I don’t like the trend to write sensationalist headlines. They over promise, over dramatize and disappoint. Headlines all about marketing are too common and just add to information overload. People can only read so much in a day. Too often these marketing based headlines lead readers in but don’t deliver any real information, nothing fresh, relevant or important. Fluff!
Headlines like those do not build you as an authority on your topic. Traffic to your site may pick up but, especially if you are running a business, trust in your business will go down. You don’t deliver as promised.
100 Great Tips for Whitening your Teeth your Dentist Doesn’t Want you to Know….
Sure there are 100 tips but most of them are things you already know and a lot of them are things the author has not tried themselves, so chances are they don’t work. As for the element of things being secret – that’s just hype.
How many of these headlines will people read before they go blind to them? How much mistrust will you build trying to get people to come to your site?
Propaganda and sensationalism are fragile shells to walk on. Once the shell breaks it is very hard to rebuild trust with customers, readers or the public in general.
This post was inspired from Copyblogger’s Content Excellence Challenge suggesting people write headlines as marketing propaganda. I don’t think they thought the idea through.
F*ck Yeah Headlines –
Each weekday I find a headline on a major news site, and illustrate it without reading a word of the story.
It is interesting to take headlines literally and create a story around them. It can also keep you aware of the headlines you write yourself.
NY Times: Crash Blossoms
In news writer’s quest for concision, newspaper headlines can lead to some amusing ambiguities.
Funny news headlines which take on a new meaning when written without punctuation. – named Crash Blossoms via Language Log.
Submit any Crash Blossoms you find.
From Wikipedia: Syntactic ambiguity is a property of sentences which may be reasonably interpreted in more than one way, or reasonably interpreted to mean more than one thing. Ambiguity may or may not involve one word having two parts of speech or homonyms.
Syntactic ambiguity arises not from the range of meanings of single words, but from the relationship between the words and clauses of a sentence, and the sentence structure implied thereby. When a reader can reasonably interpret the same sentence as having more than one possible structure, the text is equivocal and meets the definition of syntactic ambiguity.
Proofread… proofread… proofread!
I’ve always found headlines fun, a kind of challenge but a freedom to be a bit daring, wild and just plain contrary. You can pick something a bit misleading, something humourous, something argumentative or whatever appeals to you at the time.
The point is to catch the reader’s attention and draw them into the article. By hook or by crook, you want to make them look.
Make sure your headlines are not redundant. Don’t use words which will be skimmed over. Choose words which aren’t already flooding the magazine. Words which the reader isn’t glossing over due to repetition in the theme, content or other articles in the magazine/ publication. Make your headline unique, fresh and unexpected.
Keep it short. Most publications don’t have space for your best creative headlines. If you keep it brief you won’t be sad when the editor chops it down to size. Ideally, a headline fits in one line of column text. If you know the standards for the publication you’re writing for measure your headline against the space available.
As always, keep in mind the tone and style of the publication. Don’t submit something sexy if they avoid that style. Don’t submit something really cutsey if the publication is serious. You may think that’s limiting and takes away from all the fun of writing headlines. But, it doesn’t. It just makes it that much more challenging. Have fun!