Business Letters

Write Powerful Headings

Can you imagine reading a newspaper or magazine without any headlines or headings? Headlines and headings help us find our way around, decide what to read, signal what’s coming next and highlight key points. Looking at a recent financial page I found these examples:

  • Banking code outlaws obsolescence for savings accounts
  • Electronic banker offers taste of the future
  • Euro-fish out of its depth
  • FT-SE falls on foreign woes
  • Kingfisher flies in the face of retail gloom
  • Masters sells pub chain
  • Whitbread stops 5,000-job plan

In most business documents, the headings are much weaker. At best they cover the subject matter; at worst they sound academic and tedious.

You can learn to write good headings and subheadings that transform your business letter writing and organise the information to help your reader. Compare these headings.

Typical Heading

Action Headings

First-time Mortgages

Helping You Buy Your First Home

Re: Account Arrears

Repaying The Money You Owe

Job Application Appraisals For The Position of Research Officer

Selecting A Research Officer Shortlist

Headings often fail because they stick too rigidly to the subject matter. The key to writing powerful headings is to use a strong verb and specific words. Because each heading has a strong verb, we call these action headings. You can also use direct questions as headings as they have an added impact. For example:

  • Why Have an Annual Review?
  • Why Invest Your Lump Sum?
  • Are You Paying Too Much Tax?