3 quick writing lessons from the ‘Headline of the Year’

How you can incorporate lessons from the year’s best headline, according to Esquire magazine.

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The image, if you can’t see, says, “UAW talks shit to Ford.” UAW is the United Auto Workers Union, and the story appeared in the Detroit Free Press in September.

Jaw-dropping headline—if it were real. Turns out that picture, which went viral, is the result of some accidental (and advantageous) origami.

The actual headline: “UAW Talks Shift to Ford.” The front page wrinkled just enough to obscure the “f” in “Shift.”

Too bad; the version that Esquire hailed would be an irresistible headline for the Web.

If we pretend for a few minutes that it was real, we can glean three important lessons about headline writing for online content. Here we go:

It’s provocative.

That it’s provocative goes without saying. Of course, the vast majority of people reading this story—whether you write a blog, edit a newsletter, or draft press releases—can’t include an obscenity in your copy, let alone in the headline, despite the occasionally overwhelming temptation.

Still, this headline remains effective if you replace the obscenity with an equally strong word that conveys the same meaning.

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