Monday, January 12, 2015

Headlines that get noticed

Headlines have taken on great importance in today’s content-based, social, digital, marketing world.

Their job is to grab the attention of readers, search engines, news aggregators, and digital algorithms. They’re supposed to be simple, use keywords, and meet some need of readers. And, it seems, they should always provide 5 tips or 3 secrets or 9 points or 6 ways to do something.

Well, maybe. I write this blog to keep in touch with colleagues and to continually provide new writing samples for potential clients. I don’t worry so much about SEO or Google Search. What I do worry about is making sure my headlines are nothing like the ones below.

These are just a few I’ve read recently that cause me to roll my eyes and say out loud "Really?":

Headline: “Why it's so hard to pick oil's bottom”
Who hasn’t heard the saying, You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Do we really need to update this to include picking something’s bottom?

Headline: “Chinese media to soak in Southwest Florida”
Soak? Maybe if by soaking you mean immersion in an uncomfortably hot, humid environment. At least that’s how I feel during my visits to the area. I would hope the headline writer would want to evoke a more positive image.

Headline: "Your Buying Auto Insurance Wrong!"
And this Internet ad headline is written wrong. Confusing your and you’re is a common error easily remedied by remembering you’re is a contraction of you are, while your is a possessive pronoun (it’s your turn).

Headlines: “Dow closes down more than 300 points as oil nosedives” (AP, Jan 5) in the same weekly roundup column with “Dow roars ahead 300 points after rough start to year” (AP, Jan. 8)
The way I understand math, and markets, if the Dow falls 300 points and then “roars ahead” 300, you’re back to square one. Even Steven. No loss, no gain. So why the drama?

I'm not saying any of these headlines is wrong (excluding the misused "your" headline). I just think they could be written better. Or at least in a way that doesn't distract the reader from the main story.

Now that I've had my say, I'm almost afraid to look back over the headlines I've written throughout the years. Well, any missteps will just reinforce my belief that every writer needs a good editor. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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