The headline is one of the first things a reader sees in your press releases, pitches and other media relations pieces. If it’s not effective, the headline may be the last thing the reader sees, as well.

Use these three tips to write more effective headlines:

  1. Telegraph a single newsworthy story. Your headline should cover one story, not many. Here’s a quick test to run on your headline: Count the number of commas, semicolons, dashes and other punctuation it includes. Each piece of punctuation may be a clue that you’re trying to cover too many ideas in your headline.
  2. Keep the headline to eight words or fewer. That’s the number of words in a sentence readers can comprehend
     completely, according to a study by the American Press Institute. At that length, editors and reporters should be able to understand your point at a glance.
  3. Check your verb. “A story should be a verb, not a noun,” said Byron Dobell, former editor of Esquire. Something should be happening here. To make sure your verb is strong, ask:
  • Is the verb enticing? Does it telegraph that something interesting is happening here? (Note: “Announced” ain’t it.)
  • Is it the second or third word in the headline? Or is it buried behind a nine-word product name or the names of each of your company’s 17 project partners?
  • Is it in the active voice? The present or future tense?

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