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Telling a tale through subheadings

A ‘Crosshead’ is a device that has used in newspapers for many years to break up long grey areas of text to make reading seem like less of a challenge. Particularly in narrow columns, it’s often a single word picked out of the succeeding text.


‘Subheadings’ are the equivalent of chapter headings in a document. All they really have in common with crossheads is that they’re also usually picked out in bold, larger text.

Combining crossheads and subheadings

In on-screen documents, the two are now frequently combined – in other words, what are effectively crossheads, just there to break up the text, are expanded to contain more explanation of what’s to follow.

Indeed, on-screen document crossheads/ subheadings are now so common that many readers struggle to get through more than a paragraph or two without the relief of seeing one.

Here’s how to make it work

Not only that, but on-screen document crossheads/ subheadings have become a sophisticated mechanism to keep people reading. Look at the way some smarter websites use them, and they’re almost headlines, offering benefits to continue reading.

Indeed, they can even capture a group of readers who might otherwise be lost: those who just skim through a page, expecting to be told the story at a glance. If they’re clever, they might tell a tale and get these people to consider reading the whole story after all.