I need better article and blog post titles

by Anna Blanch on April 5, 2012

Let’s face it, when it comes to post and article titles, I think like an academic. Like the other day where I was talking about how the words I used for things have changed over the last five years and three continents. But no, I had to title it “Living in between and the Linguistic revelations of reverse culture shock.” What a mouthful! I don’t know where it happened – actually the where it happened part is easy, that would be somewhere around my time at Baylor.

See how I did that, mention one of my alma maters the day after the women won the ncaa basketball championship with an historic 40-0 season. I’m proud of them. extremely proud – like tears of joy, fist pump, doing a sic ’em bears alone in the new cottage wearing the only green item in my #project333 wardrobe kind of proud!

But, as much as the lady bears made the Baylor nation extremely happy yesterday, this post is about my inability to write snappy post titles. Or, at least, post and articles (for popular audiences) that don’t make me sound like i’m writing a journal article.

I’ve long admired YoungHouseLove’s witty and short post titles. I’ve wondered if their marketing and advertising background helps on that front, or if (and this is highly likely) they are just funnier than I am and Preston’s poetic titles often inspire me to read his posts. But me, I just come off sounding like i’ve swallowed not just an encyclopedia but the MLA index as well.

So, how do I fix it? or at least improve?

Do you have the same concern?

I’ve thought about asking among my friends and colleagues to see if any of them would be willing to make suggestions for titles. That ‘job’ is still open, by the way.  That might be a good place to start if you’re having the same problem as I am with not writing post titles that put people off!

I searched around online and found this post detailing 12 (not the 18 claimed in the headline) resources for writing better blog post titles. But to be honest most of them are designed for sites that are about getting you to part with your money and I’m not overly keen on their use of hyperbole and general exaggeration in order to get you reading. I like to deliver on what is promised in a title. These links from Copyblogger are better but I really struggle with being inspired by the formulaic notion of fill-in the blanks. Colour me a writer at heart.

It may seem basic, but this post by Stephane Kerwer was actually the most useful even though I realise that much of what the posts above were doing was trying to break down this advice into even smaller bite size pieces. In any case his main points are as follows.

  1. Utilize keywords
  2. Be creative and catchy
  3. Leave a question
  4. Give an idea of what the post is about

Here are a couple of other tips I found useful:

  1. Don’t make your titles longer than 70 characters (including spaces).
  2. Capitalize all main words, don’t use periods (full stops) or symbols and avoid stupid internet speak.
  3. Put your keyword(s) as close to the beginning of the title as possible.

Writing as a scholar-blogger It makes sense that depending on the post to write a title that evokes technical, theological, or theoretical terms, but often I just feel like I might be making it difficult for people to get past the polysyllabic words, the jargon and the long titles. This is an ongoing areas of improvement for me in writing in the context of a blog post.

I know that quite a few of you reading this are academics who blog. Have you struggled with writing post titles? are there any tips you can offer me?

For those of you who are approaching blogging from different backgrounds, is there any advice you can offer me for making sure my post titles match the content? I work hard to make sure that my writing is approachable. I don’t always succeed, but I am always looking to improve.

Speaking of writing, a day of thesis writing awaits!

The Basics is a Goannatree series where general and introductory advice for research tasks and professional development, like using research libraries, reading and note-taking, submitting and presenting conference papers and journal articles, can be found. Articles in The Basics series also explore the basics of working in the interdisciplinary field of Literature and Theology. They often simultaneously provide sources from Literature and Religion, the Bible and Literature, and resources for exploring issues and themes of faith in literature, pop culture, and the arts.

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Writer, photographer, and scholar, Anna Blanch, is the founder of Goannatree and one of the founders of Transpositions. Anna loves encouraging thoughtful engagement with the arts. Anna is in the final stages of her PhD at the Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Art at the University of St Andrews, Scotland though she recently sought out warmer climes (and that yellow orb in the sky she was beginning to think lost), making her home in the beautiful beach city of Newcastle. When she’s not writing her doctoral thesis, she’s writing something else, has a camera in her hand, is seeking out some fresh produce, or is training in hopes of finishing the 2012 city to surf!

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  • Jamie

    I can totally relate to this.  One of the things I hate the most is coming up with a catchy title for my blog.  Instead, I tend to stick to the details.  I’m afraid to lead anyone on to think it could be about something else.  One piece of advice was from the SITS Girls was to look through magazines, and revamp one of their headline articles with your own words.  Try it =)

  • Trish

    I have always struggled with titles! I got some great advice from a writer at Bloggy Boot Camp: Read your post/article and pick out a phrase or even a word that sticks out or strikes a cord with you and use that as your title. This bit of advice has really helped me.  

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