At a loss for a title? Whatever you are writing, here are six ways you can come up with a captivating title.
Whether you are writing a blog post or a book, an article or a movie, you need a title that will get your work noticed and draw people in to read or to view. There are several tactics you can take, some more suited to one medium or another. Here are a few of them.
This is my favorite, although I don’t seem to use it much. Alliteration is when you repeat a sound in such a way that a string of words carries a common sound theme. Dr. Seuss has some titles that make great use of alliteration. Listen to how nicely these roll off the tongue:
- Horton Hears a Who
- Hop on Pop
- Cat in the Hat
Alliteration doesn’t have to be just for books titles. Movie titles, blog post titles, article titles – anything can benefit from alliteration. Here is one blog post title I wrote that makes partial use of alliteration: A Sneak Peak at the leaked CIA Style Guide.
We might rename this post “Help with headlines” for a little alliteration.
A single word or name sounds important.
That’s it. Just one word says it all. No need for explanation; it’s that simple. At the same time, you will notice how many of these are named after the principal character, setting up readers and viewers to follow the lead character’s point of view before they even open the book.
Similarly, placing “The” before a word makes it sound more important.
- The Firm
- The Wizard of Oz
- The Eight
There are many firms, but this book is about “The” firm; all others are irrelevant. There might be many wizards in Oz (actually, there turned out to be plenty of other magic folk if you read through the whole series), but this book is about “The” wizard.
The importance angle works well for books and movies, and less well for articles and blog posts. Why not rename this blog post “The Title”? Maybe not.
Stop playing games and just tell people what is inside the book or in the article. What can they expect to read about?
- The Art of Happiness
- Last of the Mohicans
- The Origin of Species
What is the book about? It’s about the art of happiness, how to do things to be happier. What is the book about? It’s the story of the last of the Mohicans. What is the book about? It is about the origin of species and how life evolved from them. No need to rename the title of this blog post to be informative, because this is exactly the style I used to name this article.
Some titles are not about the topic or the character, but rather about the setting. This gives us a very clear sense right off the top that the setting itself is almost the most important character.
- Wuthering Heights
- Treasure Island
- Jurassic Park
Could you make a setting the title for an article or blog post? Yes, although you might not want to be so brief: “The playground where I learned to fight.” could be a great title for a post about how you never let things defeat you, for example. If I was to rename this blog post for its setting, I would have to call it “My Messy Desk”. I think not.
Sometimes you want to get people in the mood for what you have written. You want them to have a sense of what to expect, but you don’t want to come right out and tell them. Mood titles do that.
- Chicken Soup for the Soul
- Brave New World
- Future Shock
You get a sense of what’s inside, but these mood-setters are way more intriguing than Heartwarming Stories to Comfort You or Your Future Predetermined or The Future Will Rip You Apart.
Hmm. I am not sure how I would rename this blog post to capture its mood. Any title ideas in this style?
This is a story
Or you can just start the story off, with a title that says “This is a story”
- A Tale of Two Cities
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- The Canturbury Tales
- Gulliver’s Travels
Believe it or not, this works also for articles and reports and blog posts. For instance, we might rename this blog post “The One About Writing Titles”.
You can be as creative as you wish with your book, blog, screenplay, report or article title. You do not have to follow these six approaches at all. But if you are stranded for a good title, pull out this list to help get those creative juices flowing.