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title (composition)

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title (composition)

Hayes B. Jacobs, A Complete Guide to Writing and Selling Nonfiction (1975)

Definition:

A word or phrase given to a text (an essay, article, chapter, report, or other work) to identify the subject, attract the reader's attention, and forecast the tone and substance of the writing to follow.

See also:

Etymology:

From the Latin, "title"

Examples and Observations:

  • "It is important to know the title before you begin--then you know what you are writing about."
    (Nadine Gordimer, quoted by D. J. R. Bruckner in "A Writer Puts the Political Above the Personal." The New York Times, Jan. 1, 1991)


  • "The title comes afterwards, usually with considerable difficulty. . . . A working title often changes."
    (Heinrich Böll, interview in The Paris Review, 1983)


  • Catching the Reader's Interest
    "At the minimum, titles--like labels--should accurately indicate the contents in the package. In addition, however, good titles capture the reader's interest with some catchy phrasing or imaginative language--something to make the reader want to 'buy' the package. Barbara Kingsolver uses the title, 'High Tide in Tucson' to catch our interest: What are tides doing in landlocked Tucson, Arizona? Samuel H. Scudder's title is a good label (the essay is about looking at fish) and uses catchy phrasing: 'Take This Fish and Look at It.'"
    (Stephen Reid, The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, 2003)


  • Tips for Creating Catchy Titles
    Titles catch the attention of readers and provide a clue to the paper's content. If a title doesn't suggest itself in the writing of your paper, try one of these strategies:

    • Use one strong short phrase from your paper
    • Present a question that your paper answers
    • State the answer to the question or issue your paper will explore
    • Use a clear or catchy image from your paper
    • Use a famous quotation
    • Write a one-word title (or a two-word title, a three-word-title, and so on)
    • Begin your title with the word On
    • Begin your title with a gerund (-ing word)
    (Toby Fulwiler and Alan R. Hayakawa, The Blair Handbook. Prentice Hall, 2003)


  • Metaphorical Titles
    "Is there a factor that above all others contributes to making a title intriguing and memorable? I've studied the titles that have captured the public imagination during my lifetime. Add to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Red Badge of Courage, and The Blackboard Jungle the following titles that almost everyone seems to like, and ask yourself what they have in common:
    Tender Is the Night
    A Moveable Feast
    The Catcher in the Rye
    The Grapes of Wrath
    All seven of these titles are metaphors. They put two things together that don't ordinarily go together. They are intriguing, resonant, and provide exercise for the reader's imagination."
    (Sol Stein, Stein on Writing. St. Martin's Griffin, 1995)


  • Selling an Article or Book
    "An effective title is to your article or book what a good 'preview of coming attractions' is to a movie. It announces what your manuscript is about in such a way that it compels your reader to sit up and take notice. And if that reader is an editor who possibly will buy your material, an enticing title can open doors for you."
    (John McCollister, quoted by Jim Fisher in The Writer's Quotebook: 500 Authors on Creativity, Craft, and the Writing Life. Rutgers University Press, 2006)
Pronunciation: TIT-l
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