“Why do single girls get shafted at work?”

I saw this headline on the September 2013 UK edition of ‘Marie Claire’. Isn’t it great?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. But, instead, I’m going to break down this headline to show why it’s so good.

#1: “Work” – if you look at the headlines on the covers of magazines like Marie Claire, Cosmo etc, you’ll realise there are certain hot buttons they keep hitting: relationships, sex, beauty, career, money…

These subjects aren’t chosen at random. They’re the issues their readers most care about. So the first good thing about this headline is that it’s about a subject their audience is obsessed with.

#2: “Single girls” – many of their readers are single girls. Those who aren’t, used to be, have friends and relatives that are… by saying “single girls”, they’re calling out their audience – saying, “Hey, this is for you!”

Also, by restricting the headline to be only about single girls, they’re telling the prospective reader that this isn’t another “women are treated as second class in the workplace” article. The specificity gives uniqueness to the headline.  

#3: “Shafted” – this is a great verb for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has two meanings: one implies a sense of injustice, the other meaning is sexual. Because sex is one of the magazines ‘hot topics’, you don’t know if this is about careers or about sex in the workplace. This creates curiosity.

#4: “Why do” – the headline could have been “Do single girls get shafted at work?” or “Why single girls get shafted at work”. Neither of those headlines would have been as strong.

The first headline doesn’t have “why”. “Why” implies you’re going to find out the reasons – and, by extension, if you know the reasons, you might be able to do something about it.

Without “why” it could be a dry article showing statistics that merely confirm that single girls are being treated unfairly.

The latter headline leaves out the little word “do”. This might not seem like much, but that word does a lot in this headline. Firstly,  “Why single girls get shafted at work” almost implies they deserve it.

Secondly, “do” is a way of saying agreeing with the reader’s existing belief: “You think single women get treated unfairly at work? They do!”. 

This headline does so much work with just 8 words and 9 syllables. And it can be adapted for other purposes.

For example, for a PPC manager like me, “Why do small businesses get shafted by Google?”. (Could be about how Google treat big businesses differently in Adwords.)

How could you use this headline for your business?

Steve

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