Can you imagine a world where everything was named as blandly as possible?
“Come here, Pet.”
“Hey, Maternal Grandmother, could I get your recipe for Casserole?”
“Book about a Long Journey is pretty much the best thing I’ve ever read.”
“I love shopping at Clothing Store at Mall—its Regular Jeans are to die for.”
Meh. Yawn. Zzzzzz.
Now you understand the crushing ennui your teacher feels flipping through a stack of essays entitled “Narrative Essay” or “Essay 4,” “Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s Poetry,” or worst of all, the dreaded “Untitled.”
Boring, right? No wonder it takes three weeks to get them graded and handed back!
So how do you make your essay the shining gem in the rough, the beacon that keeps your teacher from falling asleep in yet another puddle of coffee and tears during hours-long grading marathons?
We’ll get there. First, let’s discuss why essay titles matter in the first place.
Why Are Essay Titles Important?
The title of an essay occupies a pretty sweet spot: front and center, first page. This is a position of prestige and privilege. It just begs to be read.
Old-timey cover page optional.
Don’t waste this opportunity to make a good first impression!
Much like a hook sentence, a title should snag the attention of your readers and make them want to read more.
Most importantly, the title—even a short one—can give readers a lot of context about an essay. Good essay titles not only identify the essay’s subject, but they can also give readers clues about important elements of the essay:
- tone (Is it serious or irreverent?)
- structure (Is it argumentative? Are you comparing and contrasting?)
- angle/stance (Are you in favor of something or against it?)
So what goes into a mind-blowingly good essay title? Keep reading to find out!
What Are the Essential Elements of Good Essay Titles?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to titling essays. While a one-word title might work for some essays, others practically beg for long, descriptive ones.
That said, there are a few qualities that most good essay titles share:.
1. A good essay title identifies the subject.
It probably seems obvious that a title should give the reader at least a hint about the essay’s subject, but you’d be surprised how often it doesn’t! I’ve edited plenty of essays with titles like “Analysis Essay,” “History,” or “Assignment 5.”
Not only are these boring, but they’re completely vague and nonspecific.
2. A great title establishes the tone of the essay.
In addition to telling readers what an essay is about, really great titles also help to set the tone or mood of the essay. A forceful, direct title is perfect for an angry rant or a somber piece of persuasion.
Titles with puns or other fun wordplay, on the other hand, suggest that the reader can take the piece a little less seriously.
3. Good essay titles are specific.
It’s possible for a title to establish both the tone and subject … but in a vague way. For instance, “A Scholarly Examination of Chinese Art” identifies a subject and a tone, but if the essay actually focuses on fifteenth-century Chinese pottery, specificity is lacking.
A more specific essay title would be “A Scholarly Examination of Fifteenth-Century Chinese Pottery.”
4. A great essay title is attractive to the intended audience.
Last but not least, a title should be attractive and interesting—but most importantly, it should be attractive and interesting to the audience for whom it was written.
For example, a playful and punny title might fall flat for a stodgy, humorless professor—you know the type.
In this case, it’s better to be straightforward and descriptive—but that doesn’t have to mean boring.
On the other hand, your creative writing instructor would probably appreciate a bit of clever wordplay.
This aspect of title-writing requires you to know your audience and make a judgment call regarding the type of title your readers will find engaging. But it’s totally worth it when you snag a big, fat ‘A,’ right?
Now that you know what goes into a good title, let’s look at some strategies for writing titles that meet these criteria.
Tips and Tricks for Writing Good Essay Titles
Now that you know the different components of a solid title, how do you actually write one?
Here are a few tips and tricks to help. For each of the following tips, I’ve also shared one or more relevant examples from the Kibin essay database.
Use subtitles to your advantage
Many essay titles have both a main title as well as a secondary title that elaborates a bit on the first part.
Consider the late David Foster Wallace’s essay Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise. Alone, neither part of that title would meet all the criteria I listed earlier. Yet together, they create a title that’s almost irresistible. (What was “nearly lethal”? I have to know!)
Essay database example: Wrap It Up: An Ode to the Burrito
Sum it up
Another strategy for writing good essay titles is to choose two or three words that sum up the main ideas of the essay—bonus points if these words seem oddly juxtaposed as this creates interest and attraction. Just be sure that they’re relevant.
