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An effective title establishes the subject, sets the voice/tone, clarifies direction and gives a certain style to the paper. Some have compared a paper title to the distinct logos found on cars. To create a title, try using specific nouns and verbs in your titles. Try combining elements of your subject that fit together. Or, combine the elements that are at war with each other: many good titles contain tension. Listen to the language of your subject and the voice you use as you write to hear words and phrases you can use in your title. Be sure to continually check your title as you revise your paper; you may find that it no longer fits with the paper.

To generate a title, consider the following options:

  • Copy a sentence from your draft that can serve as a title.
  • Write a sentence that is not in your draft to use as a title.
  • Write a title that is a question beginning with what, who, when, or where (like "What's in a Title?").
  • Write a title that is a question beginning with how or why (like "Why Titles?").
  • Write a title that is a question beginning with is/are, do/does, or will (like "Do Titles Reveal Too Much?").
  • Pick a concrete image (something the reader can see, taste, hear, smell, or feel) from your draft to use as a title.
  • Pick another concrete image from your draft. Look for one that is unusual or surprising.
  • Write a title that begins with an -ing verb (like "Creating a Good Title").
  • Write a title beginning with on (like "On the Titles of Essays").
  • Write a title that is a lie about the essay. (You probably won't use this one but it may get you thinking.)
  • Write a one-word title (the most obvious one possible).
  • Write a less obvious one-word titles.
  • Think of a familiar saying or the title of a book, song, or movie that might fit your essay.
  • Take the title you just wrote and twist it by changing a word or creating a pun on it.
  • Do the same thing with another saying or title of a book, song, or movie.
  • Find two titles you've written so far that you might use together in a double title. Join them with a colon.

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To format a title, use the following standards:

  • Do not underline or use quotation marks to emphasize your own titles.
  • Do not use periods in your titles.
  • Capitalize the first letter of every word in the title except articles (a, an, the), prepositions (in, to, of, between, etc.—check your handbook for a complete list of prepositions), and coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) unless they appear either at the beginning of the title or immediately following a colon (:).

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When citing the titles of others' works:

Underline or italicize the titles of books, plays, long poems published as books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, films, television programs, record albums, ballets, operas, paintings, and sculptures.

Use quotation marks for titles of short stories, poems, newspaper articles, magazine articles, encyclopedia articles, essays in a book, songs, chapters in a book, episodes of a TV program, lectures. 1

Sources

Titles

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Titles. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/English/introduction-to-writing-academic-prose/titles.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License