How Do I Choose the Best Essay Title?

G. Wiesen

When choosing an essay title, there are a few concepts you should keep in mind and use to help you determine what title best fits your essay. The title you choose should usually match the overall tone of your essay, so a humorous essay might have a humorous title while a serious essay would have a title to match. Your essay title should also immediately grab the attention of a reader, and make someone want to read your essay based solely on the title.

A mocking essay might play off the classic Jonathan Swift essay, "A Modest Proposal".
A mocking essay might play off the classic Jonathan Swift essay, "A Modest Proposal".

An essay title is the name of an essay, usually printed on the first page or the cover page of an essay and used to categorize essays for publication or anthologizing. While your title may be the first thing people read when they come across your essay, that does not mean it has to be the first thing you write. In fact, it is often easiest to come up with a title for your essay after you finish writing it. You may find that you come up with ideas for an essay title as you are writing your essay, and you should write these down as you continue to write.

An essay title should grab the attention of a reader.
An essay title should grab the attention of a reader.

The essay title you choose should reflect the tone of your essay. If you have written a personal narrative essay about a death in your family, for example, then the title should likely have a somber tone or hint at a revelation that you come to at the end of your essay. Similarly, a humorous essay should have a title that suggests the sense of humor that is to be found throughout the essay. This ensures that your essay title helps a potential reader have a sense of what he or she may discover on the pages that follow.

Your essay title should also grab the attention of a reader and make someone interested in reading what you have written. This means your title should be creative and should reflect your voice just as well as the rest of your essay. You might choose an essay title that pays homage to a well-known title of a movie or work of literature.

Such allusions can create immediate recognition for a potential reader of your essay, and can allow you to express the tone of your essay quickly and effectively. If you write an essay that is intended as social satire to mock what you view as impossible financial expectations of workers, for example, then you might choose a title that hints at A Modest Proposal, the famous work of satire by Jonathan Swift. This not only allows you to suggest a connection between your work and another famous work, but also acts to indicate your familiarity with canonical works of art or famous quotes within your professional field.

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