How to write great blog headlines

We love catchy headlines in newspapers and blogposts. In some ways the cleverer the headline the more the reader is drawn to it. One of the techniques that great headline writers use is to substitute a new ending to a well-known phrase or saying.

When Korea tested a nuclear bomb The Sun newspaper used the headline:

How do you solve a problem like Korea,

which is a pun on the song, How do you solve a problem like Maria, from the film A Sound of Music.

When a whale famously swam up the Thames one of London’s papers reported:

Celebrity Big Blubber

(punning on Celebrity Big Brother). A cold snap was heading to England from Siberia in Russia, so they reported:

From Russia With Gloves,

from the James Bond book and film, From Russian with Love.

This style of writing is known as paraprosdokian.  The end of a familiar phrase, motto, slogan, sentence, proverb, or larger piece is ended in a surprising or unexpected way. This forces the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part.

Neuroscience experiments have shown that the hippocampus part of our brain is highly stimulated when it is confronted with the unexpected. When our brain recognises a sequence, it subconsciously predicts what is coming next and then compares that prediction to reality. When there is a mismatch the hippocampus lights up. The hippocampus tells our brain: “pay attention something is different here!”.

Comedians use the same technique. A lot of jokes are funny because the punchline takes us by surprise, here are a few well known examples:

I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Good luck with your creative headlines.