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How to create powerful headlines that hook your readers?
You have to think up headlines all the time. Headlines for web pages, headlines for e-newsletter articles, headlines for the subject line of your e-newsletters, headlines for letters, headlines for leaflets and adverts.

You might create them at the start or the end. You may spend a long time or a little time constructing them. Yet it is the headline that pulls people in, hooks them and gets them reading your material. Without a powerful headline, readers may never realise the value of the information below.

In business writing, headlines fall into two distinct categories: headlines for sales material and headlines for articles. This article is going to focus on headlines for articles.

What is a headline?

It is a flag. Think of your daily newspaper. The headlines are big, bold and attention grabbing. The bigger the story, the bigger the headline. You can scan a page and know in a few seconds if there are stories you want to read. How do you know? The headline tells you. It does this in just a few words. It attracts you with a promise of something juicy; something interesting; something important; something funny. How does it do this?

How does a headline attract attention?

To attract attention a headline has to connect with the reader's concerns or interests and has to provoke curiosity - leave the reader wanting to know more.

Consider these two headlines:

Small rural school reflects on how to best spend the school lunch budget
Village School Kitchen Under Threat

Both headlines are basically about the same story but the first is dull and we easily drift off to something more interesting. The second one uses drama to suck us in.

Why is it important to create a powerful headline?

We are bombarded with literally thousands of words per day and to get attention you need to create headlines that attract your target readers. Headlines that make people pause, make them want to know more - these are vital if you want people to read the rest of your web page or article.

How do you create a powerful headline?

'How' and 'why' are two of the most powerful words you can put in a headline?


They create curiosity.

Consider these 3 pairs of headlines:

Organic beef has higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids than conventional beef
Why organic beef is richer in Omega 3 fatty acids than conventional beef

Intruder alarms can prevent burglaries
Why fitting an intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled by up to 20%

PV panels can generate electricity even in Wales
How PV panels can save you money on your electricity bill even in West Wales

Can you see how adding the 'how' and 'why' creates more curiosity? It makes you want to know more. In the first example, a statement is made. It doesn't encourage much response.

You'll notice that some of the headlines had some specifics in them like 20%. Let's take that intruder alarm example and see how adding specifics builds curiosity.

Why fitting an intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled
Why fitting an intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled by up to 20%
Why fitting an infra red intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled by up to 20%
Why fitting an infra red intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled in Carmarthenshire by up to 20%

If you're afraid of being burgled or you have been burgled, this headline is going to grab you. If you live in Carmarthenshire and fear burglars, this headline is really going to make you sit up and take notice.

When do you construct the headline?

Some people write an outline and then the headline. Some use the headline construction to help them focus on specifics in their article - they write the outline second. The more specific the headline, the harder it is to waffle in the main article.

How can you get better at writing headlines?

First start collecting headlines from magazines, websites and e-newsletters. Notice which ones pull you in. Then examine what words they use to attract you.

Next you have to practice. If you write a blog, practice with your post titles. If you write e-newsletters, practice with your article headlines. Without practice this is all just theoretical.

Powerful headlines are the hook that gets your reader's attention and draws them into reading the rest of your copy.

Contributor: Juliet Fay @

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