You pay attention to the heading of your article because that is what attracts readers. But don’t neglect subheadings! If you think your article is fine without them, you’re mistaken. According to The Nielsen Norman Group, 79 percent of people who use the internet scan a page before they read it. What will their eyes settle on? You guessed it—subheadings.
Well-written subheadings help the reader understand at a glance what your article is about and what he/she can gain from each paragraph. Added to this, subheadings make your work easier to read because they organize it. Long text is an immediate put-off: we’ve all clicked out of a website due to boring articles that contain masses of black text and no reprieve. Prevent this from happening to your article by making use of eye-catching subheadings.
Here are some tips on how to choose the right ones.
1. Make Them Fun, But Skip the Pun
Funny subheadings that make use of puns or clichés can come across as cheesy to the reader. For instance, calling a section in your dating article It’s Raining Men! might feel like a fun choice, but sometimes writers depend on tools such as puns, phrases, or clichéd sayings when they are not sure of how to describe the paragraph they’ve written in a more succinct, real way.
Prevent this from happening by looking at each paragraph closely and asking yourself:
- What is this paragraph about?
- What is the most important part about this paragraph?
- What do I want the reader to take from this paragraph?
The answers to the above questions can help you settle on a subheading that gives a preview of your paragraph. So, taking the above example of the dating article, a better subheading could be The Best Places to Meet Men. Now the reader knows what to expect and will be interested to continue reading.
2. Cut the Cryptic Words
One of the problems that occurs when people come up with subheadings is that their knee-jerk reaction is to make them creative. This is good because an interesting and original subheading will be successful, however you don’t want to confuse or mislead the reader.
So, let’s imagine you are writing about halitosis and one of your subheadings is Battling Stomatodysodia. Here you have used a medical term for halitosis, which the average reader will not know. Although you might think that this would create interest, remember that your readers want to gain solutions from your text and they don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what you are saying. If they are reading about halitosis, they want to understand more about it, not be further confused.
Subheadings are like doors opening up to rooms of text: you want them to be easy to unlock or else the reader will stop trying to open them.
3. Use Parallel Structure
Parallel structures are word or phrase patterns that are similar in nature. They make it easier for your reader to grasp what you’re trying to say. Subheadings with consistent grammar structure are memorable and eye-catching. Take this example, for instance:
Heading of article:
Tips for Installing Solar Panels at Home
Getting Your Home Ready
Choosing the Right Spot
Figuring Out Your Lateral Tilt
Placing and Securing Mounts
Fastening Mounts to Solar Panels
Connecting Solar Panels to Electrical Supply
In the above examples, you can see that the subheadings are consistent on a grammatical level as they all make use of words ending in -ing. For instance, getting, choosing, figuring, and so on. Other ways to make use of parallel structures in subheadings could include using verbs (for example, evaluate, write, edit) or making use of a question format for each subheading.
4. Make Subheadings Similar Lengths
Although your subheadings could vary in content, they should match in another way to create consistency throughout your article: subheading length! You don’t want some to be very short and others long because this will stand out like a sore thumb to readers. Generally speaking, try not to have subheadings that are too long (aim for no more than five or six words) so that your sentence doesn’t lose effect. Word economy, the art of choosing words without wasting any of them, is an important part of subheadings because every word packs a punch.
Look at this example:
Subheading Example 1:
Fitness Errors and How to Remedy Them
Subheading Example 2:
Fix Your Fitness Errors
You can see that the second subheading is much more gripping than the first one. This is because it is shorter and snappier. The word ‘fix’ is much more powerful than ‘remedy’ and it saves you from using four extra words (‘how to remedy them’).
5. Connect Subheadings to Your Title
When you are stumped for a subheading, try to link it back to your article’s main heading so that you stay on track. For instance, if you are writing an article entitled Easy Ways to Save Money, your subheadings should each list a way in which you can achieve this.
Let’s look at this list of subheadings:
Subheading Example 1:
Cut Back Costs with Credit
Subheading Example 2:
Why Saving is Important
Subheading Example 3:
Open a Savings Account
Subheading Example 4:
Keep a Record of All Expenses
The article heading is telling readers that they can expect money-saving tips. From the subheadings above, the second one—Why Saving is Important—doesn’t fit in with this idea, so it should not be there. If you want to add a bit of background to the article, you could place this in the introduction.
6. Every Subheading is a Step Forward
A final tip when dealing with subheadings is to view them as stepping stones. Each one carries a paragraph or section that builds on the article and moves the reader one step closer to their destination of understanding your topic. By making the subheadings eye-catching and linking them back to the main points of your article, you offer the reader an exciting and safe journey, instead of letting them miss a step into the dark ocean of disorganized text.
About the author:
Giulia Simolo is a freelance journalist who has always been passionate about writing. A regular contributor to various websites and publications, Giulia has garnered a lot of experience as a freelance writer and enjoys sharing this with others who wish to enter the exciting field of journalism. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Also by Giulia Simolo:
1. When Words Meet Pictures (article)
2. How to Write Riveting Book Reviews (article)
3. How to Write Web Copy that Sells! (article)
4. Writing E-Mails to Editors (article)
5. How to Write the Perfect Article Pitch