Tag Archives: writers

Don’t Spoil Your Headline: 10 Mistakes Writers Make

headline mistakes writers make

Are headlines really that important for a successful online presence? Well, according to the opinions of the experts, a well written headline is absolutely mandatory for engaging your audience. They are your one and only chance of making a good first impression, one that will induce your readers to continue, sentence by sentence, right through to your call to action.

Online readers are a savvy bunch, with amazing abilities to filter any material irrelevant to their quest. If your headlines don’t immediately convey the benefits of reading your post, they’ll quickly move on to content that holds the promise of greater value. And with no readers, you can’t share your ideas, no matter how great they may be.

Effective headlines are based on market formulas that have been tested by industry giants over the years. So, to become proficient it’s a simple matter of study and then adapting an outline to your specifics. Sounds easy, right?

Test your headlines knowledge by seeing if you’re making any of the following 10 common mistakes. If you are, the solution already exists, so please, read on…

1. Treating your headline as an afterthought.

A great headline takes time, attention and focus. It needs to convey an idea, emotions, conflict and resolution. An outstanding headline is bloggers’ poetry, concise and evocative, whetting the appetite for more with promises of satisfaction.

To give the headline is proper due consideration, Brian Clark of Copyblogger recommends writing the headlines first, with this explanation: “Why? Your headline is a promise to readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you’ll deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time.”

By tailoring your content to fit the promise in your headline, you have the benefit of writing content specifically for keeping that promise, making the content focused, on topic and compelling.

2. Are you trying to be completely unique and original with every headline?

If so, please stop. This is an exercise that would stretch even the most creative of writers, and there’s simply no need. Headlines that work are based on tried and true methods that have been tested over and over, and continue to get great results regardless of the medium used.

Make your own compilation of swipe files for ready reference, and learn what makes an effective headline effective. Here are a couple of very helpful reference guides available for free download: Brian Clark’s Magnetic Headlines from copyblogger.com and Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks report from boostblogtraffic.com.

3. Headlines without keywords.

Keywords are important. And keyword research is like a crystal ball, giving you the ability to see what your target audience is looking for. It also endows the ability of talking their language. “Keywords matter, because when you speak the language of the audience, you attract more readers, more links, more retweets, more social bookmarks, and yes… more relevant search traffic.”

4. Are your headlines too passive?

If they are, then buff up for greater impact with an “active voice and strong present-tense verbs.” Neil Patel’s infographic on Hubspot gives a formula for creating effective headlines that demonstrates this principle very well.

5. Headlines without authority.

To establish the perceptual position as an authority in your niche, learn to master the ‘list’ and ‘how to’ headlines.

How do these types of posts bestow authority? List and how to posts are formatted to educate or entertain in a quick and easy manner, so if your content matches the headline’s promise you can quickly establish expert status. Plus, as Chris Lake at eConsultancy points out, if these posts are of value they can become “opinion magnets” and “share worthy”; a superb way to be seen as an authority.

6. Headlines that stretch credibility.

Overexposure to the fantastical, adjective driven headline has caused a certain amount of reader scepticism.
Ideally, the claims in your headline should be exciting, but believable. Provide useful content relevant to your readers’ needs and wants. If you’ve promised excitement, don’t let them down with empty content.

7. Headlines of vague benefit.

This is the flip side of the above point, to make that WOW impression on your readers: “Overpromise and overdeliver.” This advice is from Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley, where they “use breathless headlines to set the bar for content high. “

8. Drone headlines.

If headlines are too familiar, carbon copies of others in your niche, your readers programmed reading habits will simply filter them out. Your headline should have a unique twist reflecting your personality or angle to set it apart from everyone else’s.

Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam of Quicsprout offer a good explanation on how to make your headlines more distinctive in their Definitive Guide to Copywriting.

9. Non-targeted headlines.

To be compelling, headlines must be specific. Let your readers know that your headline’s offer is what they’re interested in. If content is king, specificity is queen – they go together hand in glove.

10. Headlines with no sense of urgency.

If you can create a sense of urgency in your headlines, you may be able to convince your audience to continue reading so they don’t miss out on what you promise. However, use this tactic with some discernment. Not all headlines need urgency to work well, and for those that do, discretion is advisable to maintain credibility. A headline that urges action unnecessarily can be seen as empty hype, making it less likely to be successful.

