CAREER ADVANCEMENT / NOV. 20, 2014
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5 Common Headline Mistakes

A headline can be the most important part of an article, since it often determines if someone is even going to bother reading it. There are numerous guides on how to create the most effective headline possible, though few go in the opposite direction. People learn through observing the mistakes of others, and thus this article covers five of the most common mistakes headline articles can make.

Each heading shows an example of a headline gone wrong. Please learn from the mistakes being made, to prevent them from happening in your own work!

#1 Headline is Exceptionally, Stupendously, Too Long

A headline is designed to give a reader a brief idea as to the topic that will be covered in the article. By definition, in one single glance the reader should be able to determine exactly what is going on and if the material is relevant to whatever he is trying to do or learn.

There is a maxim that applies here, if the headline is longer one sentence and utilizes a comma, then it is too long. A simple, concise sentence is what readers are expecting. As a writer, you have to anticipate their needs and meet them.

#2 Headline is…

People look at headlines for information that tells them what is being discussed in the article. If the headline is too short, then it will not have the content needed to properly inform readers as to what is being discussed. When writing a headline, make a point to go back and read it out loud. Does it accurately reflect what is going on in the text? Can you understand what is being discussed, using the headline as a guide? If not, revise and possibly expand!

#3 Vernacular is Too Advanced

A large vocabulary is a beautiful thing, as it enables the owner to view the world with greater depth and understanding, than would be otherwise possible. However, few people spend their lives trying to expand upon their spoken repertoire. Keep the headline as simple as possible, while keeping in mind the target audience. If writing for a professional site, then accurate usage of industry jargon is acceptable.

#4 The Words are Too Simple

No one likes being talked down to, especially when it comes to an article designed to inform them of something they may not know. Utilize language appropriate for the target group’s age, education, and industry in order to create a headline that will bring them in.

Doing so not only creates a more welcoming piece, it adds to the credibility of the document by showing that the writer is capable of communicating on their level.

#5 The Kittens are Cute

Headlines need to be on topic. This typically crops up by accident, if the writer is in too much of a rush to self-edit a document before submission for publication. If a headline does not match the body below it, then the reader will immediately disengage and read something else. The best way to handle this is to not create the headline until after the body content has been written, and then compose the headline with the body in mind.

In short, you cannot know what will be the most effective headline until after the rest of the article has been typed out. Remember to reread everything you write, and see if the headline truly does the article justice. Does it match the content? Will readers feel engaged by it? Is it too long, or too short? Once you have answered all of these questions, then it is possible to say you have managed to avoid the five most common mistakes in creating a viable article headline.



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