We were doing one of our writing workshops in London earlier this year. One of the most illuminating exercises we do is headline appraisal. May sound dull, but it’s actually good fun. We take a bunch of headlines from local, national and trade press, and discuss what makes some of them work and why some of them just leave us cold.

Now, there are probably dozens of different ‘formulas’ for headlines, but we’re not big fans of formulas at Wordsworks. We prefer to keep our business copywriting plain and simple. And with headlines that means keeping it specific.

Take this headline: ‘Why writing skills are key.’

It’s OK I suppose. It does a job. But it’s vague. It leaves me thinking, key to what?

Try making it more specific:

‘Why writing skills are key to attracting more clients.’

Now that’s immediately going to grab my interest. But you can take it further still. As well as being specific, qualify the statement, too:

‘Why writing skills are key to attracting more high-paying clients.’

It’s short, specific and clearly explains to readers why they should carry on reading. If you can make all your headlines do that, you’re half way there.