How to write effective headings

Headings are essential parts of your paper to help navigate your reader locate specific parts of your essay or research paper by dividing information quickly. They are tools that make your paper more eye-catching and inviting, which is why it is vital to use them effectively.

Difference between headings and titles

Even though titles and headings share similarities, their roles in your paper are different. While your title should contain the content of your whole document in one or two phrases, your headings should specifically focus on capturing the content of a particular section such as the introduction, body paragraphs, or conclusion.

In other words, while a title is a complete body, headings are used to describe different parts of the body.

Length of headings

Your headings should be long enough to present the content of the specific section. However, be as concise as you can be, and try to limit your heading to one line if possible.

Higher-level and lower-level headings

A higher-level heading is often comprised of a single word (such as “Results” or “Methods”), as it gives general information and an overview of the section.
A lower-level heading, on the other hand, is more explanatory and usually longer. This type of headings uses more specific terminology and helps the reader locate specific information easily.

Writing descriptive headings

The most crucial role of headings is precisely and clearly describing a specific section to make it easy for the reader to know what to expect. Below, you will read one non-descriptive and two descriptive heading.

How to use technical terms

Some papers may rely heavily on technical terms and jargon that an average reader might not be familiar with. Always know your audience and adjust your headings according to your reader’s level of knowledge. Still, if it doesn’t add a benefit to explaining your content, skip using technical terms and jargon.

Formatting tips

When planning for your paper, make sure to plan how you will be dealing with the formatting and capitalization of your headings.

Your assignment sheet or university might provide you with a guideline to follow on how to format, capitalize, and sequence your headings.

Different writing styles require different heading formatting. Therefore, learn the specific formatting style for different academic writing types (e.g. APA headings, MLA headings).

Automatic heading styles in Word

Microsoft Word, Google docs, Pages, and other similar software programs offer different heading style templates to make formatting your headings easier.

Once you use the heading styles provided by these word-processing software programs, it is also easier to automatically create a table of contents, which will save you a lot of time.


Things to avoid

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Ibrahim Akturk
Content editor at Tamara Research. Translation major, huge coffee and baking nerd. Addicted to good music and great articles.