What makes a good headline?
What makes a headline in an article interesting? What makes a reader stop what they are doing and feel the need to read on to find out what the headline is referring to?
These questions direct me to discuss factors that need to be taken into account when writing an effective headline.
First and foremost, a headline should sell your story. It needs to give an insight to the rest of the article.
Secondly, a headline needs to be written in a way that grabs the reader’s attention. This is achieved by selecting key words from the subject area. It needs to be clear and specific, but at the same time appealing. Use power words such as how to, discover, learn etc, which convinces the reader to read the entire article. Other ways to grab the audience’s attention is through the use of humour, rhetorical questions, puns and play on words.
Another important factor to consider is tone. The headline needs to match the tone of the rest of the article. For example, articles that are written for ABC are aimed at the general public (non-specialists), therefore is in a conversational tone.
In the following section, I have discussed 3 article headlines in the ABC and New Scientist websites that grabbed my attention and if it lived up to its headline.
This headline tapped into my curiosity. The title alarmed me about the possibility that my MP3 player which I use for entertainment on a regular basis can be used to hack into my car. It provides details on several weak points in a vehicle that can be used by hackers to gain access to a car. After reading the entire article, I came to the conclusion that it did, in fact live up to its expectation of the headline.
This title particularly interests me because in the past decade, Mother nature’s fury has being unleashed on every corner at more regular intervals. I’ve always wondered why Australia wasn’t severely affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The key, as Professor Goff from the Australian Tsunami Research Centre says,
COMES DOWN TO GEOGRAPHY.
The article did live up to its excellent attention-grabbing headline by providing reasons why Australia was spared by recent tsunamis.
The title of the article grabbed my attention since it claimed that elephants are smart as chimps and dolphins. However, after reading the article I did find out that the claim was just based on 1 study conducted in Thailand. This study (even though produced excellent results) doesn’t prove that elephants are in fact smarter than or as smart as chimps and dolphins in a global context.
Overall, an article headline needs to be short, precise and attention grabbing. This claim is supported through the examples I have provided. Does anyone beg to differ? Do you have more useful tips for writing headlines?
Please feel free to comment.