Grabbing the headlines

This entry was posted on Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Grabbing the headlines

Whatever we think of the reporting standards in our national newspapers, they have given us some great headlines over the years.

One of my personal favourites is The Sun’s “Super Cally go ballasitc, Celtic are atrocious” following Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s 3-1 win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup in 2000.

I spotted one of a slightly more sophisticated nature on the front page of The Guardian in April and have been meaning to write a post based on it ever since. It accompanied a front-page story by the paper’s Paris correspondent, Angelique Chrisafis. She was writing about the alleged outrage of notorious French riot police – the Compagnie Repulicaines de Securite (CRS) on hearing they would no longer be allowed to drink alcohol with their lunch.

Apparently, up until now, even packed lunches provided to the CRS out of riot vans while they were patrolling demos, came with a can of beer or glass of wine. And the headline?

“Riot squad sees rouge as police vin gets bottled.”

It’s tempting to think that good headlines are the result of a flash of inspiration (an old stalwart, by the way, when I was Head of Press and PR for Nikon UK and writing about the company’s flashlights – yes I know, I know). But the majority of strong, memorable, and more importantly, effective headlines take time and a great deal of hard work.

*Luke Sullivan is an award-winning advertising copywriter and his book, ‘Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This’,  is a must for anyone tasked with writing marketing material as well as advertisements. It’s both entertaining and instructive, and his chapter on writing headlines is very useful.

His advice is to write a hundred headlines for every one you need. Well, actually his first piece of advice is, “Get the puns out of your system right away.” Mmm so he’d love the ones I’ve chosen above then! But of course he’s talking about advertising headlines which need to sell a product or service.

To get started, his suggestion is to “methodically explore different attributes and benefits of your product as you write.”

So let’s say you’re writing a headline for a new range of cosmetics that contain only natural and organic ingredients, and aren’t tested on animals. You could use the following categories on which to base your headline:

Write headlines under each category. Let the ideas flow and get scribbling. Don’t cross anything out at this stage, but when you’ve got your lists, go back through and mark your favourites. Leave them to marinade a while then work on them some more.

Like I said, it’s hard work and it’s a long process.

*You can follow Luke Sullivan on Twitter and read his blog at



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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

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