With my daughter Grace, a senior in high school, I’ve been coaching the writing of the college essay. Last night we finished the final proofreading. Grace said we don’t need a title. “Not required,” she said. “Optional?” I wondered. “Yes,” she admitted. Okay, then, we’re writing one.
Titles are so important: they are the invitation, and the doorway into the book, movie, and college essay.
It was 10 o’clock on a Friday night, and Grace and I were spent. Remembering a nifty list of exercises for generating title possibilities, I dug it up out of the Google dirt. Here it is: link.
We focused on the first three of the four functions of a title. (The fourth one seems more important for publications.)
First, it predicts content.
Second, it catches the reader’s interest.
Third, it reflects the tone or slant of the piece of writing.
Fourth, it contains keywords that will make it easy to access by a computer search.
And then, from the list of title prompts on page two of the guidelines, we used numbers 1, 6, 7, 13, and 14 and generated about 15 good and bad title ideas for Grace’s essay. It took only 10 minutes with two focused people working together.
What we learned: your first idea is NOT your best idea, and bits from your bad title ideas will provide you with a key word or two that together may be the foundation of a good title.
Also, people, tone is really important! If it’s a humorous essay, avoid an academicky, serious title. If it’s a hopeful essay, give that title a lift (e.g., Grace’s title uses the word “spirit” instead of “motivation.”)
Titles are important! Always use them! For essays, make them informative and inviting.