Habit No. 1: Humanize your headline.

If you've perused the B/R Writer Tutorial, you already know how important it is to optimize your headline for computer search engines. But what the tutorial also says—and what's far too often overlooked by SEO-obsessed online writers—is that it's just as important to craft your title for all those human readers who actually do the searching.

As part of your regular pre-publication ritual, you should always take a minute to vet your headline for people-friendly…

  • Clickability

    Content displays in search-engine results and on B/R generally present prospective readers with long lists of headlines to choose from. If you want to win the fierce battle for attention, you have to give folks a reason to click on your title instead of the next one.

    How can I make it habit?

    Always apply the techniques for "Appealing to Human Readers" described in the "Craft Your Headline" section of the Writer Tutorial—and never publish an article under a title that doesn't reflect your very best effort to get people excited about your work.

  • Keyword Usage

  • Any hack can plug popular keywords into a headline. It takes a real writer, on the other hand, to discern why those keywords are popular and to use them in a way that resonates with readers.

    How can I make it habit?

    Before you publish, run a Google News search for your primary keyword and conduct a brief survey of the top-listed headline results. If your own title doesn't stand out among the others, it's a sure sign that you need to go back to the drawing board.

  • Capitalization and Punctuation

    Properly capitalized and punctuated headlines are more visually appealing—and thus more likely to be clicked—than titles mangled by incorrect or inconsistent copy. No less importantly, they demonstrate that authors take their work seriously, which gives those authors an up-front credibility boost in the eyes of their prospective readers.

    How can I make it habit?

    First, learn to love the headline style standards outlined in the B/R Style Question Clearinghouse—then learn from experience whenever B/R's copy editors tweak your titles to make them conform with the rules.

Okay, I've got the basics covered—now where can I learn more?

For in-depth discussion and detailed illustration of the principles outlined above, be sure to check out…

Online resources for B/R writers

Further reading from the B/R Blog

Habit No. 2: Optimize your lede. »

Writer Education Resources

  • Writer Tutorial
    10 essential lessons for all B/R authors
  • B/R U
    A self-guided new media training program
  • Writer's Tips
    A smorgasbord of notes and pointers from the B/R Blog
  • The Textbook
    Chapters from B/R's in-progress course reader

Questions about the Style Guide?

  • Contact King Kaufman, B/R Writer Program Manager: