Writing an essay or story may seem like the hardest part of a project, but sometimes creating a catchy title can be just as difficult. However, with a combination of organization and creativity, you will be able to create a wide selection of possible titles that will allow you to choose the perfect one for your work.
Method 1 of 2: Write a Title for a Nonfiction Work
Step 1. Write a draft of the essay
The title is the first thing the reader will see, but it is usually the last thing the writer believes. You may not know what your essay will say until after you've written a part.
Essays often change during the draft creation and review process. The title you come up with at the beginning may not reflect the content of the essay when you finish it. You should also review the title after finishing the essay
Step 2. Identify the main themes in your work
Nonfiction works usually have a plot. Make a list of two or three main points that you want to develop.
- Review your thesis statement. This sentence contains the main argument of your work and can help you come up with a title.
- Check your main sentences. Reading these sentences together can help you choose the themes, symbols, or central ideas of your work that you can integrate into the title.
- Consider asking a friend to read your work to help you identify the themes.
Step 3. Identify your target audience
Write down some groups of people who are interested in your topic and why it would appeal to them.
- Use formal language if you are writing a school assignment or your audience is made up of academics and specialists on your subject. Don't use a playful tone or colloquial words.
- If you are looking to reach an audience on the internet, consider what keywords the reader might use to find your article. For example, if you've written a tutorial, include words like "beginner" or "do it yourself," which will identify your writing as appropriate for skill at any level.
- If your writing is news, keep in mind who you are writing for. For example, if you are writing about a team of athletes, write terms like "fan," "coach," "referee," or the name of the team. Readers with an interest in sports or sports equipment will be able to quickly identify your perspective and the topic of your story.
Step 4. Reflect on the function of the title
Titles predict essay content, reflect tone or perspective, include keywords, and capture interest. Your title should never confuse the reader. A title can also reflect the purpose of the article, such as a historical context, a theoretical focus, or an argument.
Step 5. Decide between a declarative, descriptive, or interrogative title
When choosing one of these titles, think about the type of information you want to convey to the reader.
- Declarative titles mention the main findings or conclusions.
- Descriptive titles describe the topic of the article, but do not reveal the main conclusions.
- Interrogative titles present the topic in the form of a question.
Step 6. Avoid titles that are too long
In the case of non-fiction, the titles should express the important information, the keywords and even the methodologies. However, a title that is too long can be annoying and hinder the reader. Try to do it with about 10 words or less.
Step 7. Look for ideas in your own writing
Reread your work to find sentences or phrases in which you refer to your main ideas. Often times, the introductory or concluding paragraphs of your work will have a phrase that would work well as a title. Highlight or make a note of every word or phrase that explains your ideas.
Look for descriptions or phrases that grab your attention and of which you are proud. For example, in an essay on censorship, choose a phrase like "forbidden music," which is descriptive but also intriguing
Step 8. Check your sources
Look up quotes from sources you've used to support your points to find something that grabs the reader's attention.
- For example, in an essay on religious persecution, a quote such as "God was silent" is striking and thought-provoking. Readers may immediately agree or disagree, and will want to read your explanation.
- If you are using someone else's words, be sure to enclose them in quotation marks, even in the title.
Step 9. Create a list of possible titles
Use your lists of topics, potential audiences, phrases, and quotes created in the previous steps to come up with words and phrases for the title. Combine two different elements, such as a quote and a topic. Writers often separate two items with colons. The notes in parentheses in the following examples indicate which items the author has chosen.
- The negative impact of substitute referees on soccer fans (subject and audience)
- "The Crucible of Victory": Understanding the Western Front in World War I (quote and topic)
- The Queen of Diamonds: Marie Antoinette and Revolutionary Propaganda (Phrases and Theme)
Step 10. Respect the conventions
Each discipline (such as science, humanities, or the arts) may have different rules for what a degree should look like. If you know the specific expectations, you will need to follow those guidelines. Here are some general rules to remember:
- The first word of the title must begin with a capital letter.
- The first word after a colon must always be lowercase, unless it is a proper noun.
- In general, do not capitalize the words and, a, an, the or the short prepositions if they are not the first word of the title.
- If a book or movie title is part of your essay title, it should be italicized (eg, Gender Relations Among Vampires in Twilight). Short story titles should always be in quotation marks.
- Determine if your work follows the MLA, APA, or some other style. Websites like Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, APA Style, and MLA Handbook can help you with title conventions.
Method 2 of 2: Write a Title for a Work of Fiction
Step 1. Come up with ideas
Write down every word that comes to mind about your story. Include keywords about the topic, character names, phrases you love, and whatever comes to mind. Order them in different combinations to see if something convinces you.
Step 2. Study the titles of the works of your genre
Look for stories or books that are popular with your target audience. Readers may be drawn to your work because it reminds them of something they already like.
For example, many young adult fantasy novels employ an intriguing word or two: Twilight, Bitten, Cinder, The Selection
Step 3. Make the title exciting
Boring or generic titles won't catch the reader's attention. Titles like "The Tree" or "The Train" may name the theme or symbol of the story, but they will not thrill the reader.
Add a more descriptive word to the basic title. Successful titles using the above words include The Bountiful Tree, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Mystery of the Blue Train, and The Orphan Train
Step 4. Make the title easy to remember
Headlines should not only grab the reader's attention, but also promote your work. Something that is very difficult to remember will not appeal to editors or agents, and the reader will not remember or mention it to other people. You have to create an exciting, catchy and memorable title.
Read your title out loud. Does it feel fluid? It is exciting? It sounds boring? Would you review this work? The answers to these questions can help you review the title
Step 5. Pay attention to the words you use
A title should fit the story, but it doesn't have to confuse potential readers. Make sure the words you use don't portray the story as something it is not. The title shouldn't sound like a science fiction story if it's in the romance genre.
Step 6. Use lively and solid language
The title has to stand out. Strong action words, lively adjectives, and intriguing nouns can make your title attractive. Analyze the words in your possible title. Are there synonyms that are more descriptive or unique? Can you choose a word that has a less general meaning? Some words are so common that their meaning doesn't impact readers in the same way.
For example, the use of the word desire in Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms is much more interesting than Love Under the Elms
Step 7. Seek inspiration
Book titles are often derived from established fantasy works such as the Bible, Shakespeare, song lyrics, and other sources. Write down phrases that you find meaningful, beautiful, or intriguing.
These are examples of this type of title: The Grapes of Wrath; Absalom, Absalom !; Gaudy Night and Under the Same Star
Step 8. Read your work
Titles are usually memorable lines from the book or story. Readers might enjoy the moment when they realize why a story has a certain title.
Among these types of titles we have To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22 and The Catcher in the Rye
Step 9. Write down your inspiration when it comes to you
Good writing ideas often come when you least expect them. You could forget them, so you should have a paper and a pencil handy to jot down the ideas that come to mind whenever inspiration strikes.
- Search the internet for templates to generate a good headline.
- Write the entire essay, review your thesis, and find a way to reduce it to two to four words.