Headline Hacks

24 Headline Templates That Lead to Magnetic Titles

With over 40 examples of how top writers use them to wow their readers

Illustration by Cynthia Marinakos.

They were mortified.

But they had to go through with it.

The interview, that is. With this woman who came into this conservative government organization for a shot at a job — wearing a far-too-casual cotton striped flannelette top and torn jeans.

This first impression couldn’t be erased from their memories.

She was obviously worth interviewing — she had passed the application stage. Yet in person, she raised a huge question mark before one word had left her mouth.

Like this woman, you can write the most informative, entertaining, helpful post you’ve ever written — but if you don’t get your headline right, you’ve screwed yourself over.

And your reader won’t be as gracious and discreet as the interviewers were. They went ahead with the interview. Your readers won’t even bother to click.

You don’t need to let this happen. Spend a few extra minutes on your headline.

Here are the headlines of three dedicated Medium writers who have gained thousands of views on these headlines — Tom Kuegler, Shannon Ashley, and Shaunta Grimes. You’ll learn why the headlines work and get templates you can use to create your own headlines.

Tom Kuegler

Headline: How To Become Ridiculously Self-Aware In 20 Minutes

Why it works:

  • Teaches something
  • Uses an unusual, unexpected word, ‘ridiculously’
  • We’re busy — he promises we’ll learn in the time it takes to line up for coffee

Headline template:
How To <Do something> In <Short duration>

Headline: How to Figure Out What The Hell You Want To Do With Your Life

Why it works:

  • Casual
  • Conveys frustration
  • Promises a solution to a common struggle

Headline template:
How To <Do something many people are frustrated with>

Headline: Why I’ll Never F***** Freelance Ever Again

Why it works:

  • Strong stance
  • F***** conveys anger
  • Makes us wonder why

Headline template:
Why I’ll Never <Strong feeling> <Something> Ever Again

Headline: 9 Business Lessons I Learned Making $100,000 Online in the Past 3 Years

Why it works:

  • A How-to without saying “How-to”
  • Builds curiosity as it’s a topic many people are interested in
  • Credibility in a specific timeframe and amount

Headline template:
<Number> <Topic> Lessons I Learned <Specific Result> in the Past <Duration of time>

Headline: My Powerful 1-Hour Routine For Quick Success On Medium

Why it works:

  • People are drawn to quick successes; he promises it
  • Credible because of who the writer is
  • Builds anticipation

Headline template:
My Powerful <Duration of time> <Solution> For Quick Success On <Topic>

Headline: 1 Terrible Thing You Need to Get Used To As A Blogger

Why it works:

  • “Terrible” creates suspense and curiosity
  • The belief we’ll get valuable insight because he’s a credible person
  • Builds anticipation of a good story

Headline template:
<Number> You Need To Get Used To As A <Role>

Shannon Ashley

Headline: It’s Time To Quit My Job

Why it works:

  • Relatable
  • It’s a big deal
  • Creates anticipation for an entertaining story

Headline template:
It’s Time To <Do something people relate to>

Headline: I Had A Threesome And It Was Awkward AF

Why it works:

  • Entertaining, shocking, magnetizing
  • Unusual
  • Casual

Headline template:
I <Did this — some shocking yet curious experience> And <Outcome>

Headline: How I Write (and Publish) So Damn Much

Why it works:

  • Builds anticipation of practical tips
  • Casual and relatable
  • Offers help to fulfill the desire of many struggling writers

Headline template: How I <Do something> (And do something even more incredible) So Damn Much

Headline: 7 Self-Care Lessons You Might Have Forgotten

Why it works:

  • Listicle — our brains are wired for numbers
  • Curiosity about what may have been forgotten
  • Addresses a topic we can all relate to

Headline template: X <Topic> Lessons You Might Have Forgotten

Headline: I Wish I’d Known My Mother Couldn’t be Trusted When I Was Young

Why it works:

  • Goes against our perception of mums
  • Builds Curiosity
  • The anticipation that it will be a shocking, entertaining, true story

Headline template: I Wish I’d Known <Something> When <Some time>

Headline: What To Do If You Ever Feel Like You’ve Wasted Your Life

  • Common problem
  • Gives hope that it’s not too late
  • The anticipation of a solution we can start immediately

Headline template: What To Do If You Ever Feel Like <Common struggle>

Shaunta Grimes

Headline: Five Steps to Changing Your Life (they boil down to one thing)

Why it works:

  • A practical process we can follow
  • Common struggle
  • A promise of one thing to work on, digestible, doesn’t overwhelm

Headline template:
<Number> Steps to Changing <Something significant> (it boils down to this one thing)

Headline: Here I am. Still fat after all these years.

