From Candy to Composition: Why Titles Are Important by Claire Morgan

posted Nov 1, 2017, 7:15 PM by Writing Center
Thinking back to my time studying abroad in Italy, I recall a wave of disappointment hitting my group in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. How could we celebrate the holiday there? The program was situated in Cortona, a small Tuscan town, and it seemed as if our only options were the uninspired checkout aisle candy bars in the grocery store—no heart-shaped boxes or pink envelopes. However, there was one tiny shop that oddly enough, none of us had visited yet. I LOVE CHOCOLATE was the name of the store. In the window, an amusing display caught our eyes—Pinocchio, chocolate bars, and hearts assembled in a dazzling scene. It seemed like we would be able to celebrate after all!
 

Now imagine our shock upon entering and realizing that I LOVE CHOCOLATE did not sell any chocolate whatsoever. Inside there were phone cases shaped like chocolate, pillows and stuffed animals, toys and stationary—many things inspired by chocolate, but no actual chocolate.

I bring up this absurd experience because it reminds me of something I’ve been coming across lately in the Writing Center. Students may spend weeks working on their essay, but when it comes to the title, they tack on something very general, something misleading, or don’t include one at all! Believe it or not, the part of the essay which most people don’t even contribute a full minute to is actually fundamental to the essay’s overall success. Imagine if restaurants didn’t have titles—you would have to guess the type of cuisine before entering and hope you were right. What about stores, books, events, films—even people? Titles help us categorize the world around us and give us information before we investigate. They make our lives easier and allow us to enjoy the things we like or need without having to exhaustively dig for them.

So, how exactly does the title function within an essay? Like a hook, the title can be interesting and urge the reader to read on. Like the introductory paragraph, the title is specific and distinguishes the subject of the essay. It’s almost like writing a tweet—you have to ask yourself what is important and what needs to be included, how to turn a big idea into a small amount of characters, and how you can make it interesting. A firm and descriptive title establishes credibility on the part of the writer before the audience even reads. Plus, it’s a great way to get creative and have a little fun with your academic writing.  

 

So say it with me everybody, “Titles are important!”

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