How Apple Has Inspired Me to Write Delightful Headlines

Being myself is a powerful way to connect with you

Cynthia Marinakos
Apr 27 · 6 min read
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Illustration by Cynthia Marinakos

“To those unfamiliar with convention. Unmoved by roles and reborn with every new discovery. Who can see the millions of shades of green in a field of grass. Whose days are filled with mysteries that cannot be solved with facts… You are more powerful than you think. And you are welcome here.”

This is the introductory video on Apple’s jobs page.

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On every job-related page on their website, they encourage prospective employees to “be you.” Innovation at Apple starts from within. From their employees.

Visit the team page and we read about how Apple harnesses the passion and skills of its employees into the creation of products. They focus on sharing that passion so “the whole world feels as passionately about our products as we do.” It’s how they bring the best experience to their customers.

This single focus drives the collaboration between designers and engineers as products are developed. They encourage employees to integrate their interests into their work. It’s about relating. Creating a bonfire of emotion, beginning with their employees as the spark:

“You don’t just want to tell people what they need to be learning about these devices. You want to inspire them to want to continue that journey on their own.”

I love this approach and have to admit, I didn’t expect that when I started browsing their product headlines. It was only when I got to the people-related pages of the Apple website — Team and Jobs — that I realized the drive behind Apple’s incredible innovation.

How the Apple Approach Can Help Us Write Powerful Headlines

There are two key insights we can gain from Apple to hone our headline writing skills:

  1. Be you
  2. Help them feel

1. Be You

Focus on what drove you to create the article.

Writers come up with headlines in different ways. However you come up with your headlines, step it up a notch by infusing it with the passion that inspired you to share your message. Be you.

I’m inspired by what I read, what I feel while doing a downward dog, by the generosity of small business owners who give while they’re struggling, by the ecstasy of eating a damn good chocolate croissant.

I used to wonder why would anyone care about what I’ve been doing, what I’ve done, or what I feel. Now I realize it matters because we’re social creatures. Social connection is as important to our survival as food and water. We all want to relate. Be understood. And be heard. So when you share something deeply vulnerable, something you’re passionate about, or what you’ve learned in your life — you’ve got my attention. Just as I got yours.

You can give your headline credibility and spark interest in your reader by making it specific and personal. This sets your headline apart from others. Let’s look at a few comparisons.

Differences between general and specific, personal headlines

General: Why I Decided to Change the Way I Write
Specific and personal: How a Weird Book About Tennis is Changing the Way I Write

General: My First Book Led Me to Heaps of Opportunities
Specific and personal: How I Got on Oprah with My First Book

General: What We Can Learn From Welders
Specific and personal: I’m Over 50 and Learning How to Weld

General: 5 Life Lessons That Will Transform Your Life
Specific and personal: Casablanca: What Life Lessons Can We Learn from This 78-Year-Old Movie?

General: How I Found The Key To Happiness
Specific and personal: How I Found the Key to Happiness Thanks to Gabby Bernstein

General: Why You Need to Post on Social Media a Lot
Specific and personal: What Posting 10,000 Times On Social Media Has Taught Me

General: How Social Isolation is Robbing Us of Underrated Moments
Specific and personal: I Miss the Awkward Moments That Make Us Human

General: What We Can Learn From the Death of a Loved One
Specific and personal: My Aunt Died Today and Gave Me an Invaluable Parting Gift

General: Try This Unusual Way to Double Your Writing Rate
Specific and personal: This Modern Typewriter Has Doubled My Writing Rate

General: This One Life Lesson Has Changed Everything
Specific and personal: What I Learned About Life From Buying a Goat on Craigslist

General headlines work. But adding a human element is a powerful way to flavor a headline. Compare general headlines and personal headlines to TV shows with professional actors and reality tv (who are supposedly “normal” people, non-actors).

Research into why people watch reality TV found that people go through life seeking experiences such as socialization, vengeance, hunger — reality TV offers people a way to repeat these experiences through others they can relate to. Real people.

In the same way, when you create “reality headlines”, you spark interest in readers keen to experience or at least hear about your experience. Sharing our lives help our readers to feel empathy. And empathy connects readers deeply to your messages.

Be you.

2. Help Them Feel

A few ways you can help your reader to feel is by using sensorial words, uplifting words, and plain language. Let’s run through each of these:

Sensorial words

Researcher Barbara Juhasz discovered that tangible words evoke a sensation or perceptual experience in the minds of readers. She created an index she called the sensory experience rating (SER) scale to rank the strength of the sensory experience evoked by nearly 3,000 mono-syllabic words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Words such as battle, explode, love, mummy, and boy.

We can use these high ranking words in our headlines to trigger responses in our readers. Find out more about the 194 highest-ranking sensorial words in the study.

Uplifting words

Negativity sells and we’ve developed a negativity bias from youth. But optimism is a proven way to health and happiness. So let’s help our readers find better health and more joy by using uplifting words that enlighten and give hope, words that make our readers smile and empower them.

Words such as abundance, amaze, life-changing, splendid, and dumbfounded. Check out these 80 uplifting headline words to help you capture readers with positivity.

Plain language

Readers are busy. They’re bombarded with information every day. Don’t make them think. Make it easy for them to read when:

They’ve got only a few seconds before their coffee arrives.
The sketchy wi-fi cuts out.
They’re reading on mobiles.
They’re on public transport or in the car.
English isn’t their first language.

So say what you mean using plain language: use instead of utilize, choose instead of select, help instead of facilitate.

You’ll get your message across faster. Come across more helpful. More professional. And you’ll be much more appreciated by your reader. Don’t buy into the myth that complicated words will make you seem smarter.

Examples of headlines that help readers feel

  • 9 Truths ‘Moms of Boys Only’ Need to Know
  • At What Age Should You Put Your Cleavage Away?
  • Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun — Wrigley’s Doublemint ad, 1959
  • Whale Intelligence Continues to Amaze and Dumbfound Scientists
  • Will Bright Star Betelgeuse Finally Explode?
  • These American Firefighters Are Heading to Australia to Help Battle the Flames
  • 10 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned From My First Africa Safari
  • 10 Tools That Can Help You Build a Splendid Personal Brand
  • How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stress

Summary

I read about Apple’s culture and it gave me a unique perspective about writing great headlines that I had to share with you. Like me, you may doubt that anyone would care about your interests. But by being ourselves — infusing our passion and drive into our headlines — and helping our readers feel what we feel, we have an opportunity to spark enough interest and connection with our readers that they’ll want to read more.

You’ve seen a few examples of how to get to the crux of your message in a personal, specific way. You’ve seen examples of how to incorporate sensorial words, uplifting words, and plain language into headlines. And below I’ve left you a few more links to resources that will help you if you get stuck. Now all that’s left is to give it a go.

Be you. And make them feel.

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Thanks to Niklas Göke

Cynthia Marinakos

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

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Cynthia Marinakos

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

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

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