Good headlines write themselves

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Most ‘copywritten’ headlines don’t deliver.

Desperate for attention, they make promises they can’t keep and bets they can’t cover.

It’s a short-term strategy in a long-term world.

At least for those of us looking to build real connections with our readers.

So how should we think about our headlines?

John McPhee, a fabled staff writer at the New Yorker, puts it this way in his book, Draft no. 4.

The lead—like the title—should be a flashlight that shines down into the story. A lead is a promise. It promises that the piece of writing is going to be like this. If it is not going to be so, don’t use the lead.

He’s not talking about headlines, exactly, but the point stands. Whatever else you do, be sure you can stand behind your promise.

If you are doing good work, the headlines will write themselves.

Here’s the podcast.


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