Headlines are arguably the most important part of writing. Like a window display, their purpose is to encourage your customers to enter your “shop” and take a closer look what you have on offer. A poorly worded title can repel your potential readers, whereas a captivating headline will bait their interest, giving you the best chance of selling your ideas.
Learn From The Best: Maintain Your Own Headline Swipe File
For any writer, then, it is important to know how to write great titles. One of the best places to start is to glean from others who have already mastered this skill. One tried and tested technique is to maintain a “swipe file” of enticing headlines. Whenever you come across a title that captures your imagination and make you want to read more, add it to your file as a source of ideas for your own writing.
In your quest for potent headlines, you can take in inspiration from anywhere:
- Books, especially their cover titles and chapter titles
- Other people’s swipe files…
Save Time: Start With My Headline Swipe File
Below I’ve distilled some of the most seductive headlines that I’ve come across (I may add more to the list in future, but I’m not promising anything).
Respect My Property (and I’ll Respect You)
You’re welcome to copy the whole list for your own private use, and to use individual headlines for any purpose whatsoever, but please don’t just re-publish the whole list without contacting me first.
If you find anything really great during your own research, please consider using the comments to share them with us all.
Fill in the Blanks to Generate Great Titles
To use these templates, just fill in the blanks. Better still, re-mix them as you please to make them your own. I’ve provided (mainly fictional) examples to get you started.
Add [desirable X] to your [Y] for / in just [resource Z]
- Add sex appeal to your headlines in just 3 easy steps
Are you / your [undesirable X]?
- Are your kids out of control?
- Are you confused about VAT?
Are you [undesirable feeling X] by / from / about [event Y] / [subject Y]?
- Are you embarrassed by your dog?
- Are you worried about getting old?
- Are you safe from zombies?
Crimes we commit against [valuable X]
- Crimes we commit against our children
Discover [desirable X] (that is hidden by [commonplace Y])
- Discover your inner child
Do wonders with [resource X]
- Do wonders with vinegar
Do you have / need [X]?
- Do you have bad breath?
- Do need to get more done?
Do you have these symptoms of [undesirable Y]?
- Do you have these symptoms of a cluttered mind?
Do you have what it takes to [X]?
- Do you have what it takes to be a mum?
Do you make these common mistakes with [X]?
- Do you make these common mistakes with money?
Do you want [desirable X] but can’t get started?
- Do you want to clear the clutter, but can’t get started?
Don’t [X] without first [Y]
- Don’t buy a car without first reading this
Don’t let [condition X] [undesirable Y]
- Don’t let worry ruin your day
Easy / Small / Simple [investment X] that [outcome Y]
- 8 Simple exercises for a physique like Arnie
Every [X] is [reaction Y] [subject Z]
- Every parent fears these trends
Former [low status X] [achievement Y] with [limited resource Z]
- Former mechanic makes £100,000 a year
Get rid of [undesirable X] once and for all
- Get rid of mice once and for all
Here’s a quick way to [desirable X]
- Here is a quick way to overcome boredom
How / Why [event X] [outcome Y]
- Why eating bread is bad for your health
How I [desirable X] by / in / without / with [action Y / resource Y]
- How I lost weight without eating less
- How I made £500 a month on-line
How [action X] can lead to [desirable Y]
- How cheese can make you happy
How [person X] is achieving [desirable Y]
- How a mum of 3 is running for president
How a new kind of [X] [improvement Y]
- How a new kind of mousetrap catches 10x more mice
How much is [X] costing you?
- How much is your car costing you?
How to [activity X] so that / to [desirable Y]
- How to sell on-line to clear your clutter
How / What would you [X]?
- What would you be prepared to do for £5?
- How would you deal with these kids?
How would you like to (have) [desirable X]?
- How would you like to own a car like this?
I [desirable X] and [desirable Y] at the same time
- I had my cake and ate it at the same time!
If you were given / won [resource X]…
- If you won this LEGO, what would you build with it?
Imagine [desirable Y]
- Imagine being able to sing
Is [desirable X] worth [amount Y] (to you)?
- Is learning a language worth 15 minutes of your time?
Is your [X] lacking / missing [Y]?
- Is your home lacking light?
