Titles; The Importance, The Sublime, And The So What…
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Mar 17, 2014
Well, I think I’ve milked enough out of writing my 1,500th post, thus it’s time to get back to ordinary business. In this case, the topic is based off a comment that post received that, initially I wasn’t necessarily happy with, but in retrospect I realized that it’s a word I’ve mentioned in 859 articles but a topic I’ve never written on; see, there’s always something new to address. And this is that post.
You’d think this would be a simple thing to come to an agreement with; write a compelling title and all is right with the world. Truthfully, that’s not always the case.
Some of the most compelling titles in history have led to some of the biggest arguments. If you want to see compelling titles, check out news stories on the internet and in newspapers. Something not often known is that writers almost never put titles on their articles. So, they might write a piece on one thing only to have an editor decide it needs a punchy title to drive people to it, even if the title has nothing to do with the article, or has something to do with the article that’s on the fringe.
At the other end, sometimes the titles make no sense, or are so ethereal that you’re left pondering their meaning or relationship to the story. For instance, a book I enjoyed called Torpedo Juice had only one reference in the book to the title, that being a drink that this one particular bar made. It had nothing to do with the story but I spent a lot of the book making sure I hadn’t missed the reference. And you can think of a book like To Kill A Mockingbird and possibly miss the reference in that story, yet overall it has nothing to do with what’s going on.
Still, titles can be very important. When I wrote my first book on leadership I initially titled it The Mitchell Principles Of Management because I’m horrible on titles in general, was worse back then, and I thought that a business book needed a business title. Even though it’s self published, one publisher did write me and tell me that it needed a better title, one that might get someone to actually pick it up since they didn’t know me, thus Embrace The Lead was born, even though it took probably 3 months to come up with a title. Man, that’s a lot of work!
This brings us back to the main question, which is just how important are titles anyway? My response… depends…
First, here are some major points to consider:
* Are you writing a story or an article, such as a blog post? If you’re writing a “how-to” then the title is important to let people know what you’re teaching them. If you’re writing a story about an encounter with aliens from another planet the skies the limit.
* Are you looking to be honest or just get people to come? Back in the day people who gave advice on writing titles for blogs said to put in words like “the secret to” or “the real story behind” and junk like that because humans love scandal, and of course that’s really true. But if the post doesn’t live up to the title, aren’t you the reader dismayed? Then we have titles of 3 of my latest posts, which I’m not linking to but you know where to find them: 5 More Android Apps I Recommend, 10 Social Media/Networking Don’ts In 2 Minutes, and Driving More Visitors To Your Blog; Are You Ready For The Work? True, honest titles but are they compelling?
* What are you hoping others will do if they read your article or post? If you’re hoping to drive visitors to consume and comment on your missives, that’s pretty cool. If you’re hoping they’ll share with others, compelling is nice but what’s more important is just how long is your title? Some titles are so long that trying to share them on social media platforms can be troublesome. For that matter, your putting them on social media is troublesome. Then again, it would certainly make you different and possibly stand out.
here’s the “so what” of the post lol
Seems like I’m all over the place doesn’t it? Just had to get all that stuff out of the way first. So, onto titles and recommendations. As I said earlier, I think I’m the worst at titles, but that’s because I don’t sit around spending time trying to think of something outrageous to title anything I write. But if I did, these would be some recommendations:
1. If you write a how-to, it must be in the title.
This one should make a lot of sense. If you’re teaching someone how to build a birdhouse, tell them that instead of using something cute.
2. If you’re writing a review type scenario, that needs to be in the title.
Once again, tell people what they’re getting… but please, PLEASE, don’t use scam in the title unless worded properly.
3. If there’s an overall theme that keeps popping up throughout your tale, that should go in the title.
This one’s a bit dicey because, like the fictional books above, those were pretty much one liners. For blogging, and of course the stupid search engines, it works best if you help them help you drive visitors to your site.
4. Don’t play with the audience’s emotions. If you use a misleading title as clickbait you might get visitors but they’ll leave and never come back.
That’s all I’ve got. If you have any further ideas on your beliefs about titles, go for it. Onward and upward!
(the link with the light blue line denotes an affiliate link if you’d like to check out the book)