Detour ahead

You know how some articles are broken up with subheads? It’s not very often that writers write the subheads as they’re crafting the text. Typically, subheads are added later — and maybe not even by the writer. Sometimes it’s an editor who adds the subheads.

In any case, the subheads need to make sense in the flow of the text. Because that’s how the reader is going to consume them.

So don’t stick a subhead into the middle of a thought. For example:

…Less than $30,000 was reportedly used for MBTA tickets over that same time period.

Employers have to strongly incentivize
transit over driving to change habits

However, the report suggests the private sector could be doing more, too. Experts in transportation and psychology said that commuters need to be given strong incentives to change their habits….

When you get to “However,” it seems the subsequent paragraph is contradicting the subhead. Then, by the end of the sentence, you realize, no: The subhead has jerked you around. Your brain has to pull the steering wheel to get back onto the road.

If a sentence starts with However, But, On the contrary, or any change-of-direction indicator, you probably shouldn’t put a subhead before it. Relocate the subhead after the change-of-direction indicator:

…Less than $30,000 was reportedly used for MBTA tickets over that same time period.

However, the report suggests the private sector could be doing more, too.

Employers have to strongly incentivize
transit over driving to change habits

Experts in transportation and psychology said that commuters need to be given strong incentives to change their habits….

Do not jerk your readers around. Do not force their brains to grab the wheel. In such a moment, a driver is apt to curse, and worse.

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