Resources & Guides

Why writing headlines first can save you hours every week

Why writing headlines first can save you hours every week
Why writing headlines first can save you hours every week

When you sit down to write, where do you start? One idea is to start with a headline.
"Why would I bother to read this?" is the question your headline should always answer.

But headlines don't just clarify the point to the reader—they also clarify the point to you. If you can write a good headline, you can write a good post. If the headline feels unclear, or uncompelling, that's an indication you need to spend more time with your idea to hone it into something sharper. Starting with the headline protects your time. Is the idea clear? Don't start writing until it is. That way, you only invest work into ideas that can grow into complete pieces. Headlines are traditionally more important for blogs than newsletters (where subject lines are critical) but it's a useful exercise to write them anyway.

Here are three headline strategies to consider this week.

1. Proper nouns. Any chance you get, include proper nouns in your headline: The names of people, companies, cities, countries, industries, brands, or events.

Here's an example. Rather than, "Why tech companies are facing regulation," be specific. "Here's what Amazon will say in front of the FTC subcommittee—and what it means for e-commerce." Proper nouns like Amazon and the Federal Trade Commission tell readers why they should care. Amazon is an important company. The FTC is an important regulator. Well known, clear, identifiable proper nouns help your audience understand the reason they should invest time reading your piece.  

2. Big numbers. You know the saying "a picture paints a thousand words"? So can numbers. Including large numbers in your headline also helps your audience understand the importance of your piece.

Here's an example. Rather than, "This newsletter writer shares her strategies for success," paint a picture of how successful the newsletter writer is. "This 25-year-old shares the two strategies she used to add 50,000 subscribers to her newsletter in 6 months." The numbers tell us a far more impressive story: She's young, she has a large number of subscribers, and she grew her newsletter in just 6 months. That's a great reason to click.

3. Explain something complicated. If your newsletter takes complicated things and explains them in an easy way, make sure that value proposition is clear to your readers. Using phrases like "Here's how" or "Here's why" or "what it means for you" can be useful tools to explain what you're going to cover.

Here's an example. Rather than, "Recycling plastic in big cities," give a bit of detail about what you'll explain. "Recycling plastic in big cities is more complicated than you think. Here's how it works." With that framing, it's clear to the reader—and you—what the post will include.

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