The Why, How, and When of Writing Subheads

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“Subheads act as road signs on a reader’s journey through the text. They give direction and highlight key information and points of interest. If your signals are clear, your readers can quickly see what’s most important and what they want to read.” — Jacqueline Howard

The poor subhead. So often neglected, so often misused. Something that needs to be there but doesn’t seem worth the trouble. For many copywriters, they are an afterthought — “Oh yeah, I have to put in some subheads. Darn.”

Sometimes beginning copywriters put in subheads simply because their mentor tells them they have to. And if you treat your subheads this way, they’re going to suffer. And quite likely, they’ll do more harm than good by just getting in the way of the flow of your copy.

But that won’t happen to you if you understand why subheads are used, and how and when they should be used. Here are some considerations:

Why do we need subheads? — Subheads are mini-headlines used to break up your copy, and they have several very specific purposes. Their first purpose is to attract your prospect’s attention and bring them into the sales letter, the landing page, the article… whatever you’re writing. This works for both linear readers — ones who read a sales letter from start to finish — by arousing curiosity and making the reader want to continue to the next section, and non-linear readers — ones who skim headlines, subheads, and bullet points — providing stepping-stones for them to get through the copy.

In the latter case, the subheads must provide enough interesting ideas and compelling copy by themselves to keep the prospect engaged until they feel ready to read the letter or… if you’re really lucky… to convince them to buy without even reading it.

Another reason for using subheads — and it’s every bit as important as the others — is that they break up long blocks of text, making it look easy to read. As a result, your prospect will mentally be willing to read more copy, giving you the opportunity to develop your sales pitch more naturally and effectively.

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John Torre

I reside in North Brunswick, NJ, with my wife, Lynn, and daughters Kasey, Jaclyn, and Shelly. We also have a 110 pound, lovable Rottie named Leo that keeps us on our toes! When we're not hard at work we enjoy spending weekends at our bungalow down the Jersey shore, or take extended trips to Walt Disney World as members of the Disney Vacation Club. For kicks, I draw on my dominant "right-brain" and play guitar in classic rock and blues bands, act for local plays and independent productions, and enjoy writing creative fiction. I'm a published author in short fiction and stage plays and a graduate of a local community college's Commercial Writer's Certificate Program. After graduating from the program I was selected as an instructor and taught "Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror" writing for 8 years. I enjoy many fine relationships I made with my students to this day.

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