Tag Archives: writing tricks

Uncommon Tricks for Writing Good Headlines

writing good headlines

You’ve read the statistics. Eight out of ten people read the headline but only two out of ten people read the article. Effective headlines have the potential to increase your site’s traffic by 500%.

There are hundreds articles about writing catchy headlines based on formulas and algorithms. And a whole lot of energy being put into analyzing which headlines work best. But since everyone’s reading those posts and using those formulas, readers start to catch on and what worked last year may not be as effective today. Want to get ahead of the curve or simply stick out from the crowd?

Give some of these trend-bucking headline techniques a go.

Shock and awe

Find the most incredible fact about your topic and throw it out there in the headline:

“Millions of Kittens Euthanized in China”
“1,000 Times More Violent Deaths in The US than in Afghan War Zones”

Whatever your topic, find the most extreme sounding fact, the most outrageous statistic and work it. Make sure it’s true, no making things up. Just find the angle that allows you to drive home your point in the most jaw-dropping way.

Stir up controversy

If your topic is a hot-button item like politics or religion, then your best bet for a clickable headline is to dive into the deep end of the debate. Taking a strong stand one way or the other will result in two things:

  1. Those who agree will click because they agree so completely.
  2. Those who disagree will click because they’re outraged at how strongly they disagree.

This technique works best for highly polemic issues on which there is a clear split in opinions:

“Why Republicans Are Destroying Our Country”
“You Take Away My Guns, I’ll Take Away Your Constitution”
“Why the Bible Is A Lie”

Appeal to the negative

We live in the age of positivity. My Facebook newsfeed is proof of it: rife with reposts of happiness advice from the Dalai Llama to Kim Kardashian. So, if you really want to stick out, try steering clear from the current thumbs-up trend. A lot of people feel secretly relieved when encountering negativity. The pressure to stay smiling can get to be too much.

Be catty – think Joan Rivers criticizing red carpet fashion.
Be nihilist – think 90’s grunge bands proselytizing the end of fun.
Be blunt – “_____ Is a Moron”.
Be apocalyptic – “Why We’re All Going To Die in the Next Year”.

Try rhyming

Harking back to ad campaigns of yore, copywriters used rhymes to create a catchy sales pitch: “Winston’s Taste Good Like a Cigarette Should” and Pringles’s “Once you pop, you can’t stop”. Presidential campaign slogans use rhymes because they’re easy to remember and fun to repeat: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”, “I Like Ike”, “All the Way with LBJ” and “Ross for Boss”. So, if you can find a way to rhyme your headline, you might earn a click or at least a memorable line.

Use caps and exclamation points

All headline advice says to avoid this because it looks spammy. Well, since we’re trying to do things a little differently around here, why don’t you try messing around with the visuals of your headline:

“How to Think BIG When Your Budget is small”
“How to Get Out of Your Parent’s Basement TODAY!”
“8 WAYS NOT TO REACH FOR ANOTHER DOUGHNUT!”

Use other languages

Everyone writes in English. How boring! Try using popular phrases in other languages in your headlines. Obviously it has to be a recognizable phrase like “au revoir”or “capice” or “arrigato”: “Why Republicans Are Saying Au Revoir To the New Health Care Bill”.

Strike fear into their hearts

Not in a horror film kind of way (although that’s certainly one way to go) but in a way that makes them fear they’ll be in dire circumstances if they don’t read this article. Nothing like manipulating nascent fears can boost your post’s popularity:

“10 Beach Destinations To Avoid This Summer If You Want to Survive ‘Til Fall”
“Someone May Be Hacking Your Facebook Right Now”

Be absurd

Cultivate the weird and surreal in your headline. Make it so bizarre that they have to read it twice or three times and still go “huh?”:

“Male Gymnast Says Key to Success is Poison”
“Spelling-Bee Champ Loses Title For Telepathic Cheating”
“Dog Scores Higher On SAT Than Most Public School Students”

Use unusual numbers

Top ten lists are a cliché and have been since David Letterman starting giving his every night show. Top five lists are a close second. Come to mention it, people may be getting tired of top 3’s and top 7’s as well. Use unpopular numbers like 4 and 8 and pretty much every number from 11-19. Instead of a list of 20, make it 21. You get the idea.

