Titles

by Becky Alexander

photo by africa from freedigitalphotos.net

photo by africa from freedigitalphotos.net

The first thing a reader sees when you have a piece of poetry or prose published is the title. This will instantly soak into the reader’s mind: will it hook, or will it sink?

I’ve always found titles to be a challenge. They either fly right into my mind perfectly, or I cannot think of one easily. This is where one’s critiquing group can be of great help.

What should a title do, other than to hook the reader?

A title should:

  • fit the mood, theme or tone of the written piece;
  • offer some clue as to why it was selected; be a bit of a tease;
  • not give away the entire plot of the piece;
  • not be the first line of the poem (which is a common practice when a writer cannot think of another title: in today’s literary world, this is considered to be a ‘cop out’)
  • be fresh and original; e.g.: not The Oak, but something more creative like Mother.

Rules for Writing Titles

Be careful of capitalization in titles;

It was the custom of old to capiatlize every letter in a title. Now, in this cyber age, using capitals is considered to be ‘shouting’;
the first word in a title should be capitalized;
nouns, verbs, adjectives must be capitalized;
articles are not capitalized, unless they are the first word in the title.

So, put on your thinking cap. Let your titles inspire the reader to read.


Becky Alexander is a Cambridge writer. Her work has been published in five countries, and has won hundreds of awards. She runs Craigleigh Press with her husband Dave Allen.

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