When composing a review for WikiReviews you’ll want to top off your thoughts with a concise, right-to-the-point headline that quickly attracts a reader’s attention. It’s a fun and useful exercise because writing headlines offers an opportunity to be creative, while forcing you to reflect carefully on what you’ve written.
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An effective headline increases the likelihood of your review drawing readers on WikiReviews. Moreover, by infusing a headline with one or two “keywords” or phrases, you can help optimize the review’s exposure on search engines.
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The basic principles for review headlines are simple: Avoid blandness, make a brief but interesting point, don’t try to say too much, and use keywords when possible. Let’s look at an example.
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You’ve just been to a restaurant where the food was excellent but the service left much to be desired. Resist the temptation to simply title the review, “Mixed Feelings about Angelo’s Trattoria.” Instead, consider something like, “Sublime Pasta e Fagioli, but Not a Minute Too Soon!” The second headline is more compelling because it expresses enthusiasm for a particular dish while at the same time adding an element of uncertainty about the establishment. Readers are apt to be drawn to this review partly out of curiosity. (Meanwhile, “pasta e fagioli” fills the role of keyword for diners browsing the web in search of great places that serve it.)
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But what if both the food and service were excellent? “Great Dining Experience at Angelo’s” would certainly be accurate and concise, but again, the element of excitement is missing. “Sublime Cannelloni al Forno, Served on the Double!” would be a more inspired choice.
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It’s important to think of the headline primarily as a device to attract interest, not as a summary of the review’s contents. A headline should not attempt to reflect all the points expressed in the review, nor is it required to be “balanced” if a review contains both positive and negative points. The challenge is to make a valid point using potent language in as few words as possible.
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This can be difficult at times, especially when submitting an entertainment review. For example, our reactions to films often are complex, but your headline must be straightforward and simple. One way around that is to focus on two opposing elements, such as “Great Acting Gives Life to Dumb Plot,” or “Moving Story Hindered by Excessive Violence.” Even if you thoroughly like or dislike a movie, try to entice the reader by highlighting something unexpected, such as: “Little-known Starlet Outshines Meryl Streep!” or “Action Thriller Skimps on Action, Omits Thrills.”
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Whatever you are writing about – be it the local carwash, your endocrinologist, or the senior play at the district high school – keep in mind that your headline is the first impression that readers will have of your review. Make the most of it!