2011/04/26 TIPS TIPS

Fundamental Methods for Writing Headlines Using Design Thinking that Draw Readers to Modern 2011 Web Writing

Fundamental Methods for Writing Headlines Using Design Thinking that Draw Readers to Modern 2011 Web Writing

Copywriter, director, and Rockaku president Mr. Tetsuo Morita held an event in collaboration with the Japanese edition of Lifehacker entitled “2011 Web Writing using Design Thinking,” the content of which generated a great deal of responses.

When speaking of writing there is a tendency to think of it as somehow having being professional or as being a battle over senses and tastes. In essence, there is awareness that most written content cannot be quantified. Mr. Morita proposed “Writing Using Design Thinking” as a response to that. There are professional methods used for writing and copywriting just as there are in any other industry. In a way, it’s similar to construction. Today the content of the event will be summarized in a how-to format to improve writing skill and provide the essence of what consist of useful evaluation standards you can use when placing an order for an article.

[Editing / Composition: WebEXP Editorial Team http://webexp.jp/]

Speaker: Tetsuo Morita
After working as a magazine editor, DTP publishing director and copywriter he became independent in 2007. He has formed partnerships with a wide range of companies, including design studios, web development firms, small-to-medium sized businesses, and manufacturers to do work in fields such as information design, concept work, naming, corporate image planning, tool development, scenario development, event direction, and catering. Currently he not only does contract work, but also in-house training for organizations such as Senden Kaigi, Kyoto Seika University and WebSig24/7, presenting lessons and lectures on the themes of writing and copywriting.

Rockaku(ろっかく) http://rockaku.jp/ twitter:@Rockaku

Design Thinking Copy from the Minds of People with Talent

Mr. Morita’s job is copywriting. However, this work is not simply writing catchy advertising slogans, it also includes significant work with text related to promotion and branding.
To some extent, design can be evaluated on a technical level, but how should we evaluate the quality of copywriting?

Mr. Morita started the session by stating, “When first opening an office I realized that young people wouldn’t be able to take in knowledge when everything is just done based on past experience. ‘Design thinking’ brought be to that conclusion.”

Talent and taste can’t be quantified. The fundamental ideas of design thinking writing are to clarify the essential elements and create something that can be evaluated.

• Precision: Eliminate any variance from what needs to be expressed, and express with clarity.
• Conformance to systems: Avoid all conflicts with legal issues, including pharmaceutical laws, entertainment laws, and fair trade laws.

Copy written with necessary clarity and conformance to systems provides information “literacy.” That is the standard for quality evaluation.

Fundamental Methods for Headlines that Make People Want to Read More

First, pay attention to the fact that people scan their eyes across a webpage when reading it. Readers are not going to go from top to bottom reading the headline then reading the main article. They scan the page to find something that they find important, and then they will read the main article. For that reason, the qualification for a good headline is that it allows you to determine the significance of the article in an instant.
Numbers and specifics are first things you need to create a headline that effectively draws people to read the main article. A headline with numbers has a stronger impact and increases the awareness of its importance.

• MEXT Study: 9 out of 10 Parents Oppose 2-Day Weekends.
• Top 10 Most Polluted Cities in the world
• Fry onions until golden brown. Approx. 20 minutes.

I highly suggest checking whether or not there are any numbers you can use before writing a headline.

[Three conditions for writing a headline that makes people want to read the main article]
• Arrange and connect specific keywords. Summarize using a list including the related place, person, or time.
• Include numbers that will leave an impact. Prioritize the amount, effect, period, or size.
• Create drama between words. Write parts that make people think.

The headline is the one place where you can leave the information incomplete. For example, “Bake like Boiling,” or, “Add a Surprising Secret Ingredient.”
The desire to find out more will lead people to read the main article.

Adding Impact with Short Headline

Next, take a look at these Mixi news headlines.

No Fear of Lower 6 Intensity Tsunami in Fukushima, Ibaraki
Nuclear Power Plant Accident Announced as Level 7, Most Severe
Two-Year-Old Child Chokes on bread, In Serious Condition
Not Open to Compromise: What Lovers Require
Warm Friendship in the Shadow of Losing a Member of Momoiro Clover
Top Secret Food Aid: SMAP’s Nakai Speaks Out

(News displayed on the right column at Mixi)

“No Compromise: Lovers’ Requirements”

Doesn’t that make you interested? This is the secret to creating an interesting headline. Element of surprise = impact.

The rule of this example is that while there may be semantic separation between the words, there is an added impact when they are put next to one another.
In the above examples, words that are seldom used together are assembled next to one another to create a greater impact.

In addition, it is fundamental that a headline be short. The opening should also be easy to read.

Therefore, first arrange the words you want to express in order of importance, and then connect them together as text so it flows with the fewest words possible. Mr. Morita added, “It doesn’t have to be limited to a certain number of words, but limiting yourself is a helpful technique for thinking about how to put together a headline that must be summarized succinctly.”

Short Headline Design: Checklist
Is there a high level of precision and uniqueness in each word?
• Park -> Ballpark -> Jingu Stadium… Is it unique?
• Are you making sure to announce the numbers you are able to release?

Gaps: Are you making an impact?
• Does your assemblage of words include a hook or an element of surprise?
• Creating a balance of hard words (e.g. The xxx Incident / An outbreak of xxx) and soft words.

Can you ensure its communicative strength?
• Can you labeled the content of the main article?
• Does the issue you want to express most stand out?
• Can you express the meaning of the main text?

How is it?

By using these techniques you can improve the quality of the headlines you write. In addition it will set a high standard for clarity and the understanding of systems when contracting writers. It also works as a goal for writers who do commission work.

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