As readers, we all know that there are titles to certain articles or stories that grab our attention immediately and challenge us to read on, while others send up red flags that say, “Boring. Pass.” So, as authors we need to learn how to impress our readers by learning how to write dynamic titles.
There are basically six things to know about writing titles.
1) The title should introduce the article or story. Many authors treat the title as a label and head their written work with whatever comes to their own mind of reference. This is great for the author’s file, but bad for the reader’s interest. The title must reflect what the content is about. More distinctly, the title should represent the “point” of the content – the highlight or the purpose. Readers who are looking for information on this specific content will be drawn immediately if the title appeals to their own needs and interests. They don’t want to guess at it or be mislead and read an article that really didn’t help them.
2) The title should be short and to the point. We live in a fast-paced world that boasts of “instant” everything and that includes titles to written work. A long, drawn out title not only takes too long to read, but it’s boring. The title must fit within the three-second window of reading it out loud. Anything longer than that will be passed over because no one wants to take the time to read a long title and then have to think if this might be what they’re looking for.
3) The title should challenge the reader. Since the internet has become a digital replacement for libraries and resource centers, many readers search online for information to help them with something. If the article you’re writing is to provide information, then use titles such as, “How to” or “Tips for” or “Reasons to”. These titles catch the reader’s attention right away, especially if he or she is looking for instructions or information on something as a quick reference.
4) The title should follow title format. Titles should always have each word begin in Upper Case with the exception of words with two letters or less, with three-letter adjectives such as ”the” and conjunctions such as “and”. One of the most frequent errors that I see in writing titles comes from within my online short story competition group where writers will only use upper case on the first word of the title and lower case for the rest of the words. The title is not part of the body and needs to be written in title format, not body format. (You can click here to learn about prepositions.)
5) The title should be easy to remember. Authors want their work to spread quickly among the groups of readers and the best way to do this is through word-of-mouth. Nothing puts a writer’s work onto the back of the shelf faster than a title that readers can’t remember. And nothing puts the article on the front of the shelf faster than a title that is on the tip of every reader’s tongue.
6) The title should use SEO words. Search Engine Optimization is a system where major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing will select specific words based on demand and popularity. So if a reader is searching for information on how to build solar panels, and that is what your article is about, you need to learn what words readers are using to search for this information and then have them included in your title. Click here to learn more about SEO.
7) The title needs to be unique and not one that’s already used. Sometimes it pays to do a bit of research and see if the title you want has already been taken. You want your title be the only one of its kind so that when readers search for it, they’ll see it right away and not have to shuffle through a page of similar titles to find it.
8) Finally, the title does not end with a period, nor does it have quotations around it. Punctuation is reserved for the body unless some of the short-form words require it such as “it’s” or “wouldn’t”.
Since the title is the first thing that readers will see, it should be a strong introduction to the quality of writing by the author. If the title attracts readers then it also helps to establish the credibility of author’s work. The same rule applies to a badly written title because if it turns away readers, it also prevents the author from being recognized and their writing from being read.
Whether you decide on your title first and then write the story around it, or write the story first and choose a title from the content, make sure the title is one that will grab the attention of your designated reading audience. This is one instance where first impressions really do count.