Effective Writing for the Web (5): Meaningful Headlines

headlinesWhen it comes to web copy, I’ve mentioned that you want to put the text in short sections and that you want to make it easy for someone to scan, right?

Headlines, that is meaningful headlines, help people decide if they’re going to read the content or not. In some contexts these are also referred to as headings. Take your pick.

The important thing is that because they are a tool to help your reader, in my view they are pretty much essential.

What do I mean when I say meaningful?

When I talk about meaningful headlines, I’m referring to two things:

  1. The headline states what is coming—it introduces the main topic (like the headline above. When you read this you know the next section of the text will be about what I mean when I write ‘meaningful’.)
  2. The meaning of the headline needs to be clear. Ambiguity is rife in headlines—you may have seen Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. packed with funny headlines. A couple of years ago my sister gave me a book which includes a couple of great examples of what I mean:
    1. Tiny babies do worse in exams
    2. New housing for elderly not yet dead

And then there’s my personal favourite seen in Dubai a few years ago:

Lack of facilities in schools to hit children

When you’re writing your copy, keep thinking about your reader and how they will be reading your words on the screen. Use headlines to break up blocks of text and as signposts to the content that is to come. Do this and your reader will thank you for it and you’ll have taken another step towards effective web writing.

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