"Every newspaper headline is a potential song." —Phil Ochs
By Scoti Springfield Domeij
A title captures the tune of your article. Work hard to create a title that sings, sings a song, sings out loud, sings out strong. Many readers only scan headlines and subtitles. Rhythm makes your title sing. Your title sings if it —
- Hooks the reader's attention.
- Is simple, direct and easy to read.
- Lures readers to read the body of your article.
- Relates well to the topic.
- Pinpoints the theme or essence of the entire article in a few words.
- Uses key words from the article.
- Is seven words or less. (If writing for the web, it's under 65 characters.)
- Uses strong, active phrasing.
- Employs short, ordinary, vibrant, powerful, or specific words.
- Avoids abbreviations.
- Offers a promise to the reader of a believable benefit.
- Reflects the article's tone: funny, solemn, irreverent, upbeat.
- Can be followed by a colon and a subhead clearly defining the subject of the article.
- Influences subtitles revealing reader benefits.
- Judges the relevance of each paragraph.
Take Ray Charles's advice for making your article sound good to the ear, "Do it right or don't do it at all. That comes from my mom. If there's something I want to do, I'm one of those people that won't be satisfied until I get it done. If I'm trying to sing something and I can't get it, I'm going to keep at it until I get where I want it."