Titles are like faces. They're the first thing we notice, and we form our earliest impressions from what we see there.
The straightest line from your article to the reader is an overview title. Condense your key points into one or two lines, and use the title to tell what the article is about. For example, "Permanent Press: Using Press Releases to Keep Your Company in the News" wastes no time before bringing the reader right to the point of the article.
Overview titles fit particularly well in corporate newsletters, press releases, and other business communications aimed at "scanners" - readers who scan headlines looking for relevant news.
If your objective is to draw readers in for conversation or debate, pose a question in your title. A title like "Why Haven't You Been Published Yet?" or "What Do Your Sales Reps Really Do All Day?" invites readers in to explore their hopes and (secret) fears. It suggests that you've gained certain wisdom through experience, and that if they read your article, they might gain it too. A question title is a good set-up for an article with insider tips or professional "how to".
When you're one of many writers vying for reader attention - for example, on an Internet news site or in a newspaper or other competitive publication - you may need to intrigue (even provoke) readers into your article with a title that takes a stand. "Bottled Water is Destroying America". "Real Parents Don't Use Pacifiers". "Barbie Promotes Fascism". By using the title to announce your position you challenge readers to lace up their gloves and join the fight, whichever side they're on.
If you write "how to", professional advice, or self-improvement articles, use your title simply to offer assistance. Let the reader know at a glance that they can become more-better-faster by reading your article. "Copy Editing in Three and a Half Easy Steps". "How to Train a Winning Sales Team". "Working From Home - Making it Work". Tell the reader that you're offering useful advice.
Subscribe to receive my bi-monthly Onwords™ column, and join me next time for "Buff Your Body", Part 2 of the Anatomy of an Article series.
Copyright © 2007 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.