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October 07, 2015 By Hendrik-Jan Francke

Chunkify! Part 2: Write Effective Headlines That Make People Read

Writing headlines is difficult. Seriously. You have to say a lot with a little. You have to intrigue, but also declare page content. You have to win a click, and convince to keep reading.

Overwhelmed? Well take a deep breath. Let’s take a look at 6 rules that will make your headline writing more effective.

6 Rules of Effective Headline Writing


Users scan on the web, so headlines should say a lot with a little. 8-12 words, 1 - 2 lines. No compound sentences.

Example: Which headline is more informative? Which would motivate you to click or scroll?


Too Long: Two headlines, 5 lines total, and too many questions. Yuck!


Short & Sweet: Simple, direct, to the point. I like it.


Declare what the article or web page will be about. Tell them what to expect, then deliver! Learn how to Declare Page Content in Part 1.


If you promise they’ll learn something, you’d better deliver..


ONLY being accurate and informative runs the risk of making your copy too stiff. Even if users “get the point” quickly and easily, you must engage them with something intriguing.

Strike a balance by first providing context, then sparking interest in your user.

Understandable Out of Context

Who wouldn’t want their headline shared across the internet? To make this a possibility, make sure it can stand on its own. No one-word headlines. Make sure it’s descriptive.

Show example of search result listing, show blog index page

Front-Loaded: Put the Important Stuff in Front

6Z1pQi1CX9TlDc0nC2gGtZ7fZ_qStzGwUO6ggdNYKF0K2IKdHkOvW0091VxdsAt6dWQiQy5-8uz3mkLcALqMdoZUJvJgaypBmi-aMc_aVQs63LA2lUiI4YtNrXo-1lMhDfNgZMibEye tracking shows people scan the beginning of sentences. Therefore, The first three words are critical in our understanding of what the sentence is about.

Studies show that users scan in an F-Shaped Pattern.

Benefit First = Front-Loading

Users scan web copy quickly, thinking, “What’s in it for me?”. Front-loading nails down their painpoints (what they care about) by putting it in the front of the headline. Effect:

  • Your copy will be more direct
  • Users will engage with copy faster

How to Front-Load Headlines

  • Use passive voice. Passive voice puts the object first.
  • Start with the most valuable information first
  • Remove redundant information
  • Remove unnecessary information


Not Front-Loaded


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Bonus Rule: Inform, Don’t Ask.
This is more of a preference than a “rule”. But I urge you to use question headlines sparingly. Question headlines aren’t front-loaded. They are often vague and don’t declare content. They add an extra step to the user’s cognitive process. Inform, don’t ask.

One Page Exercise: Front-loaded, Declarative Headings

  • Take the most recent declarative headline you wrote. Front-load it. See, doesn’t it make a difference?

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