It seems incredible that [desirable X]
- It seems incredible that people still go without food
Little [X] that [outcome Y]
- Little flies that spoil your ointment
- Little fears that keep you from promotion
Little known ways to [desirable X]
- Little known ways to cook sardines
No more [undesirable X] now that I [action Y]
- No more split ends now that I use this serum
Often [desirable X] but never [even more desirable Y]
- Often interviewed, never appointed
Should I [do X] or [do Y]?
- Should I buy now or wait until after the holidays?
Take the [undesirable X] out of [activity Y]
- Take the drudgery out of ironing
- Take the stress out of the rush-hour
The biggest lie in [X]
- The biggest lie in showbiz
The [person X] who [achievement Y]
- The man who conquered Everest
The [person X] with /of [feature Y]
- The host with the most
- The king of cakes
The [N] biggest [activity X] blunders
- The three biggest house-buying blunders
The new [X] that [desirable Y]
- The new way of cooking that doesn’t make you wait
The quick way to [desirable X]
- The quick way to paint a room
The secret [X] that [group Y] doesn’t want you to know
- The secret math that the bookies don’t want you to know
The secret of [X]
- The secret of a great body
- The Secret of making people fall in love with you
The signs of [X] (and how to [Y] it / them)
- The signs of ageing and how to hide them
The truth about [subject X]
- The truth about sugar
They laughed when [X] but then / now [desirable Y]
- They laughed when I put chocolate in my gravy – but then they tried it
This almost-magical way to [achieves Y]
- The almost magical way to open get rid of freckles
Tired of [undesirable X]?
- Tired of feeling tired?
Use [unlikely X] and / to [desirable Y]
- Use honey to wash your hair
Want to be [X]?
- Want to be taller?
What [person X] never told you about [subject Y]
- What your Dad never told you about power tools
What every [X] should know about [subject Y]
- What every Dad should know about nappies
What to do when [undesirable X]
- What to do when your world falls apart
- What to do when you’re lost at sea
When [expert X] [undesirable Y] this is what they do
- When doctors get sick this is what they do
Which of these [X] do you want / want to avoid?
- Which of these people do you want to avoid?
Who else wants [X]?
- Who else wants perfect teeth?
- Who else wants to look like a movie star?
Who ever heard of [desirable X] whilst [desirable Y] at the same time?
- Who ever heard of someone loosing weight and eating cake at the same time?
Whose fault is it when [undesirable X]?
- Whose fault is it when steel-workers loose their jobs?
Why [X] is better than [Y]
- Why wraps are better then bread
Why [undesirable X] (and what you can do about it)
- Why kids like sweets (and what you can do about it)
- Why you’re always tired and what you can do about it
Why some people almost always [desirable outcome X]
- Why some people almost always get the job
You too can [desirable X] ([limited resource Y]) (if you [action Z])
- You too can give a dog a home for just £3 a month
You, a [desirable X]?
- You, a teacher?
[Achieve X] that you can be proud of
- Run a business that you can be proud of
[Action X] for a / your way to [desirable Y]
- Dance your way to fitness
[Action X] the (kind of) [desirable Y] that [Z]
- Find the kind of woman that you dream about
[Authority X]’s guide to [subject X]
- A CEO’s guide to managing people
[Authority X] proves that…
- Science proves that water is good for you
[Activity X] like [high achiever Y]
- Work out like an Olympic athlete
[N] (easy / quick / simple / effective) ways to [desirable Y]
- 5 easy ways to improve your mind
[N] Surprising [Xs]
- 10 surprising facts about anchovies
[N] familiar [undesirable X] — which one do you want / need to [desirable X]?
- 7 familiar problems with cats — which one do you need to eliminate?
[N] little [X] that will [desirable Y]
- 2 little words that will win you friends
[Quantity X] of people can [desirable Y] but never know it
- Thousands of people can paint like a pro but never know it
[N] types of [Y] – which one are you?
- 3 types of lover – which one are you?
[Undesirable X] and how to avoid it / them
- Lateness and how to avoid it
[outcome X] – [person Y] does it so easily
- Making pizza – my mum does it so easily
[People group X] [achieve X] who never thought they could
- Over 60s who run a marathon and who never thought they could
Add Catchy Prefixes for Even More Allure
- At last…