August 11


How to Bring an Article to Life with Great Subheads

By danielwh

August 11, 2017


Subheads are a powerful opportunity to bring your articles to life. An opportunity which most people squander. This quick guide which will help you avoid some common mistakes and add a splash of colour to your master piece!

End result – people want to read your article, in full.

When we talk about subheads, we’re talking about two different things:

  1. The supporting line of text beneath the headline at the top of the page
  2. The small headlines that introduce copy chunks or sections down the page

This guide is about the second type.

What is the Purpose of a Subhead?

Subheads act like mini-headlines. They break up the text and provide the reader with helpful signposts. Their goal is to catch the eye and get the reader intrigued enough to read that section. You should use subheads every time you transition from one point to another.

They should be:

  • Short
  • Clear
  • Benefit-focused
  • Intriguing

Are You Making These Mistakes In Your Subheads?

  • Not using subheads every time you transition from one point to another.
  • Being overly cute or clever
  • Writing long winded subheads
  • Not focusing on the benefit
  • Not adding any intrigue
  • Writing statements (except in the case of a ‘Conclusion’).

For example, rather than the following subhead:


You could try:

“What are the Emerging Risks to Our Growth This Year?”

Use this 1 element of psychology to write compelling subheads

There is 1 element in our psychology which is particularly useful for subheads.

Can you guess what it is?

If you said curiosity – you guessed right.

Adding just a touch of curiosity to you subheads catches attention like nothing else. And it is so fundamental to our psyche, you can use it again and again. Just look at the subhead of this section! In fact, there is an element of it in all the subheads so far.

Save Your Readers From Boredom With Benefit Rich Subheads

Always write with your reader in mind. Ask yourself “why should they bother reading the next section?”. What’s in it for them. It’s those answers which can give you the skeleton of great subheads. After all, if you can communicate why someone would want to read your prose – they may actually read them!

It’s, for this reason, benefit rich subheads are super powerful. They promise the reader something valuable. People who scan love them (and who doesn’t scan nowadays?)

Here’s the 20 Second Version

Use subheads every time you transition from one point to another.

Keep them:

  • Short
  • Clear
  • Benefit-focused
  • Intriguing

And make sure they are not:

  • Dull statements of fact
  • Cute
  • Overly clever

What You Should Do Now

Dig out your last document and look at the subheads you wrote. If they don’t follow these principles, try rewriting them and see what a difference it makes!

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