Think contrast, hierarchy
Subheads tell readers what content exists on a page and how different sections relate to the others. That guides readers to the copy they want to read and shows them how the parts fit together.
To make the most of your subheads’ ability to guide and instruct readers, make sure you:
1. Give equal emphasis to items of equal importance.
Give all “level one” headlines the same type treatment, and treat all “level two” subheads the same. That way, readers can determine the topic’s weight and hierarchy at a glance.
2. Contrast subheads from text, other display copy.
- Type style
- Type size
- Graphic accents
3. Save the widows and orphans.
Don’t end a column or page with a subhead. Instead, make sure there are at least three lines of body copy before a column or page break.
4. Keep them short.
Don’t take the “micro” out of the microcontent:
Aim for eight words or less. That’s the number of words readers can get at a glance, according to American Press Institute research.
Limit subheads to one line. Longer, and they’ll start looking like text, not display copy. Then you’ll lose the attention-grabbing power of subheads.