similar to the art of making sure the text in hyperlinks is relevant, not exactly the same but similar!

I'm the same way with headlines;I seem to always have writers block whenever i'm trying to come up with a good headline.Very frustrating!

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