The deadline for your latest writing assignment is mere minutes away. You’re rushing to get the final details together and suddenly realize you’ve forgotten a title. You quickly throw something random on top of the page and submit it to your teacher.
You’re not satisfied with your title, but you vow to do better next time. And you will!
You’ve learned from your mistake: essay titles are not a last-minute detail. They’re an integral part of any piece of written work and should be planned out earlier on in the writing process.
Titles lead to your reader’s first impression of your essay, and the headings help organize your thoughts and make the essay easier to read. Let’s take a look at how you can turn your titles from an afterthought into a well-thought-out writing element.
How Do You Write a Great Title?
People DO judge a book by its cover, and they will judge your essay by its title. So writing a strong title is an important part of starting your writing off on the right foot.
Your essay title has two main functions:
Inform your reader
Spark your reader’s interest
Additionally, keep in mind these three pointers:
Be clear and concise
Vague titles do not inform the reader. Provide a specific description of what your focus will be. Your audience wants to know precisely what they will be reading.
Bad Example: Oceans
Good Example: Disappearing Ocean Life in the Pacific Rim
Offer an exciting tidbit or interesting fact
If your title is boring, readers will not want to keep reading. Offer them something that will get attention.
Bad Example: How Consumers are Wrongly Spending Money
Good Example: The Seven Million Dollar Mistake
Everyone may be writing a college admissions essay, but don’t title yours: My College Admissions Essay. No matter what the prompt, make your title something that stands out from the stack.
Bad Example: My Research Project
Good Example: Relocating the Human Race to Mars
How Do You Create a Great Header?
Essay headers are often overlooked by writers, but they can really help your readers as they journey through your essay. While the title may get the reader hooked, the headers keep them moving smoothly through your paper. They enhance readability and help explain what is most relevant in the essay.
Each essay header should answer these two questions:
What will I learn?
What is the focus?
When readers approach a new section of your essay, they will have a better reading experience if they have a small preview of what’s to come.
Writing a useful header should be relatively easy. Read through your paragraphs and see what the main idea of is. From here, make a list of sub-topics that are discussed in each section. The best way to do this is to pull from the main points you listed out in your outline (which you, of course, remembered to do!).
Remember the following details about writing a header:
Be simple, but informative
You don’t want to give away all of your ideas here, but you need to give some guiding information.
Bad Example: Eating Too Many Fatty Foods Can Increase Your Cholesterol Levels
Good Example: How Your Diet Affects Your Health
Be consistent throughout your essay.
Choose a pattern and stick with it throughout the entirety of the assignment. If you start off by having a heading for each paragraph, keep it that way until the end. Also, make sure the format remains the same. If your first heading is in the form of a question, all of the rest should be as well.
Bad Example: Beaches, What is Up With Littering?, I Want to Clean Up the Planet
Good Example: Neglected Beaches, Effects of Litter, Motivated Activists
Just like when you are writing a title, there are generic headings you can lean on to get it done quick and easy. But don’t use these. Your conclusion shouldn’t have the header, "Conclusion." Come up with something unique for each part of your essay to keep your reader from feeling fatigued as they read on.
Bad Example: Conclusion
Good Example: Will the Pandas Survive?
Be organized and helpful
Your essay should be scannable. This means that if someone needs information fast, they can find it without having to read every word of your piece.
Although titles and headers are often neglected, they are very important to your pieces of writing. They grab your reader’s attention from the start and keep them focused throughout the rest of your essay. Taking the time to craft great titles and headers can advance your writing to the next level.