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Headings

Headings and subheadings help people:

  • find your page via search engines (especially the top heading, H1)
  • navigatearound your page once they arrive

When formatting your page, make the top heading on the page a H1, with subheadings H2 and lower. If you do not use these formats for your headings, they will not be recognised by search engines.

 

Top (H1) headings

For search engines, H1 headings are the single most important piece of on-page text. Lower-level headings - H2, H3, etc. - also influence search engines.

H1 headings should use the same subject words as in your <title> tag.
Readers clicking on your <title> tag in a search results page will then be easily able to see that the page they land on is the correct one.

Subheadings (H2)

Because readers scan webpages rather than reading every word, subheadings are important signposts to help them find their way around a page. Subheadings are read 5 times more than body text.

Web texts should therefore have many more subheadings than print documents – even one for every paragraph may not be too much.

 

Style

  • Keep them short – but not too short (aim for around 8 words). Use a telegraphic headline style without filler words like the, and, of.
  • Use concrete readers’ words (i.e. for non-specialists, avoid jargon and abstractions).
  • Express issues from the readers' perspective.
  • Start with the key idea, not the EU's perspective or lesser details (dates, etc.)
  • Clearlydescribethe content in that section and its relationship to other sections.
  • Be compelling, to attract the attention of scanning readers – especially expressing action through verbs rather than noun phrases alone.

 

Formats

Consider using one of the following formats:

  • Statement
    This can be a good way to put the key message first, e.g. Counterfeit products need an EU response, Sub-Saharan poverty – Africa to act
  • Question
    This is a good way of directly addressing users' needs.

    e.g. What is the EU doing about climate change? When will the new Regulation take effect?

    If there is a transaction involved, we can use 'you' forms e.g. How can you register? Where can you download the application form?

    (or to be even more direct, How can I register? Where can I download the application form?)

     Don't try to cover 2 questions in the same subheading – write separate subheadings/sections for each.
  • Call to action / instruction – using either:

    imperatives – Register for funding, Submit your proposal, or
    gerund – Registering for funding, Submitting your proposal

 

Whichever format you choose, try to stick to it throughout – using consistent patterns like this makes text more readable.

 

 

Examples                                                              

Wrong approach 

Correct approach

The Commission’s existing framework

(in a page on ethics in the Commission)

Ethics at the Commission

(includes specific subject words)

Procedures

(in a page on press accreditation)

How accreditation is granted

(expresses a meaningful task for readers)

Your Internet - Your choice

(about action to give consumers a wider choice of web browsers – this istoo slogany and general)

PC users free to choose web browsers

(uses concrete subject words so readers will instantly understand)