How to write headlines and leads-Week 16

“Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader.”

Headline of the War of the Worlds broadcast (

This is a fairly accurate summary (courtesy of of why we use headlines to  attract our reader’s attention. It’s also something that I have always had to work at.  It’s not that I’m bad at it; I’m just not as good as I could be. I was told that practice makes perfect, but believe me, I have practiced…a lot.

They say that a good writer is not born, they are made.  But I beg to differ. I think it’s a combination of the two. I think it takes both talent and good writing skills to make a story come to life, which includes having an awesome headline, a great lead, and an interesting story. You can be a talented writer, but without the necessary skills, readers wouldn’t be able to follow it very well. And you can have good writing skills, but without the talent, it could possibly be dull and lifeless.

But unfortunately, headlines are not my only downfall; I am also lacking in the mastery of lead writing. But I am getting better at it. I understand the concept of good lead writing, but for some reason, my right brain and left brain seem to get confused with the logical and creative attributes that should be balancing itself in my writing. In one story a lead will come to me right away. In another story, it may take a while.

Why? I’m not exactly sure. You would think I would have a set pattern to follow, but I don’t. I think about what I want to write, think about what audience I’m targeting, and think about how I can catch their attention. Then my fingers have a mind of their own. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but usually my lead has all the needed elements, even if it isn’t very catchy.

The headline and the lead are the most important parts of a news story.  I know that if I want to get people to read my stories I have to become better at it.
Week 16 has me thinking a lot about what I need to do to become a better writer. All the pieces of my puzzle will come together very soon and I have to be ready. But I don’t think it’s just practice that will help me be a better headline and lead writer. Opening up my creativity a little more will also help. Now I just have to figre out how to do that.
I’m taking a few days off and travel to Colorado to enjoy the mountains and fresh air. I have a feeling this will be my last vacation for quite a while, but that’s OK. What I am doing is not like work to me. I guess that means I’m on the right track.

Hiawatha Advocate


  1. Don’t know why, but one headline I wrote long ago has always stuck with me:
    “Hoffa Rests in End Zone/Hit Man Tells Playboy.”
    Anyway, you’re right about writing–its the combination of talent and practice that need to come together–but you’re getting better all the time!


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