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How to Use Heading Structures Correctly and Efficiently

Updated

Why Headings Matter?

If heading tags are misused, search engines and screen readers will get confused about how the content is structured and is prioritized on the page. 

Search engines rely on heading and subheading tags to interpret what a website is all about. 

Screen readers also reference heading tags to understand how page content is structured: 

  • A screen reader will notice the code and tell the user a heading (e.g., beeping or chime and announce the level, etc.).  
  • Screen readers also use headings to navigate quickly through content to jump from one heading to the next quickly. 

Headings in Microsoft Word

Creating Heading Hierarchy

The different heading style sizes help visual learners understand how the subtopics related to the main topics. If you are consistent in your header level structure, your audience who use visual cues can quickly scan your issues on your document based on text size: 

  • Header 1 (Heading Level 1) is the largest font (Page title) 
  • Header 2 is a larger font size than Header 3 
  • Header 3 is a larger font size than Header 4 

When creating headings, ask the following questions:

  • Is the H1 heading tag used only once? It may serve as the 'title' of your brief document. 
  • Are the headings too general?  
  • H2, H3, etc., tags can be used multiple times as long as you follow a natural document hierarchy. 
  • Is the subheading logically placed?  
  • Is each heading and subheading descriptive of all the following information?  
  • Did you skip heading levels?  
  • Avoid skipping heading. For example, do not skip from <H2> to <H5>.  
  • Did you use the Styles pane to make it visually distinguishable?  
  • Avoid simply putting section headings in bold without using the Styles pane.  
  • Avoid selecting heading levels based on their appearance. Select the heading rank in your hierarchy. 
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