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So why start at the beginning…?

by on 1 Oct, 2013

When writing, I usually create the headline first.

I could be creating an e-shot, a web page, a blog post, or even a press release.

Having decided on the headline, I then find it much, much easier to write the body copy, because the headline gives my imagination a focus, a theme, a central message. Or sometimes all of the above…it also helps me judge the appropriate tone-of-voice for the piece.

And this hopefully means less time on rewrites and editing, because I have managed to get more of the content right, first time around.  To me this is just applied logic, and most writers I work with – or train – tend to agree.

However some people find it very difficult to start with the headline, and prefer to start tapping away at the content, returning to the headline later. I would find this impossible, and I have to say, a very inefficient use of my time.

Depending on the context, a good headline not only gives the reader a taster of what is to follow, it should also motivate them to continue reading. This can be achieved through a number of proven techniques, including: relevance, timeliness, humour, shock/surprise, trivia, teasing, endorsement, warnings, or often, just the straightforward benefits for the reader.

Again, common sense. Yet I still encounter writers who strive to reproduce the inherent total value of the piece in the headline alone. Of course this just makes it easier for the reader to move on, because they have already been given the core of the story. It’s easy for them to decide that they don’t actually need to read the entire piece.

So a headline should strive for impact first, and providing information second.

Not rocket science perhaps, though possibly an art form…?

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