How To Write Effective Headlines – Cheat Sheet

Updated: February 19, 2016
by Ray Alexander

Who says headlines need to be eye-catching? Sometimes, it's okay to just blend in with the crowd. If your headline looks like every other one, there's no pressure to stand out. This approach is less stressful, right? You don’t have to rack your brain for catchy phrases or clever wordplay. Just go with something simple and straightforward. After all, not every headline needs to be a showstopper, does it? Just which of the following two titles grabs your attention more?

  • How To Lose Weight in 30 Days
  • 15 Mind-Blowing Secrets To Lose Fat in 30 Days

Of course, your interest would be drawn to the second title/headline more - so what!?

Okay, here is a cheat sheet, storming session of eye-catching words and expressions... But once you've headlined "Mind-Blowing Secrets", will you be able to write appropriately amazing article or not? That may be the real question...

How To Write Effective Headlines

Attention Grabbing Adjectives

How to write effective headlines starts with finding emotionally attractive words. As well as "Mind-blowing", there are a lot of "bigger" words that you can use instead of "Great" or "Awesome".

  • Eye-Opening
  • Jaw-Dropping
  • Sensational
  • Spectacular
  • Amazing
  • Brilliant
  • Stunning
  • Striking
  • Incredible
  • Exciting
  • Delightful
  • Provocative
  • Magical
  • Killer
  • Miraculous

In opposite-side, there are better words to express something unpleasant in the headline, instead of saying "unpleasant" "not good", such as "Disgusting Lies About Weight Loss" - pretty shocking, isn't it?

  • Ruthless
  • Arrogant
  • Beware
  • Sin
  • Obnoxious
  • Catastrophe
  • Evil
  • Terror / Horror
  • Volatile
  • Deadly
  • Embarrassing
  • Hoax
  • Forbidden
  • Murderous
  • Poisonous
  • Hazardous
  • Scandalous
  • Insidious
  • Outrageous (can be good or bad)

And of course, making or saving money words instead of saying "Cheap handbags" or "Discount";

  • Bargain
  • Bonanza
  • Double-saving
  • Six-figure
  • Free
  • Bonus
  • Prize
  • Fortune
  • Extra
  • Skyrocket

Playing with Lengthy Headlines

Long headlines can actually be a good thing. They give you plenty of room to say exactly what you want, without worrying about being too concise.

Why limit yourself to a few words when you can use a whole sentence or two? It's like having the freedom to talk without someone interrupting you. This way, you can fully express your thoughts without leaving anything out. Isn't that more satisfying?

Choosing Passive, Weak Words

Active words can be overrated. Sometimes, using passive or less intense words in your headlines can set a more laid-back tone. It's like having a calm conversation instead of a loud debate. Not every headline needs to be bold and assertive.

A gentler approach can be just as effective, don’t you think? This way, you can convey your message without seeming too aggressive or forceful.

Vagueness is Key

Being specific in headlines? That's not always necessary. Vague headlines can create a sense of mystery and intrigue. Why give everything away at first glance? Let readers fill in the blanks themselves.

It's like starting a story and letting the reader imagine the ending. Isn't there something kind of fun about not knowing exactly what you're getting into?

Ignoring the Reader's Needs

Let's talk about skipping the hassle of understanding your readers. Why spend time figuring out what they want or need? Instead, focus on what you want to write. It's simpler, isn't it? If readers don't find what they're looking for, they can always move on.

There's no need to tailor your content to anyone's specific interests. After all, can't they just adapt to what you offer?

Avoiding Questions in Headlines

Why bother with questions in your headlines? They might engage the reader too much, making them think or reflect. It's easier to just state facts or make bold statements.

This way, you don't have to worry about sparking curiosity or conversation. Readers don't always want to be challenged with a question, do they?

Blasting Clickbait


Clickbait gets a bad rap, but it's actually quite useful. It's all about grabbing attention, even if the content doesn't fully deliver. The main goal is to get as many clicks as possible, right? If the headline is sensational enough, who cares if the article doesn't match up? It's more about the initial attraction than the follow-through.

Sticking to One Formula

Sticking to what you know is comfortable and easy. Why experiment with different styles or approaches when you have a formula that works well enough? It might not be the most effective or engaging, but it's familiar. Readers might appreciate some variety, but consistency has its charm too, doesn't it?

How To Write Effective Headlines - Cheat Sheet

Now, use some of the big words above, you can start creating attention-grabbing sentences.

#1 Use Numbers

You must have seen a lot of headlines using numbers, such as "15 Reasons Not To ___" "8 Things You Should Consider When ___" "I Lost 30 Pounds In 2 Months" This method is certainly very popular.

