Five Best Practices to a Winning Headline

Whether you’re writing a press release, blog post, advertisement, or email – its overall effectiveness comes down to the headline.
5 Best Practices to Winning Headline | Laura Murray PR | Vancouver, BC

Ask any seasoned journalist, copy editor, or PR professional and they’ll tell you: Write a catchy headline and you’ve grabbed their attention; write a bad one and they’re not reading another word.

With so much riding on so little language, crafting the perfect headline can be a daunting task for even the most experienced writers.

With this in mind, here are five tips to help you construct a winning headline:

First things first, write the headline last.

A headline is the purest distillation of all that lies ahead – and it’s challenging to craft without actually knowing what is coming up.

Once you’ve written your body copy, go back through it and think about how it can be cleverly and effectively boiled down. It may feel backwards, but you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to determine a clear message and the key point of your content.

Keep it short. Less is more.

Be ruthless, be specific and cut your message down to its most basic form. The internet has turned us into a culture of scanners, with readers typically only taking in the first and last three words. Whenever possible, aim for eight words or less.

Less to read means a higher chance of grabbing and holding the readers attention.

Use verbs generously and adjectives sparingly.

A captivating headline should balance relevance and personality.

Verbs increase the pulling-power and believability of your headline.

Adjectives are an unsubstantiated claim and may spark skepticism in your readers. With that in mind, include no more than one or two vivid, engaging adjectives that are hyper-specific to your subject, so you don’t risk losing the reader’s focus.

Give them a number.

Readers love lists. Having a digit in your headline makes things quantifiable and tangible.

Thanks to internet analytics, we also know that including numbers in our headlines increases the statistical likeliness of email opens & click-throughs on ads or articles.

Get formulaic.

When all else fails, try fitting your story into this simple formula:


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Or for that matter, Five Best Practices to a Winning Headline…

Attention is a commodity we’re all trying to capture. And when it comes to grabbing and retaining people’s attention with the written word, a good headline is the most powerful tool in your arsenal.

Any tricks we missed? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter?


Categories: MPMG