Who Needs Headlines?

by Shaun Crowley

40 Reader Comments

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  1. I don’t question the merits of Shaun’s article — it’s useful and interesting. no doubt. I only question the artificial (in my opinion) separation “web copywriter”/“ordinary copywriter”…
    These are NOT two different people! A good, professional copywriter should know how to write for each medium, for each genre as the end result should always be the same — engaged reader.
    Even a rookie would know that web copy has to be more succinct and informational, that it’s not print advertising, nor radio, etc. But the “web writer” is not a different species.
    True, there’s plenty of badly written websites around, but I bet that their authors write bad print ads, too. I — being a copywriter myself — have contributed my fair share of web blah-blah, forced by clients who insist on covering all “selling points”…
    In short — a good writer is good because he could write well for print, web, direct mail, long brochures and boring sales letters. He even writes smart e-mail to his Mom. Today, some agencies look for “Direct Mail copywriters”, others — for “web copywriters” or “conceptual copywriters”, but I say – that’s a mistake.
    Look for talented ones, not for narrow “specialists” with blinders. Oh, and by the way — how exactly would the “web writer” collaborate with the “conceptual” one who created the theme of the ad campaign — so all media channels would work consistently and in unison?

    Milko Stoyanov
    Creative Director, Chicago

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  2. Thank you. Your list is the most succinct and comprehensive I have seen. Although a few responses point out that this is not new, what you have written is valuable. Let’s not get too worked up about the new. Knowing what to do is very different from actually doing.

    And what’s more, (That phrase sounds like overenthusiastic copy!) people are different. Those three words—people are different—are burned into my brain. You have a wide audience here. If we are not careful we can fall into the trap of projecting our own values (and experience level) on our readers.

    I agree with Milko that if you can write clearly, persuasively, and get to the point, then it you are likely to have the intelligence to modify what you write for different media.

    I am happy to have just discovered alistapart.com.

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  3. For someone like me struggling hard to improve their writing skills this article is more than enough to get started. Still, knowing what you want to deliver is one thing, the other is a lot of practice to make it look good. While this text cannot rplace practice, it can show you the way to a more effective outcome.

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  4. Joshua, for ideas about web copy, I always look to articles on effective selling. The principals often translate nicely to the principals of good web copy. For example, the kitchen sink syndrome has been called the “bull in a china shop”:http://www.salestrainingcamp.com/Archive_6_8_06.htm syndrome.

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  5. Lukasz,

    Yes, practice may not make perfect, but it helps. In order to write well you need to give yourself permission to make a mess.

    I think it was P.G. Wodehouse, one of my favorite writers, said that it was about the eleventh draft where he put in the spontaneity.

    Have you noticed how any accomplished person makes what they do look easy?

    Writing takes time. Like any creative process we have to understand the process. Just putting words on paper is the first step. At this stage the non-writer can believe he can’t write. Not so. Horrible first drafts are necessary. We have to start somewhere. Expecting instant results is only going to hurt you. But you need persistence and to go easy on yourself.

    Writing helps you think. It helps you organize your thoughts. Writing can even help you speak more clearly. Your writing will get better the more you do. It will get easier.  Writing also helps you appreciate what good communication is and how it works. You can get to the level where you have almost cut every adjective out. Management speak will be your enemy and you will write clearly. It’s all done with nouns and verbs.

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  6. After reading this article I will definitely think more about titles and refer back to this page when I write another article or news item for my website, very useful.

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  7. I know that there are so many people in here who find these informations to be a bit redundant, since they are specialists in this field. Still so many of us are totally new to this or with some small experience made just by doing and getting it wrong. In my country such a job is still something of the future and we have to think about our own text and headlines. As you can imagine, we are totally off sometimes.

    Good list. I’ll have to try and use this more. Some of the tips I kinda learnt, but there are so many I could surely start using.

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  8. This is a very well written article. The importance of headlines are paramount in the online world. My traffic surged as soon as I had finally figured out how to catch reader’s attention and draw them in.

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  9. Can report the same too, changed to some newspaper like Headlines and saw the results on the same day, 30% reader increase trough search engines. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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  10. Thank you, it’s a very useful article.

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  11. Thank you, it’s a very useful article.

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  12. I have just finished making the layout of a brochure and I realized that I used an headline which sounded somehow familiar to me. Then I noticed it looks like the famous “where do you want to go today?” by Microsoft though it’s in italian and it sounds “where do I want to go day?”.  I found out that the Microsoft headline in english is trademarked. I have to say that I am using it for a very small private transportation italian company which has nothing to do with computers and certainly Mr. Gates won’t ever come to know. But who knows. What should I do?  Thanks

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  13. Very good written article. Thanks for it.

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  14. Thanks for very interesting article. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your articles. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view”¦ makes you think more. Keep up the good work. Greetings

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  15. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting”¦

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  16. Wonderful article, many thanks

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  17. This is a very good article. Very helpful and informative. Keep it up!

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  18. Hello from beautiful Montana:

    Thanks for the good information. I found your site when I was printing off a list of emotions. Go figure.

    You gave me a lot to think about.  Maybe I need to edit some of my articles.

    Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relations coach and author
    http://www.ArtichokePress.com

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  19. Thank you so much for this information – you certainly made my mind work overtime.

    “BestMan Speeches – How I Overcame The Fear”:http://www.bestmanspeechesreview.com

    “Free Traffic eBook – FREE DOWNLOAD”:http://resalerightsexplained.co.uk

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  20. Thanks for sharing This is a great post, I stumbled across your article while looking for some random stuff. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be sure to return regularly,

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