by Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications
Headlines tell your story. Well, good headlines do. Sometimes, because of the arcane vagaries of the English language, a headline can convey eye-opening meanings you never intended. There’s a classic example in which this innocent sentiment
LET’S EAT, GRANDMA!
becomes something quite different, and something quite sinister, when the comma is omitted:
LET’S EAT GRANDMA!
An even more perplexing headline jumped out at me first thing this morning as I scrolled, bleary-eyed, through headlines in our local daily:
POLICE ARREST MAN WITH METH IN UNDERWEAR
I was jolted awake. Who was in their underwear, the man, or police? And who had the meth? This headline immediately suggests three radically different scenarios:
We are all exposed to a barrage of headlines every day. We decide whether or not to click on stories by scanning through headlines. Headlines are also disguised as subject lines in our emails and as posts on Twitter and other social platforms. The crazier or more salacious, the more likely we are to click and view.
Headlines are meant to grab our attention. That’s their only job: Convince you to read on.
With the very next email or post you write, think of your subject line as a headline. We are much more likely to immediately click open an email with a punchy, titillating subject line than an email thread bounced 50 times with the infernal subject line “RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:Today’s meeting.” The same goes for a Twitter post. If it’s boring, it’s ignored. You’ve wasted your time and your organization’s money.
Punch up the language, and you’re rewarded with an immediate and tangible payoff: Clicks on your post, and higher email open rates. But how do you punch it up?
And perhaps give your grandma some peace of mind, too.