I love a good headline, but I hate writing them.
Actually, I’m pretty bad at it. (Editor’s note: This is true. I’ve rewritten 97 percent of Jessica’s heds.)
I ignore headlines as much as Charlie Sheen ignores reality. When a story is finished, I’m done. My fingers hurt. On to the next one. But I’ve come to the point in my career where it’s time to take my headline writing beyond Journalism 101.
So, where could I learn to write better headlines? Mashable? The Economist? Strunk & White?
Our CEO, Mark Ragan suggested a subscription to Cosmopolitan. I was skeptical.
But I figured that even if my headlines didn’t improve, maybe I’d finally figure out the secrets to super lush lashes.
It turns out there’s a lot Cosmo can teach writers, PR reps and journalists about what gives a headline zing. Here are the five things I learned—besides figuring out I needed to buy a lash curler.
5 examples of why your headlines must use numbers:
Once I finished the March issue, I had a list of more than 200 tips to help improve my life. Just think about how boring these headlines would be without a number:
10 Ways to Let a Guy Know You’re Interested
101 Things About Men
25 Fun Ways to Get Naked…Without Freezing Your Butt Off
7 Sexy Must-Haves
‘I’m going to get fired if I can’t write a good headline!’
If your source says something dramatic, use it in the headline. For example:
‘Quit Ragging On My Chest Hair—Please!’
‘How I Fixed an Awkward Sex Issue’
‘The Naughtiest Thing I’ve Ever Done’
Don’t you want to find out what happened to these people? (No. 2 was pretty awkward. I’ll spare you.)
Cosmo sprinkles subtle wordplay throughout the magazine. It’s a simple, yet effective way to hook your audience.
Chelsea Lets Loose
Surprise Him Sunday Morning
The Dude Decoder—Weekend Edition
Hey, brilliant reader—I’m talking directly to you!
By using words such as “pro,” “master,” “conquer,” Cosmo makes you feel that you can accomplish all kinds of beauty challenges—like making your eyelashes as big as Amanda Seyfried’s. Take a look at these:
The Best Silhouette For you
Master A Half-Moon Manicure
Layer Like a Pro
Do you ask your audience mind-blowing questions?
As a reader, I appreciated how Cosmo asked me some thought-provoking, introspective questions. Do you do this with your readers?
Should You Be Gross Around Him?
What’s Up With Men Cheating Down?
Can Soy Harm your Fertility?
And finally, my favorite question:
Do You Work Too Damn Hard?
Um, not really. I just spent the whole afternoon reading Cosmo. But thanks for asking.