While they aren’t essays, Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel and Chuck Klosterman’s essay collection Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs are both fantastic examples of this titling strategy in action. How could you pass those up?
Essay database example: Scalpel, Forceps, Empathy: How My College Experiences Are Preparing Me to Become a Competent Doctor
Take a page (well, a phrase) from someone else’s book
Sometimes, great titles are right under your nose—maybe even in the text you’re analyzing. An especially provocative or descriptive line can really set the tone for your essay and save you a bit of brainstorming.
And sometimes, you may find inspiration from a piece of writing that you aren’t writing about. Consider Joan Didion’s famous essay collection and the essay of the same name, Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The title of this work was inspired by the last line of William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming.
One thing to remember, though: if your snippet is a direct quotation, be sure to place it in quotation marks, as in the example below.
Essay database example: “Dark of the Invisible Moon”: Imagery in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
Get punny (if appropriate)
Clever wordplay has its place, including in essay titles. That said, there’s a fine line between funny and corny. Not all topics or essays are suited for a funny title. Use your best judgment, and keep your audience in mind.
Consider Donovan Hohn’s Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea & of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists & Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them. The title is cheeky yet descriptive and suits the subject well.
You can also balance your wit with a more buttoned-up subtitle to ensure that your work is still taken seriously. For instance, consider David Walter Toews’ book titled The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us about Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society.
Essay database example: Secrets of the C.I.A.: America’s Premier Chef’s School
Sometimes, the best essay title is simply a provocative statement that makes the reader feel just a tiny bit defensive or that speaks to an opinion the reader also holds. This titling strategy works especially well for argumentative and persuasive essays, in which you simply state your argument in the title. Pamela Druckerman’s Why French Parents Are Superioris a good example of such a title.
However, other types of non-argumentative yet controversial statements can also work. Consider Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian, a title that would have been particularly controversial in 1927, when it was originally published, or Mathew Ingram’s Is the Internet Making Us Smarter or Dumber? Yes.
Essay database example: Why Donald Trump Will Never Be President of the United States
Bonus tip: Study great titles
If you really want to improve your title-writing game, figure out what makes you want to read an essay or article. Scroll through an online magazine that tickles your fancy—The New Yorker, the Opinion section of The Wall Street Journal, Rookie, and Rolling Stone all publish great essays—and figure out what makes you want to click on a title.
This I Believe is another great source of inspiration, especially for titling personal essays. Check out the titles of the most viewed essays, and consider which ones you want to read and why.
Ultimately, writing good essay titles takes time and practice. In fact, some bloggers spend halfthe time it takes to create a piece of writing working on the title.
While this is definitely overkill for a school assignment—after all, you’re not necessarily competing for attention among thousands of other writers—it gives you an idea of just how important the title is.
But most importantly, you have the strategies you need to give your essay the name it deserves. And if you’re not sure if your title fits your paper or really reels the reader in, ask a Kibin editor for an honest opinion—we’re always happy to help!
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University and college students and even some high school classmen and top students often omit such an important tool in their essays as a title. More
often than not, they also underuse this helpful means of persuasion and attraction of the attention of the needed audience. A non-specific or obscure title
is just a missed possibility to introduce your idea or to promote your writing.
To make things straight and clear, you should be aware of the following key points about titles that will help you out in any situation or with any
assignment you are stuck with:
Why Are Titles So Comparatively Challenging?
Titles are first and foremost important for your readers and the audience. Along with the body of the essay, a relevant title may be one of the most
captivating and alluring elements of the whole essay. If you are looking for the methods to hold the attention of your audience, your essay title is one of
the initial and basic things you should think about. Writing an essay , you should
be aware of the main functions that should be carried out by your academic title:
Contributing to the argument in the essay and convincing the reader;
Capturing the reader’s attention and interest with the help of the brief idea what the essay will be about;
Marking that the question indicated in the assignment was answered;
Privileging the text of your essay in comparison with the other academic essays that were written by your fellow-students;
Controlling your writing process – when you create your title at the beginning of your writing process, you can be sure that the title will guide
you throughout the text;
Checking the main thoughts and paragraphs, when you create your essay title at the end of your composition.
