My Quest for the Perfect Headline

As a magazine editor, I have to write a lot of headlines and find it hard. I recently learned it’s an editorial no-no to use gerunds (editor-speak for verbs ending in “ing” like “living”) and have become obsessed with eliminating these.

I also expanded my search for advice beyond gerunds to discover if there are other helpful principles I should keep in mind. I gathered tips on headline writing from—where else?—the Web and in looking at them, I realize they can translate into things beyond headlines. They’re good principles to keep in mind, whether you’re communicating through headlines or Web copy or news stories.

So, fellow Christian communicators, I offer these tips to you, for what they’re worth:
• Use strong verbs, write in the active voice, and use present tense.
• Keep it short.
• Think about why the story is important. Try to summarize it.
• Identify key words that represent the main ideas in the story.
• Do not use unnecessary words.
• Avoid clichés.
• Be accurate.

And just for fun—here’s a headline I’d love to see.


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