How to write descriptive titles and headings

Write titles and headings that summarize your content and attract readers.
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Have you noticed that some web pages, magazines, and books are more appealing than others? Do you find that some user manuals are easier to understand than others?

Take a close look at the written materials that catch your attention. What do you see?

Eye-catching articles, blog posts, and books start with a descriptive title and use headings to guide readers through the document.

Give your writing that eye-catching appeal with descriptive titles and headings that capture attention, hold interest, and increase understanding.

Descriptive titles stop an audience in its tracks

How does a writer get off to a good start and lead readers down this engaging path? Here’s how to convince your audience to read your magazine articles, blog posts, books, and how-to guides.

Use these tips to write descriptive titles and headings that summarize the content, appeal to your readers’ curiosity, and provide the answers that convince an audience to follow you.

6 tips for writing descriptive titles and headings

Start with an outline and work according to your plan

Most readers need only a few seconds to decide whether to read a web post or a book. To keep readers on your pages, be generous with well-written titles and headings that are presented in a logical order.

Develop this step-by-step flow by beginning with an outline. An outline develops titles and headings that make sense to readers and helps readers understand the document’s message.

Here are more reasons to write with an outline:

  • To maintain writing focus and deter writer’s block.
  • To develop a natural flow from one idea to the next.
  • To present your audience with information that is organized and logical.
  • To increase the reader’s ability to use the content.

When your outline is finished, start writing. Use the main points from your framework as working titles and headings for the document.

When you’re finished with the first draft, polish your work. Ask yourself if there’s a more effective way to write each title and heading to describe the content and appeal to your audience.

Describe the content in a way that’s easy to scan

Readers don’t jump into a book or magazine article and start reading. They skim the material and look for clues that tell them what they’ll learn by reading further.

Get a reader’s attention with a title that describes the purpose or benefit of the written content. Keep their interest with headings that summarize the content.

You’ll reach the largest number of people by keeping titles and headings honest, concise, and engaging.

Be honest and state your message clearly

Always be honest with your readers when writing titles and headings. Deliver a message that is clear and compelling. The message should tell readers exactly what they’ll find in the document.

When titles and headings are unclear, readers may ignore your message. If titles are misleading, you may attract the wrong audience.

Titles and headings that are clear and honest answer these questions for the reader:

  • What is the material about?
  • What will I gain from reading it?
  • How can I use the information?

Be concise while still making your point

It can be a challenge to show readers what they’ll find in your book or article. It’s more challenging to make titles and headings short and keep your meaning. Here are some reasons why:

  • One- and two-word titles and headings can be ambiguous or misleading.
  • Short titles and headings don’t always tell readers what to expect.
  • Long titles and headings are difficult to skim.
  • Long titles and headings give the impression that the content is long and complicated.

The trick is to use enough words to be meaningful while avoiding wordiness. When it’s necessary to keep titles and headings to a few words, use sub-titles and sub-headings to add meaning.

Be interesting and choose your words carefully

Choose your words and phrases carefully to capture a reader’s interest and convince them to keep reading.

Choose words and phrases that answer their questions. Use words that describe the benefits gained from the information or that explain how to use the information.

Use words your audience understands. If you need help coming up with the right words, find a good online dictionary. These valuable resources improve vocabulary and offer other skill-building grammar tools.

Don’t stop at crafting honest, concise, and exciting headings. Strive for titles and headings that are accurate.

Proofread before you press publish

When you think you’ve finished writing, take a critical look at your titles and the headings.

If the titles and headings were all you saw, would you know what to expect? Does it give you enough clues about the subject?

And, is every word spelled correctly? Always proofread your work. Even when an editor will be reviewing your writing.

Then, ask a friend to proofread your writing. Ask them to point out misspelled words and awkward grammar. Ask them questions about what they read. Keep asking questions until you see your writing from a reader’s perspective.

If you don’t have a friend who’ll help proofread, find an online grammar checker to help you do the job.

Titles and headings shape a reader’s first impression of your writing. Remember, you know the purpose and content of the material, but your reader doesn’t.

The title, headings, and other upfront text are your first and best chance to attract your readers’ attention. Make these titles informative and appealing.