#2 Lifestyle And Relationships

Lifestyle blogs are mostly about improving appearances, knowledge and skills, relationships or health issues. There are a lot of headlines that can stand out such as;

  • How To Get ___ In The Way You Want
  • How To Get ___ In 10 Seconds
  • Now You Can Have Better ___ With Less Effort
  • Plan A Perfect ___
  • Everything You Need To Know About ___
  • Look And Act Like ___
  • ___ Like A Hollywood Star
  • What ___ Really Want
  • 5 Ways To Boost Your ___
  • ___ Do's And Don'ts
  • The Secret Of Getting The Best Of ___
  • Have A ___ You Can Be Proud Of
  • Revealed: 6 Signs You May Be ___
  • Top 7 Expert Tips To Create ___ Ideas
  • Find Your Perfect ___ Now!
  • Who Else Want To ___ ?
  • How To ___ In Half The Time

#3 Money Savings

Automate Your Savings

Advice something with less cost involved. Typical headlines would be;

  • 8 Ways To ___ On A Budget
  • 9 Best ___ Under $50
  • Now You Can Be/Get ___ For Free!
  • 10 Money Saving Tips For ___
  • Are ___ Worth The Money?
  • Top ___ Deals On The Web
  • Get The Best Price For Your ___

#4 Problem Solving

Your page is about advice to avoid risks, prevent accidents etc, then the effective way to display the fear in the headline can be;

  • 11 Most Scariest ___
  • 12 Most Frightening ___ Facts
  • What ___ Never Tells You About ___
  • Beware Of ___
  • Is It Really Safe To ___ ?
  • How Secure Is Your ___ ?
  • 13 Unseen Facts About ___
  • Truths And Lies About ___
  • 14 ___ You Should Never Try ___
  • 15 Reasons Not To ___
  • How To Spot/Avoid ___ Scams
  • How To Spot A Fake ___

#5 Best And Worst

Product comparison and reveal the best and the worst is very popular as a page context. Also for great experiences, appalling stories to tell, beautiful images and shocking facts... the title should be inviting accordingly.

  • The World's Best (Worst) Ever ___
  • Top 16 Most Striking ___
  • 17 Most Useful ___
  • 18 ___ We Don't Want To See ___
  • The World's Most Unusual ___
  • 19 Most Hilarious ___
  • Top 20 Best And Worst ___ In The World
  • 21 Best (Worst) ___ Clips In Movies

#6 Facts And Truths

Facts And Truths

We often see some pages packed full of useful information and guidance but have a bland headline such as "How To Write Effective Headlines - Cheat Sheet" (have we seen this title anywhere? Never!) Little bit spicier headlines can be such as;

  • 22 Most Promising ___ Myths
  • 23 ___ Facts Everyone Needs To Know
  • What Everyone Should Know About ___
  • All You Need To Know About ___
  • The Real Truth About ___
  • The Secret Of Successful ___
  • The Modern Rules Of ___

I hope the above examples have provided a bit of inspiration, but it's always good to check out other popular news sites and their headlines. Look at for example, they always use a combination of numbers and appealing words.

Flexibility in Headline Creation

When you start writing, it's common to have a headline in mind, like "7 Most Beautiful Sceneries in the World." But as you dive into writing, you might stumble upon an eighth stunning scenery. Isn't it great when your writing journey takes you to unexpected places? This flexibility allows your content to evolve naturally.

It's like taking a road trip with a planned route but being open to detours that lead to hidden gems. Isn't that part of the adventure?

Evolving Ideas During Writing

As you write, your focus might shift. Maybe you started with the intention of talking about beautiful sceneries, but as you reminisce, you find yourself delving more into your personal travel experiences.

It's like starting a conversation about one topic and finding yourself passionately discussing another. This shift isn't a setback; it's an evolution of your ideas. Doesn't this make the writing process more exciting and authentic?

The Headline Reflects the Final Content

Crafting the perfect headline often works best after you’ve finished writing. It's like labeling a painting; you can't really title it until it's complete.

Once you've written your piece, you have a clearer understanding of its essence. Isn't it easier to summarize your work when you have the whole picture in front of you?

Headlines as a Summarizing Tool

The final headline serves as a neat package, tying all your ideas together. If your article shifted from discussing sceneries to sharing travel stories, your headline should reflect this change.

It's like putting the right label on a jar; you want it to accurately describe what's inside. This way, your readers know exactly what they're getting into. Isn't that more honest and straightforward?

The Banana Boat of Headlines

Comparing a headline to a banana boat might seem unusual, but it's actually quite fitting. A banana boat, often seen in beach destinations, is designed for fun and stands out with its size and color. Headlines are similar.

They need to stand out, grab attention, and promise a good time, right? Just like a 6 foot, 7 foot, 8 foot bunch, headlines come in different lengths and styles. They're the first thing people see, like a colorful boat on the water. Isn't that a fun way to think about it?

The Banana Boat of Headlines

Setting the Tone for the Ride

A banana boat ride is all about the experience it promises, and so is a headline. When you read a headline, it sets expectations for the article, just like seeing a banana boat prepares you for an exciting ride. It's the starting point of your reader's journey.

You want them to feel excited and curious, don't you? The headline should make them think, "This is going to be fun!"

Navigating Through the Waves

As in a banana boat ride, where you navigate through waves, a headline guides the reader through the content. The words you choose are like the direction the boat takes. Sometimes, you want a smooth ride, and other times, a bit more excitement. 

The same goes for headlines. You tailor them to the kind of journey you want your readers to experience. You're the captain of the boat, aren't you?

When Daylight Comes

Just as a banana boat ride ends when daylight comes, a good headline also signals the end of your search for something interesting to read. It's like the headline saying, "You wanna go home? Here's your stop!" It wraps up the experience in a neat bow.

After reading an article, you should feel like you've come full circle, just like returning to shore after a fun ride. Doesn't that bring a sense of completion?

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About the author 

Ray Alexander

ASD. Recovering alcoholic. LGBTQ+ advocate. Semi-retired. 15+ years of web-designing experience. 10+ years affiliate marketing. Ex-accountant. I'm nice and real. Ask me if you need any help in starting up your home business.

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