There is only one way to describe essay writing: it’s hard. You may love exploring different topics and expanding your interests, but the challenge of writing is still extremely difficult. Even when you’re done with the text, there is one issue that remains: the title doesn’t fit, or it’s not appealing enough.
How do you solve that problem? Should you think of a title before you proceed with the remaining steps of the writing process, or should you leave that part for a final touch? Read on; we have the answers you need.
Why Is It Hard to Come Up with the Perfect Essay Title?
If your professor assigns you a title, everything is easy. You take that lead and you follow it. If, however, you’re left with general instructions, you have to narrow the subject down and set a precise title for your paper. If, for example, the general topic for your project is American culture, you have to bring it down to a really creative theme, such as South Park as a reflection of the absurd American humor, socialization in malls, beauty standards for teenage girls, virtual reality, or anything else that falls under that topic. Then, you need to sum up the theme of your essay in a catchy, memorable title that reflects the essential meaning of the content.
There are several expectations you have to meet with the perfect title:
- It has to be unique and creative
- It needs to be relevant to the general instructions your professor provided
- It should convey the essential idea of the paper
- It should be memorable
- It needs to captivate the attention of the reader (your professor)
The mere fact that you have to achieve all these goals with a single line of text is intimidating. That’s why you should pay great attention to the title before submitting the paper. The following tips will help you achieve the impression you go for:
1. Don’t start with the title
Are you one of those students who love doing things in a precise order? You start with the title, and then you continue with the text, word after word, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph. It’s time for an experiment: try mixing things up a little bit. Even the most talented writers don’t start with the titles of their novels.
Allow your creativity to set the track. If you start with the title, you will set precise limits because you will have to relate every single argument with it. What if you get better ideas along the way? Try writing the content first, and be more flexible with the arguments. Of course you need to follow an outline to end up with an organized piece of text, but you don’t have to be very strict with it. Once you have the first draft, read it very carefully. What’s the main point it makes? How can you place it in a really creative title?
2. Make it brief
Consider the Lobster, The Fourth State of Matter, Heaven and Nature, Total Eclipse, and Notes of a Native Son – these are titles of some of the most famous essays written over the last century. Do you notice something they have in common? They are all brief. Clarity makes the title strong and memorable.
When students want to make an impression with the titles of their essays, they usually opt for long, extremely complex lines, such as Escapism Made Easy: Virtual Reality Changing the Concepts of Solitude and Socialization. Don’t go there. Check out some really successful essays online and pay attention to their titles: they are clear and you still remember them after you finish reading the essays.
3. Convey the thesis statement through the title
Your professors have told you this many times before: the thesis statement is the heart and soul of your essay. You try to write an introduction that inevitably leads to that statement, and you make sure to relate every single sentence to it. It’s only natural for the title to be based on that thesis statement.
That’s why it’s good to write the actual paper before trying to come up with a title: you can read the thesis statement several times, and then put it within a creative, brief title. For example, let’s say that your thesis statement says “It is not possible to understand an individual without understanding the society that built it.” You will need to think of a title that says the same thing, but it’s shorter and more captivating. Here is one of the possible alternatives: No Such Thing as Absolute Individualism.
4. Don’t use jargon and abbreviations
The Effects and Risks of TYPHIM Vi – that’s a title your professor would understand, since they are probably familiar with the topics you elaborate through an assignment. However, would it be clear to a random reader? Remember: you’re not writing solely for your professor; you are writing a masterpiece that other people could also read. Abbreviations are a safe choice when they are extremely common, such as USA, AIDS, NATO, and so on. However, you should not use any less-known abbreviations that the reader would need to research online.
Jargon is also a big risk when thinking of a title for your essay. It may be fun to use Game of Thrones jargon when you’re writing a personal essay that explains what you’re interested in, but you should always make sure the reader understands what they are about to read. Don’t try to sound “too special” when you’re writing the title.
5. Use a popular phrase
Don’t confuse popular phrases with jargon; you can use them as long as they are popular enough for average people to understand. For example, if you’re writing an essay on American culture and you choose South Park as a theme, you can go for a very popular catchphrase from the series, such as “Respect My Authority” or “That’s Ignorant”.
The Title Is the First Thing a Professor Reads
Is it good enough for them to spend more time on your paper? Guess what: most teachers don’t go through the entire essays of their students. There’s not enough time for that. If you want to get a high grade, your essay has to be attractive enough for the teacher to read the whole thing. Everything starts with the title!
The above-listed tips will help you come up with catchy titles for your upcoming papers. Remember: there is no harm in experimenting. You can only benefit from brainstorming for few alternatives for the title, so you can stick with the most appealing one.
Take your notes and use those to write your final draft. Here are some tips:
Introduction: Either start with a vivid description of the place, your experience, or a summary of what you are reflecting about. End with your thesis idea. Sometimes you may want to put a question first and then the answer
Example Thesis: Why was I feeling so peaceful while walking down this beach? I realized it was because the beach had always been a place of rest to me.
Body: Each of the questions you've answered can be a paragraph in the body of your essay. Take your notes and expand them. Add more details and examples from your experience and your life story.
Conclusion: Explain and expand on your thesis idea. Tell how this experience taught you something new or how it helped you to understand something. Another way to conclude is to suggest where you might like to go from this point in thinking about your thesis idea.
Example Conclusion: I sent my photo of "For Rhonda" to my friend along with a text letting her know how much I appreciate her help in letting me know that we can always find places to relax and renew in the midst of our busy lives. Now, I want to find a way to help Rhonda have a day off of her own, and I'm hoping someday we can take a trip to the beach together.