have you heard about radd?
(i doubt it, because i just invented it.)
radd refers to a purely made-up syndrome called reader attention deficit disorder, and almost every adult i know suffers from it.
the symptoms of radd are:
- inability to read one page of a book or magazine without the urge to “look something up real quick” on a digital device
- extreme fidgeting whenever several pages of text must be read in one sitting
- aversion to fully reading and absorbing any content longer than 500 words
radd is a result, i believe, of the excessive time we spend reading on screens and devices. even though radd is a made-up syndrome, the struggle to read better online is real.
as content creators, we can help make online reading easier. and one of the most powerful tools of our trade is the humble subhead.
subheads: big results from a little line of text
in the grand scheme of your piece of content, a single subhead might not seem very important. after all, it represents a tiny percentage of your overall word count.
but i like to think of subheads as signposts.
when you’re on a long road trip, it’s comforting to see signs along the way that confirm you’re driving in the right direction.
subheads do this for your reader. they draw them down the page and through your content, letting them know they’re moving toward a conclusion.
if you’re not currently using subheads in your online content, it’s time to start adding these signposts that will help make your content easier to read. starting with subheads will also help you write articles faster.
there’s more — subheads actually have three jobs to do at the same time. read on to learn how to make them work for you.
1. subheads invite skimmers to read your content
readers suffering from radd appreciate well-crafted subheads because they help them decide whether they should commit their precious attention to reading your information.
to get distracted online skimmers to engage, write subheads that shamelessly promote your piece of content.
for example, let’s say you’re writing an article about how to design a perennial garden.
instead of this subhead:
there are thousands of perennial plants available today
write this subhead:
how to save money and choose the right perennials for your garden plot
and instead of this subhead:
available colors for perennial flowers
write this subhead:
3 tips to easily pick the perfect perennial color scheme
in the examples above, the second subheads promote the content better because they explain how the reader will benefit from consuming it.
if the distracted skimmer is about to start a perennial garden and she’s looking for help, these subheads will convince her that this content will deliver the information she needs right now.
2. subheads that “sell” each section keep readers engaged
congratulations: you’ve hooked a reader on your piece of content.
now use compelling subheads to “re-hook” them all the way down the page they’re reading.
it’s no wonder readers feel distracted while reading online. between links that invite them to click away and read something else, to ads, notifications, and invitations to check out another part of a website, readers have to force themselves to stay on track all the way down the page and through your content.
well-written subheads can help.
if you write them carefully, your subheads will “sell” the section they’re sitting above. they serve as “ads” for each section that convince the reader to consume it.
to write subheads that invite your reader to consume each section of your content, remember to:
- highlight the benefit of the knowledge offered in each section.
- use your best headline writing skills to craft compelling subheads that inform and intrigue.
- focus your reader’s attention on how she’ll use the information that follows.
there’s one more thing to remember about subheads — an extra layer of information to consider.
read on to discover how to write subheads that become their own standalone content.
3. subheads that tell a story make non-readers want to share
let’s face the ugly truth: sometimes trying to get radd-afflicted readers to consume your entire piece of content is a losing battle.
some readers simply won’t read all the way through your content, despite all your best efforts to make it easy to read and to write subheads that pull them down the page.
but all is not lost. even non-readers are valuable.
you see, even non-readers share your content. and compelling subheads that tell a story all by themselves will help convince those non-readers to spread your content to others who will read it and act on it.
the key here is to have established natural authority with your content. if these non-readers trust your site and perceive it as a reliable resource, they will share your content without even consuming it themselves.
after you’ve written your subheads, go back through and look at them again. ask yourself:
if i only read the subheads, would i think this content is valuable?
if you can’t answer “yes” to that question, edit your subheads until you can.
eradicate radd with subheads that hook your readers
if you’re interested in improving your subhead-writing skills, you’re in the right place.
we have a wealth of information here on copyblogger that will help you polish your subheads until they hook those distracted readers and encourage them to read, consume, and share your content.
here are my favorites:
- sonia simone’s the deceptively simple steps to persuasive writing that works is an ode to the humble subhead and a great read to inspire you to use this powerful tool to make your content easier to write and read.
- for more about how you can adapt your writing style to fit the new reality of online reading, take a look at my post 6 easy ways to adapt your writing style to the new world of content consumption.
- stefanie flaxman’s post how to spot the weakest part of your blog post (and what to do about it) will give you an overview of how subheads fit into your larger content plan. it shares concrete tips for making your article look and sound more compelling.