Why it works:

  • Raw, real, relatable
  • Self-deprecating
  • We are drawn to other people’s vulnerabilities

Headline template:
Here I am. Still <Something personal you are working on and might be ashamed of> after all these years.

Headline: The Truth About Earning $15,000 a Month as a Writer

Why it works:

  • Anticipation
  • Curiosity
  • Many writers would dream of making this much

Headline template: The Truth About <Doing something desirable> <Duration of time> as a <Role>

Headline: I Earned 50K With a 6-Week-Old Email List

Why it works:

  • Curiosity
  • Extraordinary result
  • Challenges perceptions about what’s possible

Headline template:
I <Did Something> With a <Something surprising>

Headline: Medium’s Changes Kick in Monday. Here’s a 30-Day Master Plan.

Why it works:

  • Curiosity about what the changes are
  • Builds anticipation of how the changes will impact writers
  • Practical ways we can thrive

Headline template:
<Some news>. Here’s <Something to make it work for you>

Headline: You Don’t Suck, You Just Haven’t Put in the Time

Why it works:

  • Addresses struggle
  • Shares solution upfront
  • Direct and honest

Headline template:
You Don’t / Are Not <Frustration>, You Just Haven’t <Done this — solution>

Additional Headlines From Medium Editor’s Picks

Headline: How Do I Make My Husband Stop Giving Money To His Parents? — Kristin Wong

Why it works:

  • Conversational topic you can imagine would we shared over coffees (or on Quora)
  • Frustration
  • We anticipate a good story

Headline template:
How Do I <Get something to change>?

Headline: My Son Doesn’t Need Your Blessing — marie myung-ok lee

Why it works:

  • Curiosity
  • Strong statement
  • Conveys defiance and anger

Headline template:
<Firm passionate statement with “Doesn’t Need”>

Headline: The Science of “Sleeping on It” — Markham Heid

Why it works:

  • Conveys credibility
  • Expect an informative read
  • Stirs curiosity

Headline template:
The Science of “<Something that’s often said casually>”

Headline: How Sci-Fi Creates Better Doctors — Ashley Abramson

Why it works:

  • Alludes to fascinating examples
  • Surprising combination
  • Curiosity

Headline template: How <Something unexpected leads to> <An unexpected result>

Headline: Thankfully, Life Is Full of Problems — More To That

Why it works:

  • Sounds entertaining
  • A surprising and curious statement
  • Expect valuable insights

Headline template:
Thankfully, <Something people usually avoid>

Headline: Eating Roadkill Is Our Future, and That’s Okay — Yasmin Tayag

Why it works:

  • Sounds like we will learn something interesting
  • Provides a surprising perspective
  • Incites curiosity

Headline template:
<Surprising statement>, and <Reassurance>

How to Use These Templates

These headlines appeal to our emotions, intellect, or sense of self in different ways. The best way to see what suits your content is to brainstorm headlines.

Alternatively, you could use the templates to brainstorm topics.

For instance, let’s take three of the examples from the list above and brainstorm topics.

Writing ideas

Writing Ideas: Example 1

Headline: Thankfully, Life Is Full of Problems

Headline template: Thankfully, <Something people usually avoid>

  • Thankfully, My Car Crashed On My Way To Work
  • Thankfully, I Caught A Flu On Holidays
  • Thankfully, No One Read My Last Post

You could also modify this template to:
Thankfully, <Something people usually want>

So:

  • Thankfully, I Didn’t Make $20,000 Again Last Month
  • Thankfully, I Didn’t Get Along With My Last Date
  • Thankfully, My Home Loan Application Got Rejected

Writing Ideas: Example 2

Headline: Here I am. Still fat after all these years.

