Writers often depend on headlines to create appeal for their write-ups. Headlines, after all, are often the first line of writing that a person reads when he comes across an article, news story or book. A headline can create curiosity, stir up interest and generate wonder. The tone of the headline also affects the readers’ response and elicits reactions right then and there. For proper headline creation and tone testing, here are some things to keep in mind:
The headline should set the tone
Whether your write-up is upbeat, formal, businesslike, provocative, engaging or a call-to-arms kind of thing, the tone of your headline should reflect it. Very often, your goal as a writer helps set the tone of the headline and the subsequent body of the write-up.
Are you trying to give information? Raise a question? Intrigue the reader? Create a sense of urgency? Decide on the goal of your write-up first and this will help guide you on finding the tone for your headline.
Write down the keywords that define your article
This is especially important if you will be writing for the Web and quite useful even if you will be writing for print. Keywords are words that reflect or represent the main idea or topics that will be found in your article. These keywords should then be found in your headline.
Although some keywords are rather neutral in tone, there are some that best express the feelings or emotions that you might find appropriate for your write-up. Write these words down so you can decide later which one to use to achieve the best effect. When you go through tone testing later, this effect will be easier to determine.
Write down the words that reflect the tone of your headline
Some words, like adjectives such as ‘truly’, ‘really’ and ‘absolutely’ set the tone of the headline, making it seem like what you have to offer is the ultimate. These words give a sense of exclusivity and can help your headline stand out. ‘How to’, ‘Guide to’ and ‘Tips for’ are often used in headlines to set the tone for an instructional article. Action words, on the other hand, set the tone for enthusiasm, making the headline sound urgent.
So how do you know that you truly have the right tone for your headline? Test it. Go online, use at least three search engines and type the headline you’re planning to use. Use the exact words initially to test the headline.
Once the search engine has produced a listing of results, go to the top 3 or 5 of these links and check how relevant your headline is. Read the articles as well and check if the tone is similar to the tone of writing you wish to use.
As part of the audience, you should be able to tell if the tone of the headline works. Test it against your reaction and how you responded to the headline and the subsequent body of the article. Check reader reactions in the comment section as well. There’s a good chance you’ll find frank assessment of the write-up there. Then use what you’ve learned to apply in your own writing.
Test the tone with a limited audience. Try showing the headline to friends and ask them what they think. More importantly, ask them what kind of emotion/s the headline produces. If the answer is exactly what you intend the headline to create, you’re on the right track. If not, revise the headline.
You could also tone test the headline by posting it online. Then change the words strategically to see the kind of reaction you receive. Once you achieve what you want, stick to that headline.