Headline Tip #15: Amuse, Don’t Confuse

by Wes Hanson on May 4, 2012

The confused mind says “no.”

Depending on your audience, client, and purpose, a dash of wit, a soupcon of wordplay can be just the thing to reel in your readers. Writing them usually involves more creativity and effort – and makes not just the reading more fun but the writing too.

But keeping it simple and direct is best most of the time, even for sales copy. Wordplay can be a thrill, but it’s a high wire act and it’s easy to fall off. It’s tiring to guess what something is supposed to be about. Humor is a tricky; what’s clever to you may well be irritating or obtuse to someone else. If you really want to be found and read and shared then you have to write for the someone elses of this world. Keep the cleverness for your personal blog or journal.

Word play, alliteration, or take-offs on familiar phrases or cliches can create some eye-catching and often amusing headlines. But don’t be too subtle. Get to the point: what happened or what are you promising?

A joke-y header or one-word title might not be descriptive but can still work if you add a subhead can explain your purpose.

Finally, on the matter of confusion, here are a few words about Twitter hashtags. A hashtag mark – # — put in front of a word or term in a tweet makes it searchable in Twitter. A search for #occupywallstreet, for example, would turn up every mention in the Twittersphere using that exact hashtag-denoted phrase.

Beware overdoing hashtags in your tweeted, or re-tweeted, headlines. Too many hashtags junk up a headline and make it look confusing, even spammy. If there is room, favor adding a hashtag to the end of your tweet instead of the middle of the headline itself.

Headline Tip #14: Numbers and Stats Add Up to Readers

May 3, 2012

Numbers make a very specific promise of what the reader is going to get in exchange for reading time. Data implies validity: it must be real if there are numbers attached. It is hard to disbelieve numbers. Numbers don’t lie. Only people do that. “Numbers make ideas real,” says Sarah Skerik, PRNewswire’s VP of social […]

Read the full article →

Headline Tip #13: Put Some Meat on It

May 2, 2012

Headlines advertise and organize articles, helping readers decide from a quick scan what they’d like to pursue. Now that the internet and social media have made everyone a potential publisher it’s both unthinkably easier and incredibly harder to find an audience. Short is delicious, but headlines need to communicate something. There needs to be some […]

Read the full article →

Headline Tip #12: Retweet to Go Forward

May 1, 2012

Social media is not a monologue you broadcast from on high, or even a dialogue. That’s so old media. Social media is conversational, a multi-logue. As in any social setting, what goes around comes around. Therefore don’t neglect to bring attention to other people’s worthy content on Twitter via retweets. “Retweet” is not an Elmer […]

Read the full article →

Headline Tip #11: Twitter Invigorates Headlines

April 30, 2012

With its severe space restrictions Twitter is actually a headline enthusiast’s dream, and a throwback to the earliest days of journalism where short headlines ruled. A well-written short headline puts you ahead on a level playing field where everyone (even the establishment pros) has the same constraints and opportunities. The headline is tailor-made for the […]

Read the full article →