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That headline may sound like something Confucius concocted, but if you want to get someone's attention in writing, it's a smart place to start. No, this isn't fortune cookie advice, it's real-world business wisdom.

"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy," said advertising legend David Ogilvy. "When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar."

The fact is headlines get into readers' heads. They capture attention because eyes instinctively are drawn to them.

Labels are a lot like bullet points. Eyes just want to glaze over them and look for something, well, more eye-catching.

Labels Are Lazy, Headlines Work Hard

Labels require much less thought than headlines, not only to come up with, but also to analyze. That's why headlines can communicate a powerful message and labels can't. Connecting with your audience requires a much smarter strategy than "just stick a label on it."

So, let's peel apart labels and see where they fall short.

If the words don't read like a sentence, it's most likely a label. However, labels do have a place. They're terrific for charts, tabs, and soup cans. They're terrible for articles, slides, and critical messages.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Gavin McMahon

Gavin McMahon is a founding partner at fassforward Consulting Group. He blogs about PowerPoint, presenting, communication, and message discipline at Make a Powerful Point.

LinkedIn: Gavin McMahon