Tell the Truth: Deliver on Your Title’s Promise

This post is a hat-tip to Mallie Hart, Media Barista, who this month is encouraging the use of songs in blog posts to lighten and enliven content.


cetified trutyC’mon, tell the truth. Give it to me straight. Don’t waste my time with misleading titles and headlines, untruths and outright falsehoods.

Have you ever started to read an article or blog post only to find the content doesn’t fit at all with what the title suggests? You’re ready to learn something, only to find the information just isn’t there. What a waste of time.

Last week, I downloaded an ebook with a provocative title, promising to teach me how do do something complicated in just seven days!


Too Good to be True

The ebook addressed a topic I want to write about, so the “seven days” aspect sounded too good to be true – and it was. Page after page, the author skirted around the edges of the topic and not once – not once – did “seven days” appear anywhere in the 16 chapters of text. False claim. Deception. Bells going off.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many other readers had been disappointed. Often times, such false claims are perpetrated by black hat internet marketers who make their living by practicing bait and switch. My tendency is to give writers the benefit of the doubt — perhaps they aren’t paying enough attention to how their books are marketed. But these transgressions seem too obvious to be a mistake, especially when the untruths are designed into a fancy cover that blatantly hypes the false claims.


Eric Clapton: Tell the Truth


As Eric Clapton demands:
    Tell the truth. Tell me, who’s been fooling you?
    Tell the truth. Now who’s been fooling who?

Remember the Boy Who Cried Wolf? When you grab the attention of people with certain words, and your readers don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re far less likely to lend you their attention the next time your work enters their sight. Chances are, they’ll never bother to read your work again.


Deliver on Your Promise

I like to have fun with headlines and titles as much as the next writer, but there are guidelines for doing so. No matter how outrageous the headline, the copy in your piece must deliver on your initial claim.

A title or headline is a promise. Deliver on what you promise. It’s easier to do this if you:

  • Write your title or headline first.
  • Then create titles for your ebook chapters, or subheads for your article.
  • Next, use the title and subtitles as an structural outline for composing your piece — everything you write should relate back to your title without veering off-track.

Tell the truth. Tell me, who’s been fooling you?

I’m sure you’ve encountered title promises that don’t deliver. Please share in the comments!


  1. Mallie Hart says:

    What a wonderful inclusion into the ranks of the Blogging Challenge With A TWIST, Mary Ann. This post rings so true, as I download a lot of eBooks, PDFs and more – both free and for fee, and I expect the authors to deliver on the title. Sadly, some don’t!

    This SHALL be shared! Already added to Buffer for tweeting and about to send to Google+.

    • Mary Ann Sircely says:

      Thanks for sharing, Mallie! As a former newspaper editor committed to telling the truth, titles that don’t deliver are a pet peeve of mine. Thanks for the blogging challenge which certainly has struck a chord with me.

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