We are all bombarded with more material than we can possibly read. So what makes us notice some articles and bypass so many others?
Often it’s the headline. Here are some ways to write effective feature headlines. I’ve included some examples, with the occasional explanatory note.
Use a homonym (a word that sounds the same as another word but has a different spelling and meaning) to encourage your reader to pause and make the “mental connection.” Here are some examples:
- “A Choreographer Raises the Barre,” The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2015.
A description about how a choreographer remodeled a rundown home in the English countryside.
- “Rey of Hope: Female Toys Near,” San Jose Mercury News, January 13, 2016.
A discussion about how companies will be bringing out more toys featuring Rey, the heroine of “Star Wars: the Force Awakens.”
- “For TV Stations, 2016 Ads Are Adds,” The Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2016.
An explanation of how spending on campaign ads is helping the bottom line at TV stations.
A Play on Words
Use common phrases to summarize your story. For example:
- “This Precious Metal Needs a Silver Bullet,” The Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2015.
An analysis of why the price of silver was going down.
- “A View with a House,” The Wall Street Journal, November 28-29, 2015.
A description of a house that was designed to capitalize on the vistas of the Arizona desert.
- “Is Bolt Losing His Thunder?” The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2015.
A discussion about whether Usain Bolt’s “iron grip on the title of world’s fastest man appears to be weakening.”
- “Cut Above the Rest,” San Jose Mercury News, September 7, 2015.
Description of a makeshift barbershop for the San Jose State football team.
- “Lululemon Stock? It’s a Stretch,” The Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2015
An analysis of the financial prospects of Lululemon, a leader in sales of stretch “athleisure” outfits.
- “A Scathing ‘JOBS’ Report,” San Jose Mercury News, September 4, 2015.
A negative review of the movie “Steve Jobs.”
- “Chickens Come Home to Roost,” Money Magazine, February 2016.
An editorial about the financial and emotional impact of raising kids and chickens.
Use words or phrases associated with particular industries or businesses to grab attention. Here are some examples:
- “With 27,205 Stores, Subway Gets Indigestion,” The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2015.
- “Big-Rig Buyers Slam on the Brakes,” The Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2016.
- “Campbell Searches for Success Recipe,” The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2015.
- “Nordstrom Tries to Keep in Style,” The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2015.
- “Coffee Disconnect Is Brewing,” The Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2015.
A discussion about how “rising demand for specialty brands has more roasters leaving futures exchanges.”
If possible, rhyme with a familiar phrase to grab the readers’ attention.
- “Chip Ahoy!” San Jose Mercury News, January 15, 2016.
A news feature about how Chip Kelly was hired as the San Francisco 45ers head coach.
What about you? What headlines get your attention? And how did they do that?