“13 Ways To Choose A Good Wine”
“18 Careers That Are Making People Rich”
“32 Cities For Baby-Boomers”

The longer the better

Everyone says you should keep it simple. Simple clean language rules the day. Short and sweet. Try giving your readers credit for being able to make it to the end of a headline that’s longer than six words. Even if they don’t actually read the article, stop limiting your verbosity and just let things flow:

“How I Came To Stop Believing The Hype and Went Back to Non-Organic Grocery Stores – And Saved $500/Month”
“4 Books You Should Be Reading That Will Allow You To Join The Snob’s Circle At The Christmas Party”

Improve Your Academic Writing With 7 Simple Tricks

improve your academic writing

There is virtually no such thing as being naturally good at academic writing. It’s a skill honed over years of training, starting from your first expository essay in middle school and gaining momentum throughout high school and university.

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn. If you’re struggling with your academic writing or would simply like to improve the skills you already have, here are some tricks to get you writing better essays:

Craft a clear thesis

One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to spend time fine-tuning your thesis statement. The clearer, more well-defined and specific it is, the easier your essay will be to write. That’s because you’ll have a good idea of exactly what to look for. On the other hand, the more vague and broad it is, the harder it will be to research and find supporting evidence for it.

For example: “Young children who are exposed to reading in their home environments tend to perform better academically throughout their education.” vs. “Reading is good for you.” For the first one, you know what age group you’ll be researching, what kind of evidence you need to support it, the types of academic journals you can look for to find evidence to support it, etc.

The second statement could apply to any age group or demographic and could mean anything from staving off Alzheimer’s to alleviating depression. It’s just too broad to know where to begin.

Make it readable

The common belief is that academic writing has to be stiff, boring and full of words that require a dictionary to understand. Actually, an essay’s greatest strength is in its readability. If the ideas are conveyed in simple terms in a way that flows and with supporting evidence, that’s the best you can ask of an academic piece.

Overusing of sophisticated terminology may confuse your reader and make it difficult to understand your thesis. Don’t let your point get buried under unnecessary academic frills.

But don’t be too casual

Though you don’t want to be too stiff, you don’t want to be too casual either. Slang, curse words and colloquial phrases don’t belong in an academic paper. Keep the point of view in the third person present or simple past.

Don’t use the first or second person. Ex: “The beginning of the 21st century can be defined by the use and misuse of social media.” vs. “These days, you need to be careful who you friend on Facebook.” The first one is appropriately formal, the second one is too casual for an academic paper.

Stay objective

Writing an academic paper is a little bit like being a diplomat. You have to make a statement but at the same time tow the line between making an objective observation and stating a subjective opinion. An academic essay should always be objective.

Blanket statements that express bias are not appropriate. Ex: “All Republican politicians are corrupt.” That’s a biased statement and an accusation. It’s also too broad. Try this instead: “Widespread allegations of voter fraud in Florida districts during the 2004 elections have cast a long shadow of corruption on the Republican party.”

Avoid subjective statements that include “all”, “every” and “always”. Instead use objective phrases such as “It’s likely that…”, “It’s possible that…” and “Evidence suggests that…”.

Quote sparingly

There’s nothing wrong with using quotes. At the very least, they show that you’ve done some research. But it’s all too easy to cross the line into over-quoting. Of course it sounds good coming from the mouth of an expert and it’s tempting to let them do all the talking. But the essay is yours and the professor wants to read your words and your perspective on the subject. Over-quoting not only drowns out your voice, but it robs you of the chance to practice writing. And the more you practice writing, the better you’ll get.

Be specific

When producing evidence to support your thesis statement, be as specific as possible. Don’t say “A lot of people use alternative forms of medicine these days.” Instead say “According to a study by the American Journal of Medicine, from 2000-2010, use of alternative and holistic medicine has increased in the United States by 23 percent.” Fill your essay with credible information.

Use numbers, statistics, dates, facts, titles, names of institutions and experts. These things lend authority to your writing, making your research so transparent that the reader can essentially trace your steps and verify your research for themselves. No fuzzy blanket statements or fabricated opinions, just solid facts.

Leave time to edit and proofread

Probably one of the most overlooked skills in academic writing is editing. That may be because of a common ailment called procrastination. You wouldn’t be the first or the last student to write their essay at the last minute, but by doing so, you lose a chance to edit. Editing requires time – not only the time it takes to edit, but time in between the writing and the editing process to let your thoughts settle, so you can look at your words with a fresh perspective.

By doing this, you’re more likely to spot grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, identify and fix awkward phrasing and catch any contradictory theories that don’t add to or support your thesis. An essay that’s been edited at least 3 times is usually good to go. Make sure you leave time for this process. There’s really no substitute for it.

For a helpful guide to common grammar errors, crafting an argument and other writing tips, check out this link from the University of Essex.