How to Use the Power of Subheads to Keep Readers Engaged

Don’t throw them away

Patricia Haddock
4 min readMar 13, 2022

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How to Use the Power of Subheads to Keep Readers Engaged Don’t throw them away
Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

A client once hired me to write an employee brochure on a new employee benefit plan. They insisted that I put the key information in subheads so that employees could get the most important information at a glance. I learned a lot about how powerful this format tool can be.

A subhead is a section of a larger topic. The main topic is the largest head, and subtopics within the main topic are smaller heads or subheads. In the following screenshot, the main head is “Relationships Start with Civility,” and “Respect” is a subhead. The subhead is directly related to the main topic under which it appears.

Subheads keep readers reading
Credit: Author

“It’s [the subhead] a secondary line of text that expands, advances, and otherwise informs the user beyond the standard headline.” — Hubspot

How to get the most from subheads (this is a head)

Subheads offer many benefits for both readers and writers. Let's look at 5 of the most important ones.

Subheads create white space, so readers are more eager to start reading (this is a subhead)

How a document looks when it is opened is a major factor in whether or not someone will actually read it. By using subheads, we can create white — or negative — space that makes the page appear easy to read and more pleasing to look at. On the other hand, if an article is copy-dense — meaning that it has many paragraphs with no subheads — readers often think it’s too hard to read.

Subheads help readers understand complex or multi-layered topics

Subheads also help us chunk down complex ideas into easily digestible parts. When we’re working on meatier topics, we usually have many aspects of it we want to cover. Subheads help us identify what the chunks need to be, so we can focus our research and develop both deep and wide insight and understanding. This article by Nick Wignall is a good example:

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Patricia Haddock

Writer, editor, coach helping people move from where they are to where they want to be. Find me at Mind Cafe, Illumination, Coffee Times. & pat@phaddock.com.