Titles For English Essays

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

Be provocative

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 JournalRookie, 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.

Parting Thoughts

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!

Happy writing!

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Purpose and importance of essay title

An essay title bears great importance which is why a wrong headline choice can make or break the quality of the paper you submit. Why? The reason is simple, the title you choose has to intrigue your professor or other readers, make them want to start reading the whole thing to find out what you wrote and how you developed an argument (especially important for argumentative essay). That is why the words you use and how you craft a title is vital to the success of the entire work. While it is easy to assume that the text itself is the only thing that matters, to get positive feedback and a good grade, every part of your paper plays a big role.

The title is, in fact, the first thing your professor, client, or other readers see and your job is to get the “This seems very interesting” reaction, rather than “Oh God, this will be boring.”

Choosing a title that incents people to read your essay because they’re curious and want to find out more, also allows you to find a fertile ground to showcase your knowledge, wisdom, and writing skills at the same time. This is particularly important for freelance writers whose success depends on the number of people who open and read their essays, articles, and so on.

What are the qualities of good essay title

Before you start writing a title for your essay, it is always useful to know more about qualities that every headline should have. When you are aware of all characteristics of good titles, you’re bound to make wise decisions and complete this part of essay writing process successfully.

Since you’re, probably, wondering about the most important qualities the title of your paper should have, here they are:

  • Eye-catching – well, this is obvious. Think about it; do you prefer reading content or academic papers with boring titles or you’re more inclined to opt for something with interesting, eye-catching deadline?
  • Believable – most students and freelance writers make mistakes by trying to make their titles catchy in such a way they stray away from the truth, thus making the headline inaccurate or a complete, blatant lie. Nothing will anger your professor like a title that doesn’t deliver
  • Easy to read – nobody likes complicated and difficult-to-understand titles, not even your professor. Stay away from strange phrases, complicated structures, even some uncommon fonts when writing your headline
  • Active voice – if your title contains verbs, always make sure they’re in active, rather than passive voice. For instance, instead of Is regression of society caused by celebrity culture, you should write How does celebrity culture contribute to the regression of society?
  • Brief – whenever you can, make an essay title brief. Long headlines are confusing and don’t demonstrate your skills for concise writing
  • Accurate – regardless of the topic or niche and under no circumstances should you ever write an inaccurate essay title. You should give your readers a clear idea of what they’re going to read in an essay. Never try to mislead, that can only harm the overall quality of essay and your professor will not appreciate it

What are the components of essay title?

Just like argumentative or some other types of essays have their outline formula you can use to write a high-quality paper, building your title has its own formula too. Below are the main components of your essay’s title:

  • A catchy hook – introduces the paper in a creative way
  • Topic keywords – the “what” of your essay. This component identifies concepts you’ll be exploring
  • Focus keywords – the “where/when” of your essay. Together with topic keywords, these are vital for your headline and provide more info that make it professional

Example: Buy Me a Date: Consumerization and Theories of Social Interaction in 21st Century Online Dating Sites

Let’s deduce:

  • Catchy hook – buy me a date
  • Topic keywords – consumerism, social interaction, dating
  • Focus keywords – 21st century

How to create essay title

Now that you know the importance of essay titles and qualities they should have, it’s time to learn how to create them. If you’re struggling with the essay title, don’t feel bad about yourself. Even the most prolific writers experience a writer’s block when it comes to choosing an ideal headline, from time to time. The writer’s block isn’t the issue here, it matters how you overcome it and create the title. Here are a few ideas that you’ll find useful.

Write essay first, title last

It may seem logical to you to create the title first and then write your essay, but doing the opposite can be more beneficial. In fact, most authors never start with the title. Of course, you may have some working headline in mind and it allows you to focus, develop an argument, and so on. But, writing your paper first will give you a clear idea of what to use in your title. As you write and then reread your essay, you’ll know what to say in the title and intrigue your reader. You’ll experience your “Aha, I’ll write this” moment.

Another benefit of creating title last is that you won’t waste too much time. It is not uncommon for students to spend hours just on figuring out the proper title for their essay. That’s the time you could have spent on research, creating an outline, or writing itself.

Use your thesis

Here is yet another reason to leave the title for last. Good titles offer your reader (or more of them) the reason for reading your paper. Therefore, the best place to find that reason is the thesis statement you’ve already written in the introduction. Try working the thesis statement, or at least, a part of it into a title.

Let’s say your thesis statement is this: “The American colonies rebelled against Great Britain because they were tired of being taxed, and they resented British military presence in their lives and homes."

To create a title, you may use alliteration “Tired of Taxes and Troops” or you can opt for “Rebellion of American Colonies against British Rule: Taxes, Troops, and other factors”

Use popular phrases and clichés you can re-work

Popular catchphrases that apply to the essay&39;s topic make eye-catching titles too, particularly when the phrase is amusing or creates an interesting pun. Besides popular phrases, you can also go for clichés and make some tweaks to re-work and adapt them to the topic of your essay and title itself. For instance: “Fit to be tried: The battle over gay marriage in the courts".

Of course, the tone of your essay plays an important role in creating a perfect title. If writing about a serious topic, then don’t be witty, silly, or off-the-wall with your headline. If your essay is a personal statement and even contains some anecdote, then you can go for a witty, yet intelligent title. Always make sure the tone of title and essay match. Bear in mind that even in witty titles, you should avoid using jargon. Also, don’t use abbreviations in your headlines as well.

Use quote or central idea

This isn’t a general rule, but it comes handy when applicable. Your title can feature a quote or a portion of it about the specific essay topic you’re writing about. If appropriate and relevant to the subject, even a part of song lyric can serve the same purpose. In instances when your essay is about a book, you can take a fragment of a thought-provoking quote from the book. For example: “Toil and trouble: Murder and intrigue in Macbeth".

Sum up your essay in THREE WORDS     

This is a useful technique to create essay titles; all you have to do is, to sum up your entire essay or a thesis statement in three words and use them to build the headline, put a colon and then insert what your essay is all about.

Bottom line

The success of your essay doesn’t only depend on the argument you develop, research you do, the title matters as well. Most students struggle to find an ideal headline, but with a few easy tips and tricks from this post, you can forget about frustrations, save some time, and create a catchy and informative headline to intrigue readers.

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