Headline writing

Writing great online headlines comes naturally to journalists. But you don’t need to have worked on a newspaper to make headlines sing.

Just write something that is:

  • short – cram the greatest amount of meaning into the least number of words. While there’s no strict guide to ideal word length, search engines only care about the first 64 characters. Make every word count.
  • clear – good writing is unambiguous, this is doubly important for headlines. Make them readily understood in any context.
  • straightforward – use mainly nouns and verbs. Remember your nouns will be keywords for people using search engines.
  • use simple words – short, Anglo-Saxon words are best. Everyone knows exactly what they mean and they help you cram more meaning into fewer characters.
  • active – use the active voice.
  • avoid – forms of the verb to be. Articles ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’ are space wasters best left out of headlines. Use a comma, not the word ‘and’. Try not to use pronouns.
  • plain English – there are short clichéd headline words ordinary people never use – such as nix, slam, rap. It’s better to stick with everyday language.

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