Headlines: why they should be clear and front-loaded

When you write a news story or a blog post, you’ll be quite aware that the headline can make or break its readership numbers. While there’s a whole science regarding “clickbait” headlines, they’re not usually appropriate for industrial business marketing. We just need to be clear and to get to the point.

The biggest consideration for me is the context in which the headline might appear. For example, if your article gets emailed out (as these ones do), the headline automatically becomes the subject line of the email. That gives you limited space to get to the point. Indeed, in some email software, the subject line might be cut off after just a few words. If your headline takes six words just to mention the key topic of the article, that key topic may never be seen.

If someone decides to post the article on Twitter, the headline will quite probably be integrated straight into the message. On Facebook, it definitely will. So it needs to be clear.

I often find that the colon is our grammatical friend here. I might have been tempted to headline this article “Why you should make your headlines clear and front-loaded”, which wouldn’t be a bad headline when read as a whole. But as an email subject, if it was cut off after, say, 25 characters, it wouldn’t interest anyone. The colon allows us to put the subject right at the front.

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