How to Write Good Subheadings [Common Mistakes Writers Make]

Subheadings often get overlooked by writers. But they, in fact, are very important for readability. Read on to learn a few rules of writing good subheadings for your blog posts.

Subheadings allow readers to quickly understand what your article is about and decide whether they want to read it. Like headings, subheadings should spell out a promise so readers can see what they can gain from each paragraph. Read on to learn more about how to write great subheadings in your blog posts.

I wrote a book for content writers called From Reads To Leads. You should check it out to learn what rules you need to follow to write content that converts readers into leads.

How important are subheadings?

Many writers don’t think subheadings are important, so they don’t spend as much time writing them as they do writing headings. However great your heading is, if you do a poor job writing your subheadings, people will leave your website. Think of subheadings as doors that open to rooms of text: If they look hard to unlock, the reader won’t try to open them.

Let me give you an example.

Last year, I decided to enroll in a yoga teacher training course. After all, I’ve been doing yoga for more than six years. Time to learn how it actually works. So I went on the internet, googled “yoga per insegnanti” (“yoga for teachers” in Italian), and started evaluating options. 

The first school I found was near my town. The website was full of information—and the long wall of text that this information was pressed into looked impenetrable. I read it word for word and still didn’t get a clear idea of what the course offered. Of course, I could have just called and had my questions answered, but I preferred to continue browsing. After a few hours, I came across another school a bit farther away but with a website that was way cleaner and much more readable. The content was broken down into large blocks with information about the dates and times of lectures, the price, the course program, how to enroll, the certification you could achieve, and other details. All my questions were answered and I felt convinced this was the course I needed to take. My buying decision was first and foremost influenced by how easy it was to consume the content on the school’s website. Everything else was secondary.

Readable content doesn't only keep the reader on the page. It can also influence buying decisions.

Most people aren’t going to read your content word for word. They’ll most likely scan blocks of text looking for useful and engaging information. If your blocks of text don’t make it easy to spot useful content by scanning, your reader won’t take the time to search for it.

Subheadings are like maps that help readers quickly navigate the text. 

Common mistakes writers make when writing subheadings

Writing subheadings is hard. The most common mistakes writers make when doing so include:

  1. Not thinking enough about how to describe the paragraph
  2. Being creative at the expense of clarity
  3. Being inconsistent with the structure of subheadings
  4. Drifting away from the topic of the article

Let’s look at these mistakes in detail.

Not thinking enough about how to describe the paragraph

For example, calling a section in an article about mobile app security testing “Security Requirements” doesn’t describe this section and doesn’t make it easier for a reader to understand what they can gain from reading this section. If you aren’t sure what you want to say, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is this paragraph about?
  • What is the most important part of this paragraph?
  • What do I want the reader to take from this paragraph?

Your answers to these questions will help you settle on a subheading that gives a promise to the reader. Instead of “Security Requirements,” a better subheading could be “How to Define Security Requirements for Your Mobile App.” Now the reader knows what to expect and may be interested in continuing to read.

Being creative at the expense of clarity

Trying to be creative when writing subheadings is great. But not when it leads to confusion. For example, if one of your subheadings in an article about types of nutrition apps is “Burning Men,” it might confuse or mislead the reader. You want to sound creative, but your readers aren’t reading your article to figure out what you’re saying. They want solutions delivered in a clear and understandable manner. Call that section “Apps for Counting Calories” and don’t get too upset if nobody gets your creative ideas.

Being inconsistent with the structure of subheadings

If your subheadings have different grammatical structures and lengths, they’ll be hard for your readers to process. That's why your subheadings need to follow a pattern. Let's see an example: 

Headline: Five Tips for the Smartest Development Ever

Subheading 1: The lack of clear goals is why your project might get off track

Subheading 2: Deal with over-engineering

Subheading 3: Stop reinventing the wheel

Subheading 4: Why DevOps is what you need 

These subheadings aren’t consistent; they don’t create a rhythm that makes it easy to perceive the information. Let’s see how we can fix them:

Subheading 1: Set clear goals

Subheading 2: Avoid over-engineering

Subheading 3: Stop reinventing the wheel

Subheading 4: Use DevOps

Simple, isn’t it? 

Drifting away from the topic of the article

Every subheading in your article needs to link back to your article’s main heading. This simple rule allows you to stay on track and not turn your work into an overweight piece about everything and nothing at once. For instance, if you’re writing an article titled “How to Manage Time Differences,” your subheadings should each list a way in which you can manage time differences. What they shouldn’t do is mention everything that comes to your mind related to that topic. Let’s see what this mistake typically looks like:

Headline: How to Manage Time Differences

Subheading 1: If you think that time differences are the reason your workflow is going off the rails, it’s not

Subheading 2: Adjust, don’t get adjusted

Subheading 3: Start late, leave late

Subheading 4: What if something urgent happens?

Subheading 1 (“If you think that time differences are the reason your workflow is going off the rails, it’s not”) and subheading 4 (“What if something urgent happens?”) don’t fit with the heading “How to Manage Time Differences,” so they shouldn’t be there. If you want to emphasize that having a team spread across different time zones isn’t a big problem, you can do it in the introduction and prove it throughout the article. It can actually be your key message. 

Let’s see how we can fix the subheadings above to stay on track:

Headline: How to Manage Time Differences

Subheading 1: Schedule meetings in advance

Subheading 2: Adjust, don’t get adjusted

Subheading 3: Start late, leave late

Subheading 4: Have a plan B if something goes wrong 

Now everything is connected to the headline.

View your article as a stairway, where each step is a subheading that moves the reader closer to the top. 

Watch it on YouTube:


Hope this blog post has helped you figure out how to write good subheadings to your blog posts. Thanks for reading and subscribing to my YouTube channel.

Read next:

How to write compelling introductory paragraphs

How to write powerful conclusions

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