Last week, I was surprised to see that the title of an article I had submitted on behalf of one of our clients had been changed. It was not the words that had been changed, but the number six had gone from a numeral to a word. Did I really spell out the number six? It looked so awkward. There was no way.
I decided to reach out to the editor and I asked him about the change. He responded to let me know that their blog community abides by the AP style and the 6 spelled out S-I-X was in adherence to this style. This was surprising to me because it’s a best practice of Red Branch Media to use numerals in headlines.
Many media outlets on the web use numerals in their headlines, and I very rarely see blog articles follow the AP rule that numbers 1 through 9 are spelled out and 10 and above are numerals.
In editing; it’s all about the details but journalism school and digital marketing can find themselves at odds regarding this practice. Adhering to AP style for webpage copy, whether it’s a blog article, news story or not is one of those times where editors have to make a tough choice between traffic and tradition.
Here’s why we choose traffic:
The Proof is in the Pudding
When you scroll through your newsfeed on Facebook, how many articles do you see with the numbers spelled out? None, and if you do… then they probably don’t know that headlines with a numeral in them can get twice as many clicks as headlines without numerals. It’s been tested and proven, too! Moz.com found that a story with two different headlines had a 36% difference in click rates. Guess which headline won?
- Ways to Make Tea Drinking More Delightful
- 30 Ways to Make Tea Drinking More Delightful
The one with the numeral, of course! Increase your click rates even more by including an odd number. The Content Marketing Institute reports “headlines that contained odd numbers had a 20 percent higher click-through rate than headlines with even numbers.”
Which brings me to the next AP rule you should ditch…
… spelling out percent. Writing for the web is all about constructing an article that is scannable. We use different formats for headers and quotes, we use bullets and lists, we use numerals in our headlines… catching on?
It’s all about making your content scannable. Yes, it is AP-appropriate to spell out the word percent, but it’s not practical for online content.
Take a look at these two bodies of copy:
“Thirty seconds may seem like enough time, but think of the information these job seekers possibly overlook. The same 75 percent of job seekers stated that the look and feel of the job advertisement influences their decision to apply. This is evidence that recruiters should aim to create visually appealing job advertisements, but it also shows how flowery descriptions can shadow the true nature of the open position.”
“30 seconds may seem like enough time, but think of the information these job seekers possibly overlook. The same 75% of job seekers stated that the look and feel of the job advertisement influences their decision to apply. This is evidence that recruiters should aim to create visually appealing job advertisements, but it also shows how flowery descriptions can shadow the true nature of the open position.”
Readability is in the Eye of the Beholder
As you can see, what works for your AP-guidebook thumping professor in JOUR-1500 doesn’t always work for the goals of a digital marketing strategy, many of which are centered around content. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about either. Whether you’re an HR Technology vendor, a small-business blog that focuses on leadership or a sorority girl on Thought Catalog, ditching the AP style guide can work wonders. While having the foundation of AP at your fingertips does make you a stronger, more knowledgeable writer; it does not always align with strong marketing techniques.
Are there any lessons you learned in college that you have found to NOT be a best practice in the real world? Share with me in the comments!