You might have noticed that the titles of all the most thought-filled think pieces begin with an interrogative. Why, you might ask, is it necessary to start your article with a “why” or a “how” or even a “what”?
As a writer, being as condescending and patronizing to your readers as possible is of the highest priority. How else will they know that you’re trying to explain something to them? How else will they know that you’re smarter than they are?
Enter the article titled, “Why Writing Show Tunes in Your Time Off Makes You a Nicer Human, Scientifically.” Reading this headline will tip a reader off to the fact that you’re writing an article to make a point. They will see the why and compliment it with a mental because. They will read your article with the expectation of an authoritative answer statement. Otherwise, they might not guess that you’re trying to say something in the article that you spent time writing and getting published. If you had simply titled your article “Strawberry Oreos are the Most Badass” instead of “Why Strawberry Oreos are the Most Badass of All the Oreos,” they probably would have stopped at the headline, assuming that the body of the article was entirely this same statement over and over again. The average reader is not capable of extracting the fact that you have a point to writing an article simply because you have published one. They are not capable of recognizing that there’s a reason behind the writing, a because to the article, without being told. It’s your job to let them know in the headline that there is more information — an answer to their most intimate questions — inside the article itself.
This is also all a very non-threatening way of demonstrating that you know more than the average reader. If you title an article “How Baking Slowly Crisps Your Soul Through Your Fingertips,” a reader will be interested instead of intimidated. “Baking Slowly Crisps Your Soul Through Your Fingertips” is simply too authoritative a statement, and would scare most people off of reading your article (double points if you include “you” somewhere in the title. It makes readers think you’re talking to them which they totally wouldn’t have noticed otherwise). Most readers will cower away from such an absolute declaration of knowledge. This counts double for any female writers. Should you publish an article without a gently leading question word at the front, you will lose anywhere from 50-78% of potential readers. Men will not like that you take such a definite and knowledgeable tone, and they will probably send you virtual threats over an article they didn’t read. The kind of woman who believes only men are capable of being president will also refuse to read an article without a gentle lead, and let’s be honest no one knows how many women that covers. Anyways! Adding a “how” to the beginning of the article above shifts the authority away from you as an author and erases what might be seen as an opinion, without it ever even seeming too factual. That leaves the blame for the evils of baking on the scientists who discovered it, and that’s not your fault author. You are only the messenger.
Here comes the ending. Do you feel like I have oh-so-subtly slipped some knowledge to you? Have I quietly dazzled you without making you feel insufficient or letting you realize that you’re being infantilized? Demonstrated my brilliance too? That is why you should start all of your articles with why.