Reflecting the style of a piece of writing;
Predicting the content of the issue in question.
A title for your essay is of such a high priority, because it covers two sides of essay writing. It gives the insight about the essay itself (that is a
reason for readers to pay attention to it) and it helps you coordinate your academic writing.
What Does a Sensational Title Look Like?
The titles of academic papers (essay in particular) are seldom short. It means that your title should consist of at least 5 meaningful words. You should
not be surprised, when you see a 2 or even 3 lines long title.
Moreover, essay titles are frequently compiled of two parts: the main part and the subtitle. These parts should be separated by a colon, because it gives
an effect of a slight division of the ideas and at the same time presupposes that the subtitle should announce more particular information described in the
The combinations of a title and a subtitle are usually as follows:
A quotation, catchy phrase or a hook as a main title + a detailed informative phrase that includes organization or methods of your research or
writing in general.
Student’s Life: Pros and Cons of Partying All the Night Long
Only the Educated are Free: Education as My Favorite Subject or How I Came to Love Education
The first example contains the hook as a main title Student’s Life, and the description what exactly will be discussed about student’s life – Pros and Cons of Partying All the Night Long.
The second example consists of a quotation of the outstanding philosopher Epictetus Only the Educated are Free and the subtitle leading to the
fact that Education is your favorite subject.
A catchy phrase used in both the main title and a subtitle
Pros and Cons of Not Partying All the Night Long: Student’s Life of a Computer Nerd
Reading Kills Your Imagination: 5 Facts about the Books that Devastated Your Student’s Life
How do I Write a Sensational Title for my Essay?
Focus on the type of an essay you have as your homework assignment
Different types of essays (such as narrative, argumentative, cause and effect, persuasive, expository etc.) require definite types of titles.
In such a way, an argumentative essay should start with a title that will give your readers the idea what point of view you are going to defend – for or
against the case in question. For example, you may use such a title for your argumentative essay:
Smoking Has a Positive Influence on our Health: Smokers with Whiskers
As for the narrative essay, it should not give any details what your essay will be about. It includes only the most habitual idea of your narration.
Narration about your best experience in college may be titled like this:
My First Girlfriend in College: How I Fell in Love
A cause and effect essay should be given a very specific title, as it should immediately clarify the background cause and effect you will state in your
essay. The word “because” used in the title makes a greater impact on your reader and listener. Therefore, you may use such a title as:
Because the World Goes to the East: Everyone Should Study Chinese
If you are thinking about your persuasive essay as your homework task for the next class, you should choose a very demonstrative and forcible title like
Drink More Coffee before your Lectures: Professors Strike against Sleeping during Classes
Promote ideas to develop your essay structure
Having written the title does not mean it is ready and will be used at the end of your essay writing. It is only a draft that should guide you further.
First thing to do is to generate more ideas what your essay will be about and who will be your audience.
It is a common mistake to squeeze your essay into the Procrustean bead of your title. You should write your academic assignment first, and only then
consider whether the title fits to it well or whether you should change it for good.
Re-consider your essay assignment instructions
Your professor may give you some individual or even unusual recommendations. Then the title you have made up may be very far from that implied by your
teacher. Use such verbs as summarize, analyze, compare/contrast, assess, define, discuss, illustrate, evaluate, outline, describe and make the nouns out of
them to use it in your title – An Outline of …, An Illustration of… etc.
A title in the form of a question is a very good way to spark the reader’s curiosity, if your essay assignment implies a question to be answered.
Put down the main keywords of your essay. Are they encountered in your title as well? If no, include them into the title. Join all the keywords into one
sentence and apply them in the essay title.
Re-write you title if needed
From time to time, a title you created at the beginning may fit perfectly into the whole image of your essay. However, at most, a title should be edited
and proofread several times. Sometimes, it may seem wordy or very long and primitive. Try to re-read it a few hours later. It will help you hold back a bit
and look at it from the different angle. FreelanceHouse writers will be happy to choose title for
Do not get disappointed at once – your title will be startling and amazing for sure. Hurry up and challenge your imagination now!