Help with Headings

Headings and subheadings help readers and writers of journal articles and other expository prose so much that I'm surprised more writers don't take advantage of them.

We are not talking about the title of your article here. We are talking about those "mini titles" within your text that strengthen your article and increase the chance that it will get a favorable reception from reviewers.

Headings Help Article Readers

Headings and subheadings give your readers a break by relieving the "textual tedium" that comes from long, unbroken sequences of paragraph, after paragraph, after paragraph.

This is particularly important--and particularly helpful--in a Web-only journal like JITAg.

Even more important, headings and subheadings "digest" your information for your readers. They're signposts that help readers navigate through your text and that spell out the relationships among your ideas. They direct readers' attention to your most important points and tell them "how to read" what you have written.

And who are your first readers? Your reviewers.

Headings Help Article Authors

Headings and subheadings help you, as writers, ensure that your article is organized logically and clearly.

You can tell whether or not you have a logical and clear organization by "pulling" your headings and subheadings out of your article. If, arrayed by themselves, they look and function like an outline of your article, you're in business. If they don't, you have some revising to do.

Perhaps you don't have enough headings and/or subheadings to do justice to all of your material, or perhaps you've forgotten to discuss something.

You might find that something you regard as one of your most significant points is "buried" and that you need to recast or reorganize your article to give that point more prominence.

It could be that your sections are not arranged in the best order and that what you discussed later should appear earlier in your article.

Or maybe your hierarchy of headings and subheadings should be adjusted. That is, something that you have treated as a primary- or first-level heading is "really" a second-level subheading (or vice versa).

A word to the wise when it comes to second- and third-level subheadings. You should provide at least two sections with subheadings when you "divide" a larger section, because the result of division must logically be more than a single unit. If you can't come up with a second subheading, maybe subheadings are, in that case, inappropriate, and you should consider recasting your higher level heading, instead.

Whether you're writing a journal article or a bulletin, headings and subheadings will help you put your points across more effectively. It only makes sense to use them and to use them well.