Headline template:
Here I am. Still <something honest that you are working on and might be ashamed of> after all these years.

Ideas:

  • Here I am. Still addicted to sugar after all these years.
  • Here I am. Still an alcoholic after all these years.
  • Here I am. Still desperate and dateless after all these years.
  • Here I am. Still in an abusive relationship after all these years.

Writing Ideas: Example 3

Headline: How to Figure Out What The Hell You Want To Do With Your Life

Headline template:
How to <Do something many people are frustrated with>

Ideas:

  • How to Figure Out How To Leave Your Good-For-Nothing Partner
  • How to Keep Calm When Your Kid Drives You Friggin Crazy
  • How to Deal With A Housemate From Hell
  • How to Figure Out What The Heck To Leave Out Of Your Suitcase

Brainstorm headlines for your chosen topic

Now, let’s say you already have a topic in mind — or have written your content. Then you could use these different formulas to brainstorm headlines.

For any post, it’s ideal to write more than one headline. I like to write at least five — you’ll be surprised at how many creative, powerful headlines you’ll come up with when you get into the groove.

Say you were writing about why social media is ruining your life — and that getting off it has been a great decision. Let’s use the headlines to brainstorm:

Headline template: How To <Do Something> In <Short Time>
Headline idea: How To Become Awfully Productive In 20 Minutes (Get Off Social)

Headline template: It’s Time To <Do something people are usually reluctant to do>
Headline idea: It's Time To Delete My Facebook Account

Headline template: <Number> Steps to Changing <Something significant> (It All Boils Down To This)
Headline idea: 7 Steps To Changing Your Addiction To Facebook Notifications (It All Boils Down To This)

Headline template: <Something unexpected>, and That’s Okay
Headline idea: Social Media Addiction Is Our Future, And That’s OK

Headline template: How I Do / Did Something (And did something even more incredible) For <Duration of time>
Headline idea: How I’ve Lived Without Posting (Or Checking) Social Media For A Whole Damn Year

Subheadings

Use subheadings to supplement your headlines. Give readers more enticing information that will get them to open and read more.

Summary

Give your reader a good reason to click on your post. You’ve just read 43 ways to create powerful headlines.

Keep these 24 headline templates handy for your next post.

24 headline templates

  1. How To <Do something> In <Short duration>
  2. How To <Do something many people are frustrated with>
  3. Why I’ll Never <Strong feeling> <Something> Ever Again
  4. <Number> <Topic> Lessons I Learned <Specific Result> in the Past <Duration of time>
  5. My Powerful <Duration of time> <Solution> For Quick Success On <Topic>
  6. <Number> Terrible Thing You Need To Get Used To As A <Role>
  7. It’s Time To <Do something people relate to>
  8. I <Did this — some shocking yet curious experience> And <Outcome>
  9. How I <Do something> (And do something even more incredible) So Damn Much
  10. X <Topic> Lessons You Might Have Forgotten
  11. I Wish I’d Known <Something> When <Some time>
  12. What To Do If You Ever Feel Like <Common struggle>
  13. <Number> Steps to Changing <Something significant> (it boils down to this one thing)
  14. Here I am. Still <Something personal you are working on and might be ashamed of> after all these years.
  15. The Truth About <Doing something desirable> <Duration of time> as a <Role>
  16. I <Did Something> With a <Something surprising>
  17. <Some news>. Here’s <Something to make it work for you>
  18. You Don’t / Are Not <Frustration>, You Just Haven’t <Done this — solution>
  19. How Do I <Get something to change>?
  20. <Firm passionate statement with “Doesn’t Need”>
  21. The Science of “<Something that’s often said casually>”
  22. How <Something unexpected leads to> <An unexpected result>
  23. Thankfully, <Something people usually avoid>
  24. <Surprising statement>, and <Reassurance>

Have fun and may the headlines be with you…

Written by

Aussie Copywriter. I love rock climbing high ceilings and hiking amongst ferns >> 10 Proven ways to attract more Medium readers: https://bit.ly/3g2e2xx

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