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Headlines tempt readers into a story or turn them away.

“On average, 5 times as many people read the headline as read the body copy,” said David Ogilvy, an advertising folk hero from the mid-20th century.

A headline and subhead (often called the deck) can be the most important words a writer crafts. Ruralite’s editors can pull a headline from a story, but it will be better fit if it is written by the person closest to the story—you.

Wait until you have written a story to craft the headline. Then try one of these 5 tricks to stand out and draw readers in.

1. Find the Heartbeat

Headlines should tell the story. Avoid generic phrases. Instead, pack the heart of the story into your headline.

One of the best ways to test a headline is to imagine you are telling a friend the most interesting part of your story. Sift through the facts and find what makes the feature a unique, interesting read.

Example

Braids, Buns, and Ponytails
Dads learn the finer points of little-girl hairstyling at Fairbanks Children’s Museum
By Kris Capps, Golden Valley Electric Association, Alaska

The headline, paired with a picture of gruff men trying to braid several little girls’ hair, catches attention. The subhead tells the full story.

2. Share Bite-Size Stories

You can not pack everything into a headline. Use subheads to support the headline with more detail, clarity or purpose. Subheads are effective under a headline and throughout a feature. Use them to create nuggets of a story or guide readers to key takeaways.

Example

Secret Volunteers Energize the Community
From concerts to crosswalks, small group gets things done in White Salmon
– Art, Events, and More
– No Spotlight Required
– Making a Comeback

By Drew Myron, Klickitat PUD, Washington

The subheads create a solid framework for the article. And by using the word “secret,” the author tempts you into the story to learn more.

3. Report on the Story

Put your journalism cap on and dig up the six questions reporters use to gather facts: who, what, why, where, when and how. Not only are these words great questions for an interview, they are the questions your story should answer. Pose questions in your headline to make content relevant to energy users.

Example

Why is My Electric Bill Higher This Year?
Temperature fluctuations have a large effect on how hard your heating system works
By Jacob Knudsen, Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative, Oregon

4. Number Takeaways

Tell readers they will learn 3, 4, or 5 things by reading a story. This could be 3 ways to lower an electric bill, 4 ways to keep winter winds out, etc. Pair numbers with solid reasoning words: facts, reasons, principles, lessons, ideas, ways, secrets, or tricks.

5. Harness Creative Adjectives

Want to add energy to a headline? Use uncommon or contrasting adjectives to share the color of your story. Be compelling, not bland.

Examples

Dynamic Duo Hopes for Big Win in Vegas
Documentary shows Brandon Buttars training top-notch horses at Snowville ranch
By Dianna Troyer, Raft River Electric Cooperative, Idaho

A Strong Heart in Thin Air
Condon runner takes on an extreme challenge
By Jody Foss, Columbia Basin Electric Cooperative, Oregon

Remember, the headline is the only part of the story some people read. Make it count.