mirepoix labyrinth

Once I got the germ of an idea regarding this post I found myself umming and ahing about the title, ironic since it’s about post titles. Well it’ll be a mystery to me for much longer than it will be for you because — the gods willing — that’ll be the first thing you see, while I will be scratching my head until the remaining hairs fall out of their own accord.

Do you have problems deciding your title? Or does it come to you in a flash? Maybe the title comes first and you fit the content to it? Or perhaps you don’t bother with one at all, rebel that you may be? Here’s a little discourse on how I approach the issue, and I’ll be pleased to hear about your own modus operandi regarding these tricksy things.

Post titles function in the same way as book titles, don’t they. They may inform: this often applies to review blogs which give the book title and even helpfully add the word ‘review’; with photo blogs they may tell us what in the picture (sometimes in more than one language). They may intrigue with offbeat phrases or witty puns or challenging statements that stop you in your tracks. They may quote from the huge stock left us by literary giants, politicians or philosophers; preferably Shakespeare or the Bible but anything portentous will do. Best of all they will tap into a current meme to capitalise on public curiosity and the efficiency of search engines.

Glancing at some recent posts I find that I’m employing pretty much all these categories. QuotesStrangers in their own land hints at a phrase from Luke’s gospel, ‘No prophet is accepted in his own country’ and another from Exodus: ‘I have been a stranger in a strange land’. (The last phrase was used by Robert A Heinlein for his classic SF novel.) And Destroying an empire references a Delphic oracle. MemesShelfies fits the bill. Something intriguing? I hope Hell’s Angels meet the Outlaws made you think twice. Informative? Perusing progress accurately describes a post reviewing where I’d got to with reading in 2016.

Is that how it works for you? Have I covered everything? Perhaps not; for on occasion I find that I rather like a turn of phrase I have used myself in a discussion post or a review — I fancy it is mellifluous or it encapsulates what I’ve tried to say. But, as this somehow smacks of egomania, it’s a course I try to avoid.

And now it’s time to choose a title. What shall it be? Choices, choices …


21 thoughts on “Choices

  1. Where I can think of something my preference is for alliteration. I also like reference (sometimes oblique) to known phrases. I try to take SEO into consideration but don’t want to spend more than a few moments coming up with something so try not to worry about it too much. I wouldn’t say I have a formula but those that do tend to use numbers. Unfortunately that doesn’t really do anything for anybody or Google but the system itself can sometimes be of interest. For your own post today I think I would have used your final phrase and doubled the choices! 😉

    1. Alliteration is good, Alastair, something I often resort to as well, part of that mellifluousness (mellifluity? mellifluidity?) I mentioned.

      As for SEO [Search Engine Optimisation for those reading this unfamiliar with the abbreviation] I confess I have little working knowledge, virtually zilch in fact, about how to optimise anything. I’m happy just to stick to tags and hope that my title is eye-catching enough.

      Yes, I’d wondered about ‘Choices, choices’ but in the end went for simplicity — after all, SEO or not, I’m not trying to sell anything!

  2. This was an interesting post. I think you’re spot-on with your different categories of titles: those that inform and those that intrigue, those that invoke current memes or those that are quotes. The best ones just seem to come to me in the course of writing the story. Sometimes, like StillWalks, I make it alliterative; sometimes it’s a gentle pun, or a quote from a book or song lyrics; at other times it’s posed as a question, sometimes a short direct reference to its subject or perspective. I try to be suggestive (not sensational) so as to pique the reader’s interest, but, as in a review, not to give away my punchline.

    I find that many of my most-viewed stories have titles that suggest a How-To post. “Saraswati and Sari-Wearing”, for instance, draws people seeking instruction on how to tie a sari. There’s one other category: titles that are interpreted differently from the way I intended. “Regulation Underwear”, an innocent post on the school-uniform underwear — vests and pants — in one of my primary schools, seems to be visited quite often by people with pornographic intent. I wonder what they make of my reflections on post-War British education reform?

    1. Thanks for your comments, Josna, and I so agree with you, especially where avoiding spoilers in a title and instead going for a teaser.

      Speaking of teasing, how unfortunate that your underwear post attracted unwonted (and unwanted?) attention. But maybe it’s one way of getting more views, do you think? 🙂

  3. It’s something I’m pretty weak on, I think. Like you, I don’t understand SEO so don’t consider them in my titles. I try to opt for something intriguing, but often fail miserably I think. I often ask my husband to come up with titles for my stories – he’s better at these things than I – but have to muddle along doing my own for blog posts. It’s a bit of a skill in itself I think

    1. Some of your posts are suggested by outside prompts, aren’t they, which at least gives you half your title. 🙂 But of course it’s the remainder of the title which draws us in, and there have been some real crackers, so don’t be so hard on yourself! Intriguing they are, without a doubt, and perfectly matching your gripping short stories.

      1. Thanks Chris, though I think you’re being overly kind there. I’d like to find a good formula for naming stories, but fear it’s just pure inspiration in the end. I like the idea some of my stories being gripping – thank you 🙂

        1. I’m embarrassed by overt compliments, Lynn, and I suspect you are too — doubt not that you have a real talent for what you do, and the fact that you produce polished little gems day in, day out is an acknowledgement of the truth of what I say. Accept ungrudging praise — with a blush, if you prefer — and revel secretly in it!

          1. Well, you thrilled me to little mint balls with that lovely comment. Yes, I find overt compliments hard to take and difficult to respond to – is it a Brit thing, or just us? 🙂 But it means a lot when someone who really knows what they’re talking about says something lovely. So I do accept it, take it on board and give you a heartfelt thanks, Chris. I may revel – but yes, it will be in secret 🙂

  4. Was wondering why your posts weren’t appearing on our reader and for some reason you had dropped off our follow list, which I have now remedied. I must admit I’m a sucker for an odd or quirky title even though all those SEO experts tell me I should be working on getting as many highly-searchable terms as possible. I tried that once, with “Cute kittens, fluffy puppies and Kim Kardashian” without any visible effect. So it’s back to just having idiosyncratic fun.

    1. Idiosyncratic fun sounds the best route to me too, Gert! It certainly helps this reader stay loyal. 🙂

      I’ve also found the odd blogger I was following drop out of the net for no apparent reason, but I’ve not had that problem recently as far as the WP Reader is concerned. Glad you’ve reconnected, anyway!

    1. You’re very welcome, Lory; hope it inspires some helpful solutions to what must sometimes seem a conundrum — I know I often find it so.

      It sometimes feels as though I spend as much perspiration thinking up a title as on the post itself, with inspiration visiting only once in a while!

  5. Sometimes titles come to me in a flash, and sometimes I have to work them. I’ve gotten title suggestions from beta readers and my husband. It just depends. Calling what I have a system would be giving it an unearned compliment.

    But when in doubt, I go for fewer words, rather than more. 🙂

    1. Giving a post a title is a bit like naming your baby, and though I’ve not had to carry one for nine months (I don’t call having my hand crushed while my wife gave birth any kind of equivalent) the analogy of going through labour to produce your offspring may suggest that you’d want to give it an appropriate name.

      However, I write posts all by myself so I give them any name I fancy. When you involve a wider circle — alpha and beta readers, proofreaders, editors, family, friends, acquaintances, the postman — I can see that that process of choosing becomes more fraught!

      Thanks for your thoughts on this, Cathleen — do I sense you hope that inspired title comes in a flash? 🙂

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