A title tells the reader what to expect in the content of your writing.
Readers usually prefer non-fiction titles to give a clearer idea of the content, whereas a title for fiction might give only a clue that is worked out as the story is read.
I’m sure that, whenever you read a newspaper or magazine, you scan the titles so you know which articles you want to read, and which ones you will ignore. This is usual, and it is the reason why titles are considered very carefully by editors.
In order to attract the reader’s attention, it has become fashionable these days to make titles as witty as possible. Some may be puns; others may just be devised to make you question what the article or story is about so that you will at least take a look. The results can be very funny, or end up ridiculous. Funny or cute titles occasionally backfire, and I’m sure you have laughed at titles that clearly told a different message than the writer intended.
So, what is a good title?
• It draws the reader’s attention. This is best done using active verbs, specific nouns, and well-chosen, descriptive adjectives.
• It is appropriate to the content, giving an honest clue to what is contained.
• It is appropriate to the style of the content. (For example, you wouldn’t write a cute title for a eulogy).
• It is as concise as it can be, while saying all that is needed. Lengthy titles went out of fashion decades ago.
Your title will either draw the readers, or tell them your article won’t interest them. It is okay for a reader not to be interested, by the way. No writing appeals to everyone.
As you are now aware of what you are trying to achieve, how do you write terrific, ‘telling’ titles?
Here are some tips:
• Try to condense the meaning or theme of your writing as neatly as possible. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to wrap up the whole story so well, including the conclusion, that there is no incentive for people to read it at all.
• Can you use a quote or key phrase from within your article or story?
• An appropriate play on words may work. This could be done by rewording a cliché or familiar phrase.
• Alliteration, in which each of the main words in the title begins with the same sound, is often effective.
• If you are writing an instructive article, including ‘DIY tips’ or ‘how to’ in your title may seem boring, but are still useful because people search for information using these sort of phrases.
Sometimes a title will form clearly in your head before you start, but other times it won’t, so it doesn’t matter if you decide on the title before or after you’ve finished the item.
Spend time to compose the best title you can, and your efforts will be rewarded with interest.