How do I choose a title?

Editing_and_proofreading_blog_191Isn’t it amazing how much effort it takes to choose a title? Occasionally inspiration hits straight away, but more often the problem looms larger as the project approaches completion.

The task is complicated by the many functions served by a title. Make sure you:

  • Catch the attention of your audience, so they want to pick up your product.
  • Particularly for non-fiction, think about any keywords your customers will use in their search.
  • Make the product sound appealing. A good rhythm when you say your title aloud is important, but surprisingly hard. If the words you select jar against each other, sometimes shuffling them around improves the result. Look for a good pattern of syllables, so the pattern of stresses makes it flow.
  • The title needs to be easy to say. Tongue twisters may seem clever, but once the novelty has worn off, you are stuck with it. The marketing campaign will suffer if interviewers trip over the title. If it is easy to say, it is easy to remember. That matters for something like a book, although a brochure or blog post might benefit from an eye catching title that won’t necessarily have staying power.
  • Avoid ambiguity, so it is clear what the content is about. Be careful you don’t put your audience off, or attract people who won’t be interest. Think what your audience expects to see.
  • Include information about the brand, unique selling point (USP) or the gimmick you are using.
  • Make it different enough from the competition to avoid confusion.
  • Make it memorable enough to span the gap between hearing about it & buying it, or between finishing it & telling friends.
  • Avoid cliché and jargon. You need to make people want to know more about what you have to say.

Be careful about the punctuation in your title. There are 2 aspects to this:

  • The internet is full of examples of short phrasesare changed completely by punctuation,for example:
      • Let’s eat Grandma.
      • Let’s eat, Grandma.
  • Punctuation (and the & sign) can cause problems in file names, searches etc.

As if that isn’t enough to think about, remember how it will look on the cover. If the book or document will be marketed on the internet with a thumbnail, will the title be legible?

A subtitle has a complex role. It should say what the book is about, who it is for, & contain key words.

This is a lengthy & random process. Jot down any ideas that occur to you, & the reactions you get to ideas. Good sources for titles have been Shakespeare, the Bible, poetry, and other famous quotations. These can help to gather in the right audience, and improve memorability, but the downside is the limited ability to stand apart, & the fact that others have used this route so often.

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About The Proof Angel

I am a freelance editor and proofreader, working with a wide range of clients from large companies to individuals. I can help you to communicate clearly by carrying out a final check, or by suggesting ideas get your message over. I also have a sideline in textiles, as The Rainbow Angel.
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