How to Grab an Editor’s Attention

The average editor receives dozens of queries each day—many from PR firms that look exactly the same. When an editor glances—yes, she will initially glance at your query—you will want something to grab her attention, something that will make your query stand out from all the others.

For email queries, some writers have adopted the habit of putting something attention- grabbing in the Subject line. “Dog Murders His Owner” might initially get the attention of an editor but rarely do these attention-grabbing Subject lines follow up with something strong and compelling.

A brief anecdote that relates to your proposal is one effective way to grab an editor’s attention. It’s important that if you use this technique, that you are brief and also compelling enough to make the editor want to read more.

Don’t start out your query with “My name is Sue Smith, and I work at the public library in Toledo.”

It’s crucial to demonstrate in your query the reason why it’s unique and should be accepted. However, don’t tell the editor this—show him. Refrain from using phrases such as “And this is why you should accept this query …” and “That’s the reason why …”

If you can’t show the editor why the story is important, then you are probably not likely to be able to tell her readers why the story is important.

Many people get hung up on this show versus tell dilemma. It’s really quite simple. Don’t tell me that this topic is significant, one of a kind, really cool and unique. Show me by telling a story that brings me to these descriptors.

Show the editor in your query why it should be accepted. What makes this query/story unique; what separates it from the 75 other queries I’ve received this week?

Finally, get to the point. As I mentioned earlier, an editor may just glance at your query and not spend the time on it you think it deserves. Grab that editor’s attention with a compelling anecdote and then move to the heart of the query.

There is hardly anything worse for an editor than to have her interest piqued right away by a strong anecdote only to have the query drag on for several more paragraphs—or pages.

Make your query strong and unique. Show me and don’t tell me, and get right to the point.

And if you need help, please reach out!

3 Tips for Better Article Titles

After two decades of developing and editing content on a variety of platforms, I’ve discovered one of the easiest ways to improve your articles is by spending time creating compelling titles. As attention spans continue to get shorter, it’s even more imperative for writers to draw in readers from the start.

If we fail at the title level, then we often fail the rest of the way. If we can’t compel readers to get past the title and into the crux of our writing, then we have lost the battle.

Here are three quick tips I’ve learned to help writers develop titles that will inspire readers to want more.

1.  Invite the reader into the article.

Admittedly, this is often easier said than done. However, readers will more likely read past your title if they perceive an invitation or opportunity to join you in the story.

Instead of a “me-focus” on the title, consider a “reader-focus.” Avoid words such as “my” or “I” and focus more on an “our perspective” approach. Readers will more likely read an article if they perceive that it someone relates to them as opposed to the article just being about your personal struggle or journey.

2. Demonstrate some emotion

Take a glance at an academic journal and read the title page. Most of the articles are very specific indications of an approach to a topic without any emotion or feeling. And in that genre, it works.

However, if you’re writing popular works and hoping for a broad-based readership, you’ll want to provide some level of emotive roadmap of what’s to come. Now, we’re talking about titles, so we can’t include tons of words that describe what the reader can expect.

Yet if we don’t at least provide a snapshot of what to expect, we are putting up our own roadblocks to potential readerships. If your article is a serious, emotional approach to fighting MS, allude to that in the title. If your article is a humorous look at parenting, make sure the reader knows that by the title.

3. Consider asking a question or including numbers

One way to attract attention is by asking a question in the title. If the topic is of interest to the reader—and oftentimes even if it’s not—people will want to read on to discover the answer.

Try to make the question simple, broad and compelling … so simple that a reader will remember the question long after he or she reads the article.

Another option is adding numbers (much like the title to this article). Adding numbers sticks out to the human eye and tells a reader that there are simple and doable suggestions to a certain topic.

Titling an article “5 Simple Tips to Better Health” is easy, broad and compelling. And it conveys the idea that the suggestions are attainable and can be incorporated into my life.

These are just a few suggestions to consider as you title your next article. Most of us–when we write–spend copious amounts of time refining, editing and proofing our articles. And we should.

But how many of us spend a decent amount of time developing compelling titles—titles that will draw in more readers and expose them not only to the topic at hand but to our broader writing and publishing?

For more ideas and help on writing, editing and content development, visit And if you’re looking for a writing coach who can walk with you along the way to publication, email and put “Writing Coach” in the Subject line.