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5 Ways to Better Utilize Subheadings and Write Listicles

Did I zig instead of zag?
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Effectively using subheadings and listicle-style structures in your blogs and articles can help make them more enticing for people to read and also make the content easier to understand.  A listicle is a type of article that presents its information in a list-oriented structure. It is structured in a way that features additional content along each list point with a rigid content flow.  Essentially, listicles add a defined, logical structure to the concept of using subheadings within a larger work to divide and group content into easier-to-manage chunks. The numbered list points are another way to look at subheadings and overlap in effective use. The following five tips can help you more effectively structure your content.

1) Making Sense of Space

While changing paragraphs typically signifies a change in topic, relying on paragraph spacing alone to group related content within a larger context can be inefficient. One topic cluster may have three paragraphs whereas the next has seven with no hints or clues as to how those paragraphs should be grouped. Subheadings resolve this problem for the reader by taking the content clustering guess work out of reading. This is very helpful in any content that extends beyond a few hundred words. According to The New Yorker, lists change how our brains structure content when reading an article by doing the categorization work for us. This structure expands on the subheading concept, making it even easier to interpret and recall information in the article.

2) A Content Road Map

Subheadings make it very easy for a person to find what they’re looking for within an article. If the reader is familiar with your content’s topic and is only looking for new information, the subheadings make it easier for them to find what they want like chapter titles in a book. Additionally, it also helps a reader that is getting bored with a segment find a good place to move on to so they can continue reading something they enjoy. Subheadings should serve like pinpoints on a road map that not only signify where the content is going to change directions, but also explain why that change of direction is a point of interest. Listicles in particular create a defined physical structure for the content that makes it easy for a reader to follow: they show a clear path from the beginning to the destination with all the important points in between identified.  Real estate website content works as a great example for subheadings inside and outside of the listicle format. Real Estate website content pertaining to a property listing would utilize cluster-organized subheadings to clearly divide sections for room dimensions, tax information, and the local schools for the property. The same website would use a listicle format to break up itemized content for subjects like “5 things to look for in your inspection” and “10 top neighborhoods that are surprisingly affordable.”

3) Offer Multiple Depths of Reading

While it might be disheartening to know that a reader is going to ignore most of the work you put in to an article or blog, subheadings give you the opportunity to give the viewer multiple levels of reading depth for the same content. The viewer might not have enough time or interest to read 2,000 words, but they have enough time to flip through an introduction and 100 words worth of subheadings. To write content that appeals on multiple levels, it is best to avoid burring your main points.  If someone only reads the title and subheadings they should leave with a decent idea of what your article or blog was about.

4) Don’t Fear the Numbers

If you’re going with a listicle instead of well-structured subheadings, do not hesitate to work the number of points the content makes in the title. These do well in SEO because people are very likely to click-through and read them. Fastcompany argues that people also prefer lists that have a rounded number of points that end in with a 0 or 5 (like 5, 10 or 25). However, because of blog and article length restrictions, you may not be able to fit a list count that’s a multiple of five. Quality is more important than quantity in this case: instead of trimming information from the best points, opt to cut out the least important parts akin to inverted pyramid style.

5) Round it off with a Good Title

If you’re an experienced writer, you may not be big fan of “Clickbait” style headlines because they’re taking advantage of human curiosity via a sensationalized or misleading title that is not backed up with quality content. Listicle titles give an author some wiggle-room to work with when generating an appealing title that relates to the content while still injecting creativity and energy because the subheadings are doing the work of providing the actual information. For example, this article could use a boring title like “Writing Better Listicles and Subheadings” which is informative, but fails to entice. We can adjust this title to include numbers with something like “5 Listicle Writing Tips,” which is better but still not all the way there. Next, we can add a little bit of actionable language and hype to come to “5 Ways to Better Utilize Subheadings and Write Listicles” which is more on the creative side without veering into Clickbait territory.


Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.

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By WriterAccess

Freelancer Dan S

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