Headlines summarize what your articles are about, so it’s only natural that they typically attract your audience. However, your subheadings are just as important, so it’s essential that you give them the attention that they deserve. One study found that 79% of users scan a page before they read it in full. Guess what parts of the article influenced whether, or not, a reader read the article in full? You guessed it – the subheadings! Effective subheadings help readers understand what your article is about and what they can gain from each paragraph or section.
Furthermore, incorporating effective subheadings into your articles helps organize your content and makes it easier to read. Large chunks of text typically send readers running for the hills. You can avoid this by employing eye-catching and effective subheadings. Here are a few tips on how to craft powerful text nuggets that can make or break an article.
Keep Them Fun, But Avoid the Pun
Most readers will find subheadings that employ puns or clichés cheesy. Puns and clichés may seem like a fun option. However, writers often rely on puns and clichés when they’re unsure of how to describe the section of text in a more succinct and real way. So steer clear of puns and clichés if you want to captivate your audience with effective subheadings.
You can avoid this pitfall by carefully reviewing each paragraph and asking yourself the following:
- What is the section about?
- Why is this section important?
- What is the most important part of this section?
- What do I want the reader to take away from this section?
By answering the above questions, you can develop effective subheadings that provide a preview of the paragraph that follows. You want your audience to gain a decent idea of what the following section is about before they take the time to read it.
Effective Subheadings Are Direct
Writers often create their subheadings based on knee-jerk reactions. This is a good thing because an interesting and original subheading is an effective subheading. However, you do not want to confuse or mislead your audience with overly creative subheadings.
Let’s say you’re writing a post about how to manage a nasty case of halitosis and one of your subheadings is Battling Stomatodysodia. Kudos for using the medical term for halitosis. However, how many readers will know what the heck Stomatodysodia is? Using the medical term may seem like a great way to generate interest. However, you want to provide your audience with valuable content that doesn’t require them to look up the definitions of your vocab. In short, if your audience is reading about halitosis, they want to better understand it, not be confused even more.
You need to think of subheadings like the doors opening into rooms that are your text. You want them to be easy to unlock. Otherwise, the reader will stop trying to open them.
Employ Parallel Structure
Parallel structures are word or phrase patterns that are similar in nature. They make it easier for your audience to grasp what you’re trying to get across. Effective subheadings typically incorporate consistent grammar structures and are both memorable and eye-catching. Take the following series of subheadings for example:
Article Title: Tips for Installing Solar Panels
- Getting Your Home Ready
- Selecting the Right Spot
- Calculating Your Lateral Tilt
- Placing & Securing Your Mounts
- Fastening Mounts to the Solar Panels
- Connecting Solar Panels to Your Electrical Supply
In the above example, you will notice that the subheadings are consistent in terms of grammar as they all make use of verbs ending in -ing. For instance, “getting,” “selecting,” “calculating,” etc. Other ways to employ parallel structures in subheadings could include using verbs or making use of a question format for each subheading.
Effective Subheadings are of Similar Length
While your subheadings can vary in terms of content, they should match when it comes to their length. You don’t want some subheadings to be very short and others to be longer than most. Doing so will make the longer subheadings stand out like a sore thumb to your audience. In general, effective subheadings are short and to the point – no more than five or six words. This helps maintain the power of your actual content. Word economy – the art of choosing words without wasting space – is an essential part of writing effective subheadings. Every word needs to pack a serious punch.
Let’s take a look at the following two subheadings:
- Fitness Errors and How to Remedy Them
- Fix Your Fitness Errors
The second subheading is far more gripping than the first one because it is shorter and more snappy. Furthermore, the word “fix” is far more powerful than “remedy”. The word choice also saves you from using extra words – “how to remedy them”. Remember, less is more when it comes to writing effective subheadings.
Link Your Subheadings Back to Your Title
When you hit a wall for your next subheading, try linking it back to the title of your article. This is a great way to help you stay on track. For instance, if you’re writing an article titled Easy Ways to Save Some Cash, your subheadings should each list a way in which you can achieve this goal.
Here’s a sampling of effective subheadings that you could potentially use:
- Cut Back Costs with Credit
- Why Saving is Important
- Open a Savings Account
- Keep a Record of All Expenses
Each subheading tells the reader that they can expect money-saving tips. From the sampling of subheadings, the second one – Why Saving is Important – doesn’t fit with this idea, so it shouldn’t be there. However, the content from this odd duckling of a subheading could make for awesome content in your introduction.
Every Effective Subheading is a Step Forward
Here’s my final tip on effective subheadings – view them as individual stepping stones that eventually form a path. Each subheading carries a section of text that builds on the previous sections and moves the reader one step closer to their goal of understanding the overarching topic. By making your subheadings eye-catching and tying them back to the main points of your article, you offer the reader an exciting and well-thought-out journey, instead of letting them miss a step into a chasm of disorganized text.