Today, I read a great post by PR expert and writer colleague, Kay Paumier of Communications Plus. Her post discussed the space between words, which was introduced by a monk sometime around 800 A.D. Who knew that people read aloud back then because thewordsallrantogether and they had to sound them out to grasp what was being communicated.
I love reading—and writing—about the more practical aspects of the written word. In a recent post, for example, I explored the magical power of type fonts, a topic that a surprising number of people found engaging.
Today, in the same spirit of practicality, I’m ruminating about headlines. Like eyebrows on a face, they create interest and engagement. If that seems a little overstated, consider those Dutch and Flemish paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries where some of the ladies appear to have no eyebrows. The artistry is exquisite, but those babes look a touch bland. My immediate reaction is to seek out a Frida Kahlo self-portrait. No mistaking the eyebrows there.
My idol, David Ogilvy, lauds headlines for their sales power, noting that five times as many people read headlines as they do body copy. Then he says, “It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”
I myself love a copywriting project where I have to come up with headlines. Compared to writing a headline—or subhead—creating the prose is a piece of cake. As I see it, adding interest to good copy with a great attention-grabbing headline is a lot like pulling out the eyebrow pencil when you doll up to go out.
Now, as a 2020 bonus, here’s a helpful video. (And there are tons of them on YouTube. Just search for “writing better headlines.”)
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