How to write headings that make reading easy

We all wish we could save time by reading faster, don’t we?

You can help your reader read faster. You can craft information your reader can grasp in a trice and soak up like a sponge.

Photo of hands holding an open book and a mug of coffee.

Coffee doesn’t make you read faster. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

Statement headings are your secret weapon

The key to making writing easy to read is making your key messages easy to spot.

The best way to do that is to write a statement heading for the key message of each section. Whenever you move to a new message, start it with a statement heading that sums up what you’re going to say.

Photo of archer firing an arrow.

Keep your readers on target. Photo by Niklas Tidbury on Unsplash.

What’s a good statement heading? It’s a phrase, 4–10 words long, which describes the content that follows.

You can divide headings into three broad categories.

Label headings — tell the reader what they’ll find in the section, but not what it’s about:

Question headings — highlight key information that the reader’s likely to want to know:

Statement headings — provide key information about the text that follows:

Be as descriptive as possible to get your reader’s attention

You’ll see that the statement headings above answer the questions and tell the reader the key information.

When you craft a statement heading, dig all the way down to the key information. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you were writing a report about the results of a survey into school attendance, to be released in June. You could write:

That third heading tells the reader what to expect. And it’s controversial too. It’ll get their attention.

You’re giving your reader the gift of time — magic!

Good statement headings save your reader time. They ‘tell the story’ of your document. Your reader should be able to grasp your document’s meaning by skimming the headings alone. You’ll have saved them the time they’d have spent digging for information.

Photo of a Time-Turner - an intricate gold pendant on a chain.

You won’t need a magical Time-Turner to save your readers time. Photo by allnightavenue on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Are you a Harry Potter fan? If so, you’ll remember the magical Time-Turner that Hermione Granger used to make time for cramming in loads more study. You don’t have to resort to sorcery — great headings are all the magic you need.

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