Headlines strike terror into the hearts of many writers—myself included. There seems to be some special juju connected to creating just the perfect headline, and all sorts of observers out there who are casting a jaundiced eye at your creation. But not to worry, all is not lost. In fact, where headlines are concerned, there’s a lot of good news.
This post borrows, as many of mine do, from folks who are good thinkers and smart communicators. (And don’t we need tons more of them in this crazy world?) A tip of the hat today to Ivan Levison, direct marketing writer and guru.
Mr. Levison starts a recent newsletter by asking just how long a headline should be? How many characters? And his answer? “ … when it comes to headlines there are no rules. Results mean everything.”
In defense of his thesis, Mr. Levison presents quite a long headline in an ad he saw while vacationing in the UK.
We buy any car that’s sitting in your driveway
somewhere right now costing you money
whilst you’re sitting on this train.
Don’t you just love the “whilst”? He notes the fun the writer obviously and the sense of style of the communication. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the classic VW “lemon” ad. Just one wonderful word, squeezed for all its meaning.
The lesson from this post? In Mr. Levison’s words, “When it comes to writing headlines, or just about any copy, don’t go looking for rules to slavishly follow. Write with some imagination and energy and you will do just fine.”
I’ve got a great idea for a one-word headline. How about “Argh!” Says so much. Takes up so little real estate. Any ideas about the topic toward which it could be applied?
I’ve written about headlines before. Here’s a link to one of my pontifications.