Tips for writing better headlines

| September 18, 2017

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A good headline can stop listeners from switching off their radios and get them to lean closer to hear more. Headlines work hard: with just a few words, they hook listeners, hint at what’s coming up later on the show, and provide just enough information to understand the story.

Headlines should be both brief and jam-packed with facts. To help with the difficult task of writing headlines, the International Journalists Network (IJNET) has published a short guide that includes the following pointers:

  • Know your platform. Broadcast, print, web, and social media headlines have different tones and constraints.
  • Know your audience. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, then write the headline from a perspective they can relate to.
  • Be straightforward. Headlines should tell the story and include the main ideas, not withhold them.
  • Word choice matters. You can interest more people by using verbs in your headline than by writing headlines full of nouns and adjectives.
  • Do not depend on context. Assume your potential readers have little to no knowledge about your article’s topic. Then ask yourself: would they be able to understand this headline?
  • Grammar is important. Some special grammatical rules apply when writing headlines.
  • Does your headline have TACT? Check for Taste, Attractiveness, Clarity, and Truth.

To read the IJNET guide, please see: