Headings/Subheadings guiding your reader

If you are a current student or were a student it’s safe to assume that used a textbook at some point in time for reading, or skimming to search for your homework answers.

Be honest.

What was your savior? What did you actually look and read for while using that 800 page book?

Headings and subheadings are extremely important parts of all types of writing, technical, business messages, informative expository writing, and reports. Without them your writing will seem longer, wordy, and your transitions in subject changes will be more confusing instead of directly showing your audience you are moving on.

What can they do for your writing?

Effective headings and subheadings provide a short resting place for your reader’s eyes while informing the audience of what will be discussed in the text following the heading or subheading. As a general rule headings are kept short, you want enough to get the point across but you don’t want a twenty word sentence.

The use of subheadings will basically highlight the important points of your writing, breaking the message into sections so the readers can skim your message if they are short on time while still getting the valuable information. These subheadings will also act as a place holder for readers while creating transitions to different topics, if they take a break or need to refer back to your work for information they can follow the headings to find the facts they need without hassle. For more on the general use and concept of headings check out this page.

How to use headings

Headings can be defined as a brief title that will tell the audience what the major section is about. Subheadings are nearly the same as headings, however they are used for smaller sections within a large section of your message. Make sure your headings and subheadings are short, slightly generic, while avoiding unfamiliar words. They can be written in the form of questions or sentence fragments.

For example if your Main heading is:

Type of Motors

Your subheadings would be something along the lines of these:

Electric motors”

“Internal Combustion Motors”

“Magnetic motors”

“Turbine engines”

If you need help on formatting for headings and subheadings here is a great post by David Shaffer that offers great tips.

Here is short report sample that shows good use of a main heading and subheadings that break up each subject in the document explaining the functions of a LinkedIn page.

Capture

When using headings it is important to keep the same formats, have one for the main headings and one for the subheadings, make sure it stands out from the rest of the text without going overboard with formatting such as using a bolded font, that is underlined, while italicized.  An easy to read font, with bold formatting is always a good option. Another tip for your headings is keeping them consistent it will keep your work from becoming confusing, and unprofessional looking.

Headings and subheadings for business writing aren’t always needed. If you only have one point to explain, the subject of the email, or title of the paper will do just fine.  You wouldn’t make a bullet list for one item would you?

Conclusion

By now you should have a strong understanding of the importance of headings and subheadings in your writing, what they do, and how to use them. Your job as a writer is to inform the audience, while avoiding confusion. Headings and subheadings will do this for you, keep them consistent and always remember to keep them simple in words and in appearance (format).

Daniel Sanchez is a student at the University of South Florida majoring in Management of Information Systems with the intent of becoming a Data Base Administrator.

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