HOW TO WRITE EXCELLENT TITLES
Whenever you write a story or article, take special care in composing the title because it may be the deciding factor that draws many readers to it. An excellent title provokes curiosity and makes readers feel there’s a lot to be gained from reading the piece. This, however, should not be abused to promise what the story does not contain. That would amount to sensationalism, which is unethical.
Having an idea of what you want to write helps to give your article focus and coherence and you should definitely write it down. Yet, you may not arrive at the best title that captures what you have written until you complete the article. Therefore, don’t fret about the title when you haven’t done the writing.
So what are the characteristics a title should have to pull readers to your story?
Four Main Features of an Excellent Title
***Catchiness: It should sound good to the ear. A great title usually has a nice ring to it. It is also witty. These qualities make it memorable.
To accomplish this, the writer resorts to his wide vocabulary, wit, sense of humour and ability to use literary devices like figures of speech. He can also twist existing titles, well-known expressions and phrases to frame something surprising and pleasing.
Old Is New Or It Can Be: A Guide to Redecorating Your Home
This title is inspired by an old saying whose origin is traced as follows: Novelist Stephen King has been quoted as saying, “Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” But the latter part, “everything old is new again” had earlier been attributed to 18th Century Anglo-English writer, Jonathan Swift.
The Greatest Love of All May Not Be What You Think
The reference here is to the song, “The Greatest Love of All,” previously performed by George Benson and popularised by the late powerhouse vocalist, Whitney Houston.
This is reminiscent of the title of the 2010 Lionsgate/Warner Bros. thriller film, “From Paris with Love,” starring John Travolta.
***Accuracy: The title should be in consonance with the body of the article. It should not be deceptive, only aiming to gain attention by peddling a complete lie or half-truth.
Examples of False Titles:
Blow to Atiku: How CSU Authenticated Tinubu’s Certificate
Legacy Media Fact-checkers: Great Fighters of Disinformation
***Concreteness: Including words that refer to tangible objects helps a title to elicit mental images in the readers. Words like banks, doctors, houses and Naira notes are examples of concrete nouns. Abstract nouns which refer to generalised terms without specific referents should only be used in titles when concrete terms are unavailable. Examples of abstract terms are prosperity, morality and fairness. Such words are interpreted differently by different people.
Baggy Clothes Are in Vogue Again
Would You Share an Apartment with Your Ex?
***Conciseness: The longer the title, the weaker it will be. Therefore, in my book, Feature Writing Simplified, I state that, “Ideally, the title should contain three or four important words along with articles and conjunctions” (2005, p. 148). Note that I use the word “ideally,” so this may not always be possible. But always bear in mind that it is hard for a title to be both wordy and punchy.
Besides, an overly long title will likely be imprecise. The writer is probably dabbling into too many things that will lead to an unwieldy and clumsy article that will lack depth on the individual issues it is burdened with.
Other Features of an Excellent Title
***It Is Simple and Unambiguous: An excellent title is easy to understand. If people labour to grasp what it’s saying, they may take that as a cue to drop the article because they assume it will likely be just as bad. Apart from plain obscurity, extreme teasing may also backfire. While you can occasionally attempt to create a mystery with a title, check if you pulled it off before running with such a title. You can do this by putting yourself in the shoes of the readers. Irritating them with a vague title won’t get you the attention you crave for your work.
Examples of clear titles:
It is Touching: Emotion sells. A title that tugs at heartstrings will probably do very well. But it must correspond with the story.
Israeli Survivors Recount the Horrors of Hamas’ Recent Attacks
Woman Gives Birth in Her Collapsed Home Amidst Earthquake
***It Offers Useful and Practical Advice: Many people are eager to learn something new. They would appreciate other people’s insights and solutions to help them address the issues in their lives. Framing titles around such matters usually lures readers.
5 Ways to Handle Sibling Rivalry
Why You Should Not Drop out of School
Composing excellent titles is not easy. Although it can come naturally to some with a great flair for writing, many struggle with it. But patience and practice will likely give you a handle on it.
Reading widely will also expose you to vast numbers of titles that can help you frame yours when you need to. So will embracing poetry. The mastery of rhythm and rhyme will make composing great sounding titles that will flag readers down much easier for you.
Feel free to drop your impressions and questions in the comments below.
God bless you!
Ohaja, E. U. (2005). Feature Writing Simplified. Enugu, Nigeria. EL ‘DEMAK.
You may also like the following related post: