Major news sites are models of how to use strong headlines and tight story summaries to pull readers in and get them to click.

Public relations and business communications professionals can use this resource as an example for their own writing.

Getting attention is about more than writing a good lead paragraph for your article or story. No one will see your creative lead if the headline and story summary on the front page are not interesting enough to invite them to click. Major newspapers provide great illustrations of how to do it well.

For a strong headline, try to include a verb. Many headlines don’t have them, but a strong verb can anchor a headline and make it compelling. Couple the headline with a summary that distills the essence of the article into one sentence, perhaps two short ones. This doesn’t mean finding one sentence in the article that you can pull out and make it the summary. A summary is written from scratch. It’s your synopsis based on all the information in the article.

Here are a few examples:

Many Strive to Put Violence-torn Ferguson on New Course

Residents and visitors are searching for ways to bring about the change that has often eluded the nation after similar crises.

With Natural Gas Byproduct, Iran Sidesteps Sanctions

The export of condensates is not fully covered by western restrictions on Iran’s trade, and the country is making increasing use of the quirk.

A New Kind of E-Commerce Adds a Personal touch

Online ventures, and some brick-and-mortar retailers, are combining data with human interaction for those who find the Internet and malls impersonal.

Turkey Outraged at Reports of German Spying

Long angered by allegations of U.S. spying, Germany itself was accused of espionage, including picking up conversations involving Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

Take time to study headlines and write down (or type into your phone) those that are most compelling or most creative. And as a writing exercise, take a long newspaper article, read it carefully, and try to distill the essence of the news into one sentence. The ability to compress the key information in a small space is why former broadcast writers and editors can be terrific Web writers.


If you could benefit from more business writing resources like these, sign up for this free monthly writing tip.

Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available here at

Related Articles:

Can Writers Trust Writing-Style Guides?

Use Short, Vivid Stories to Persuade

Interviewing Tips for Journalists