The goal of all headlines is to draw the reader into your post and engage them all the way to the conclusion. And when you can do that on a consistent basis, you’ve mastered the art of the compelling headline.

These Things Will Kill Your Creativity: Warning for Freelance Writers

creativity warning for freelance writers

Creativity can be a blessing and a curse. Riding the wave of inspiration can feel like the most glorious sensation in the world. However, when inspiration wanes and the work becomes more an exercise in brute force, it can be difficult to push on and continue being productive.

It’s not a secret that being a freelance writer requires something akin to a monk’s caliber of self-discipline. However, even the most disciplined writer is prone to moments of slacking. As writer John R. Perry describes in his book The Art of Procrastination, it’s possible to develop habits that will inspire you to work again by enhancing your mental stamina and imagination. On the other hand, there are some common habits that will only serve to deaden the senses and keep you even further from meeting your deadlines.

Here are some habits to avoid when you’re blocked:

1. Watching television

As American writer Gene Fowler once stated, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” With all that mental stress and concentration, it can be very tempting to turn off the brain for a while and turn on the television. Don’t do it.

There are enough studies that have proven that watching television lowers intellect, dulls the senses and even impairs the metabolic system. According to a study published by professors at Tohoku University in Japan, it’s even been held responsible for producing brain damage in children. So, come on, put the remote down. There’s nothing for you there.

2. Surfing the internet

In this age of digital technology, with constant status updates and tweets providing a never-ending source of news and entertainment, many writers (like George RR Martin and Zadie Smith) have opted to chop temptation off at the knees by writing on computers that have no access to the internet. Writing and staying motivated to write are hard enough tasks, without adding to it the task of self-monitoring your internet addiction. Take advice from the experts and get rid of the internet while you’re writing.

3. Don’t allow interruptions

Zadie Smith advises “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” And Susan Sontag claims, “One can never be alone enough to write.”

Whether you realize it or not, taking a phone call from a friend or spouse, replying to an email, or attending to your children all take you out of the mental space you’ve created for your writing. It’s hard enough to create that space in the first place. Harder still to get back in once you’ve left it for the noble task of scrolling down your Facebook newsfeed (see rule #2).

4. Clutter/Ritual

Clutter can be as much a temptation as the Internet. When you sit down to write and the mind starts to wander, it will find any excuse not to write, including cleaning up clutter. Before you know it, you may not only have cleaned up your study but set about defrosting the freezer or degreasing the floor under the stove (which hadn’t been done since you moved in). And there’s nothing wrong with that besides the timing and motivation for doing it which is to put off writing.

Many writers create a ritual where they prepare their space for work before sitting down to write: removing clutter, sharpening pencils, putting on some classical music. Find anything that works for you. Friedrich Schiller kept a drawer full of rotten apples that he claimed inspired him. Collette picked fleas off of her dog and hunted them around the room until she was inspired to write. Alexandre Dumas had a rigorous color-coded system where he wrote his poetry on yellow paper, fiction on blue paper, and articles on pink. Woody Allen used to write while standing up in the subway in New York. Whatever works.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist

As Anne Lamott puts it in not so mild terms, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Everyone wants to do well and get it right. But perfectionism rarely leads to good work, and most often leads to the abandonment of potentially wonderful work. Just get the words out. You can change them later.

Don’t try so much to control the flow, otherwise you’ll end up strangling it completely. Every word you write is practice. By censoring and editing before there’s even something to censor or edit, you’re not only failing to write but depriving yourself of the practice you need to write well.

There you have humble advice of professional writers to get you creating and keep you creative. Use it well and good luck!

Male vs. Female Writers [Infographic]

top male vs female infographic

Just like J.K. Rowling, many other female writers still choose to be published under fake male names, and here comes the question: “Does this really help to make it to the top?” Or, “Is there a gender bias in the publishing world?”

According to the gender identifying tool, it’s very easy to spot a female writer. Sadly, this difference has nothing to do with what the reader really wants. Blind readings and bestselling male pseudonyms can’t be wrong! Inequality is all about prejudice.

Here’s our handy infographic that can dispel some myths.

Pin it, share it…enjoy it!

Male vs female writers

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