Taglines: What they are and how to use them

In February Jer published a blog post announcing a great new addition to the GV WordPress interface: the post validation checklist.

Located to the right of the composition pane, the checklist keeps track of word count and reminds us to include a headline, an excerpt and one other feature that we haven't used much here at GV: a tagline.

Taglines are not mandatory on GV stories, but a good one can heighten engagement in a story by arousing the reader's interest.

About taglines

The tagline is the line just beneath the headline. It's also known as a subhead, strapline, or dek.

Our WordPress setup automatically limits the length of both excerpts and taglines—in the case of taglines the limit is 10 words. This makes them sometimes challenging to craft, but understanding the purpose of taglines and how they should work helps simplify the process.

The headline and tagline should work together as a unit. A good tagline:

  • Works in tandem with the headline
  • Complements (but does not repeat) the headline
  • Will often offer one key item of information that advances the story
  • Offers a short, perhaps amusing fact or idea that can help attract readers
  • Is usually a complete sentence

A tagline is NOT:

  • A general statement about the story
  • A list of keywords

Here are a few examples:

In the post below, Afef reported on two bloggers in Mauritania who are facing criminal defamation charges for reporting on corruption. Given the seriousness of the issue and the brevity of the story, we chose a short, simple headline.

For the tagline, we selected one additional detail from the story that vividly illustrates the bloggers’ plight. Not only are they on trial, but it's been reported that they're not being treated fairly or given due process. One telling detail is that the prosecutors have offered no evidence to prove their case against the bloggers: they say that they had found evidence, but that it has since been “lost.” We used that detail in the tagline.

HEADLINE: Mauritanian bloggers face defamation charges for reporting on corruption

TAGLINE: Prosecutors claim that evidence against the bloggers has been ‘lost’.

 

For this first-person piece by Laura Vidal, about GV contributor Luis Carlos Díaz, we chose a playful headline intended to attract readers by referencing a popular the ‘welcome to the internet’ meme.

Note the subtle interplay between the two elements. The headline mentions only their first names, references the popular meme, and also lets us know that this is about Venezuela. The tagline then reveals that Luis and Naky are a couple, and that they are influential voices online in Venezuela.

The header photo works along with the other two elements to convey further information about the pair: namely, that they're young and that their work includes elements of humour and whimsy. It invites the reader to get to know them.

HEADLINE: Welcome to the Venezuelan Internet. Luis Carlos and Naky will be your guides.

TAGLINE: Meet Venezuela’s internet power couple.

 

In this story by Alexey, the tagline adds a new and unexpected detail that complements a headline that's already delivering a lot of information.

HEADLINE: Rumors of Russia's first ‘fake news’ case against a media outlet might just be fake news

TAGLINE: The false story claimed authorities had banned yoga in prisons.

 

For your next GV story, give taglines a try!

 

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