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A “formula” for writing compelling headlines without clickbait

  • Be CLEAR, not Clever
  • Specify the WHO
  • Specify the WHAT
  • Specify the WHY
  • Twist The Knife

From the Ship 30 for 30 email newsletter, which teeters on the edge of clickbaity for my tastes. (It also makes my teeth grate when I see “10x” used as a verb, which they seem to do frequently.) I have a background in science and government communications, and in those formats try to convey as much as possible in headlines because I know most people won’t read more, and it’s often for the broadest possible audience (geo-based), and I want some info absorbed… but for blogging and other types of writing, it would probably be worthwhile to consider more closely which headlines entice people to keep reading. (As long as you’re actually delivering on the quality and not spinning an article out of nothingness, then it is helpful to convince people your article is worth reading, and help people who’d be interested find it.) Their examples seem to be significantly longer than standard headlines since they want to include so much.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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