How to Write Exquisite Subheads

How to Write Exquisite Subheads

Reader Comments (39)

  1. What great advice. I used to do this more than of late, and should return to the practice.

    Here’s another reason to use subheads: if they are properly formatted, Google will love you.

    Here’s one scheme: your masthead can be an image replaced h1 header. Article titles: h2. Subheaders: h3 (not bold normal text, which I see all the time).

    Now you have a semantic document. Parse the the XHTML, and you should see a perfect outline of the content. Awesome. Easily indexed.

    Anything in the 400-word class or greater could likely benefit from a bit of markup. It’ll keep the crawlers happy and the scanners engaged.

  2. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and found that I just keep reading, now I know why. You keep me interested in you writing with simple writing techniques like this. I really enjoy your helpful tips and suggestions. Keep up the good work!

  3. Great advice. Pull-quotes can also be a good way to break up great chunks of text. And stories. Sometimes if I’m reading a long article and my eyes have begun to glaze over, my attention is reawakened by an anecdote or story. Speakers do it–why not writers, too?

  4. I have a question – maybe you could consider doing a post about this topic in the future?

    Has there been any research done to see which method is more effective at getting leads to take the next step in the sales cycle: white papers (special reports, any one-shot download of a PDF) or multi-day email courses?

    I’m thinking of implementing one of these, and I’m just wondering which one would be more effective.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

  5. A very useful lesson Brian, and one I just learnt earlier today so a very timely Copyblogger post!

    I noticed that the guys at (no connection, I just enjoy reading their posts) use subheads to great effect in their writing. Being almost essay-length posts they served to break up the content very well.

  6. It is important to be reminded that writing for the web is different and scanners comprise the majority of website readers. We tend to fall into old “school taught” habits , where the paragraph is the only breaking point.

    I suspect images may also keep the eyeballs with you—I’m thinking along the lines of a magazine article. Is there evidence to support the stickiness of images?

  7. It can also be effective to use “summary” or “synopsis” boxes to precede long articles. A List Apart does a nice job with these. MarketingExperiments also does a nice job splicing in “what you need to know” subheadings throughout their longer pieces.

  8. Hey Brian, this is a great subject.

    Another thing to think about is something a master copywriter named Jim Rutz said.

    And that is the first sentence after each subheadline should:

    1.) Be a “grabber” — something that immediately grabs attention. Just like your first sentence after your main headline should.

    2.) Be a one, two or maybe three word sentence.

    Something that is VERY easy to read, assimilate and digest.

    That way there is no excuse for the reader not to keep reading.

  9. Hey Ben, I also like the technique you use from time to time… the “reverse subhead” as I like to call it.

    That’s where the subhead is actually the final thought of the section above, rather than just a straight preview of the coming section below.

    That way you draw a scanner back up into the preceding section so they can see what they missed (a bit like a good P.S. does). Crafty. 🙂

  10. Hey Brian, yeah that’s a pure Gary Halbert copywriting tactic. He’s got that whole “greased slide” thing down pat. And I suspect that’s one of his secrets.

  11. Brian, this is another outstanding and extremely relevant blog entry. I also like your “reverse subhead” technique, mentioned a few comments back. Overally, this whole topic and set of tips is wonderful and extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  12. I am new to blogging and am eating up this and other tasty advice ravenously. At the risk of exposing my tech un-savviness, may I ask how to implement subheaders in my posts? Must I know HTML? Or…?

  13. Molly, it depends on your blogging platform and theme. But in many cases you simply wrap the heading in <h3> tags, like this:


    Give it a try and see if it works.

  14. I really liked the part about “Use Parallelism That Advocates Action”

    I remember reading something from copywriter Clayton Makepeace about wimpy verbs. Inexperienced writers tend to spruce up their nouns with frivolous adjectives while leaving their verbs neglected.

  15. It’s great to go back and remind oneself of these basic techniques. It’s true scanners are everywhere. I’m one of them and using subheads helps me read articles or not all of the time.


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