Lawrence Creaghan: Making sure you get your words’ worth


John Caples on the importance of headlines

Adaptation is especially important when it comes to headlines, whether it’s for a presentation, a brochure, a newsletter, news release, or a major ad campaign. That’s because headlines rarely translate well. And if the headline doesn’t work, then the rest of the job is pretty much down the drain. Here’s what John Caples had to say about headlines.


• If you use a poor headline, it does not matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read.

• What good is all the painstaking work on copy if the headline isn’t right? If the headline doesn’t stop people, the copy might as well be written in Greek.

• The purpose of the headlines must be to convey a message to people who read headlines, then decide whether or not they will look at the copy.

• Now I spend hours on headlines – days if necessary. And when I get a good headline, I know that my task is nearly finished.

• The success of an entire advertising campaign may stand or fall on what is said in the headlines of the individual advertisements.

• Avoid the “hard-to-grasp” headline – the headline that requires thought and is not clear at first glance.

• In successful ads, the appeal is almost always expressed in the headline.

• The best headlines are those that appeal to the reader’s self-interest, that is, headlines based on reader benefits. They offer readers something they want – and get from you.

• In striving to produce an attractive headline, the copywriter should not emphasize the “quick, easy way” to such an extent that the headline becomes unbelievable.

• The headlines are critically important. The majority of the public reads little else when deciding whether or not they are interested.

• For every curiosity headline that succeeds in getting results, a dozen will fail.

• A long headline that really says something is more effective than a brief heading that says nothing.

• The business of judging a headline after you read the copy is wrong. It takes for granted that everybody reads the copy.

• If you are going to emphasize certain words in the headline, be sure that they are the words that say something.

• If the headline is a good one, it is a relatively simple matter to write the copy.


Lawrence Creaghan: Making sure you get your words’ worth