9 Ways to Write a Headline Without Using Clickbait

By Shawn Paul Wood Comment

clickbait definition

With this generation’s limited attention span, writing a great headline has become an essential tool for journalists and PR pros alike.

Few papers still create headlines that cause you to think, laugh, or discuss. We live in a world of traffic, clicks, and impressions. Thinking is a distant second to sharing.

And that’s where clickbait comes in.

In order to create masterful clickbait, you really should know how to write real headlines first. Especially since press releases and media alerts are still a thing.

Here are 9 tips to writing a killer headline:

1. Itches need scratching. The object of every headline is the same — give the reader enough to get interested but not enough to ignore the story. If the headline summarizes the story, what’s the point? Headlines should tease a story.

2. It’s in the word. What PR pros are writing is news, right? Want to guarantee interest? Make sure what you are sharing is new. Headlines should allure those who are inquisitive and want to be in the know. They should be newsworthy and also worthy of an audience’s time.

3. Be unconventional. There is no perfect formula for writing good headlines. Just remember that information is mandatory. Grammar is slightly optional. The object of a headline is to shout at the reader. The subsequent paragraphs lovingly whisper the rest.

4. Channel Shakespeare. He said “Brevity is the soul of wit.” How smart are you? Challenge yourself by writing a headline that takes five to eight words. That’s it. The process may take a few (dozen) drafts but the final output is worth it.

5. Count your way to success. Next time you are in the express land at the grocery store, count the headlines that have numbers in them, and prepare to be surprised. Numbers grab the eye, it’s as simple as that.

6. Put your finger on the trigger. Ever heard of a “trigger word”? For many, these are words that just create more questions. However, think about what, how, when, and why. These words encourage learning while still being transparent.

7. Inspire curiosity. Think about the headlines you read. What do they all have in common? They were as successful as the cute guy or gal in school who would gesture with just their finger to come here. One look and off you go. With headlines, inspiring your curiosity should be all it takes.

8. Negative may be good. Headlines should grab attention and create an open door to the story. Using a negative word in a headline could force a reader to consider his or her insecurities. In some situations, that can be a good thing, namely when the story is trying to affect change.

9. When amiss, make a list. Listicles are the easiest way to make readers curious, educate folks, and create a means for traffic. And be novel. Everyone who does lists understands that the “Top 3” has been done quite a bit. Now, “Top 9″… well, just sayin’.

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