A few years ago, the Huffington Post published the following column…
Okay, so the title of this piece is a blatant attempt to get your attention. Isn’t that the purpose of a title: to get your attention?
“Hey, read this, it’s important to you!” or “Don’t read this, and you will be sorry later!” or “Don’t you want to know?”
A title, headline or subject line is the key to attracting the people’s interest and entice them to read what follows. It is the foundation on which your words are built. If you’re expecting people to read your work because you put it in front of them, you’re not being realistic or finishing your work. In this case, finishing your work comes at the beginning of the process.
Unless you’re writing for academia you need to capture your reader’s eye in a flash, or you’ll lose him/her in a blink of that very same eye.
I write about business for organizations, trade publications and online blogs. I also author material that’s more personal and, some say, politically charged — I do that under a pen name. In both cases, I expend a lot of energy to craft the best headline or title I can create in order to intrigue the reader. Here are just a few of the latest:
“Turn This Ship Around”
An article on the dire financial condition at the U.S. Postal Service, their efforts to correct the situation, the successes and the long way to go.
“The Future of Your Company is NOW”
A focus piece for CEOs on the importance of examining the past, present, and future of their companies today.
“One, Two, Three, Forty-Five, Three Hundred!”
An Op/Ed piece on the recent barbaric murders committed by ISIS.
“Take a Break — or Else”
An examination of why it’s important for executives and business owners to achieve work/life balance by taking time for themselves away from the job.
“Because I Wanna”
A commentary on the litany of executive orders being issued by the President.
“The Secret of Ugly Sweater Day”
What happens when employees get involved in a fun concept and foster new bonds.
Titles, or headlines, should be bold.
Don’t be afraid to ring the bell with your title. Shout, holler, yell, cry, sing or criticize. The ones I dislike the most are the “intellectual” types of openers. If people think you’re going to preach at them, they’ll turn you off in a heartbeat. If people read a title that sounds like you’re talking directly to them, they may become interested, and if your title does its job very well, they will become interested and fully engaged. You’ll have the opportunity you were hoping for. An audience that values what you have to say because they came inside.
My writing process always starts with the title. It’s what gets my juices flowing, my motor running and my fingers typing. That’s not to say that the original title makes the final cut. Don’t be afraid to change the headline to reflect your text as it takes on shape. Often, a phrase or word in the body of your piece can have a dramatic impact on your title. I do believe, however, that if you start with a strong title, the final one will be very similar to the original — only better.