Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Entitled: Giving your story a name that resonates by donalee Moulton


Visit donalee Moulton's BWL Author page for book purchase links

Let’s talk titles – not king, queen and my personal favorite, goddess – but the titles that alert readers to what is about to unfold before their eyes.

I’d like to start by telling you a bit about myself – and my experience with titles. I am a freelance journalist and have written hundreds, actually thousands, of articles for print and online publications across North America and beyond.

One of the things you soon learn as a freelance reporter is that editors write the titles of articles. This is not always the case, but it is usually the case.  There are a number of reasons for this, and we’ll discuss those. In a minute.

First, I’d like to share with you the options article writers have when it comes to titles. One, you can come up with a title that you think reflects the article, is clever or straightforward or funny – whatever attribute you think will appeal to readers. If the editor likes it, they may use it. If they don’t, they will write their own. More often than not, they will write their own.

Years ago I did an article on a trademark dispute involving use of the Bluenose, Nova Scotia’s famous schooner. My title went something like this: Ship disturbing trademark battle erupts in Nova Scotia. I thought that was very clever. My editor did not. Well, she may have, but the title she used ultimately went something like this: Nova Scotia businesses barred from using Bluenose name.

On the other hand, I wrote an article on champagne and called it “Liquid Bling.” My editor wrote to say she loved the title, and she used it.

My feeling was it never hurt to include a suggested title, and no one usually knows the story as well as the writer. But good titles take time to craft, and on many occasions the articles I submitted did not have a title. They had a descriptor: Profile of Donald Duck, Article on the pros and cons of ducks vaping, Conference report from Ducks Unlimited. I was leaving the work to the editor.

And here’s what editors are looking for in an article title. (1) Something that grabs the reader’s attention (2) Something that describes what the article is about (3) Something that is not longer that the first paragraph of the article itself (4) Something that makes them want to read the article or shows them why they should

Are you likely to get all that in one title. Probably not. But that is what is behind the words that introduce an article. Often those words are more dramatic or more urgent or more intense or more gripping than the article itself. Indeed, most of the time someone objected to an article I wrote it was the title that set them off.

And I didn’t write it.






  1. Titles are fun to devise. Once an editor changed a title from Code Blue to Obsessions. When they folded, I changed the title back. This was a medical suspense story and Code Blue - a respiratory emeergency seemed a better title to me and my new publisher.

  2. I write series, and once I have a good title for the first book, the other titles come easily. After I wrote WHITE TIGER, the other titles came to mind, even though I didn't have a storyline for these books... yet. (Red Leopard, Black Jaguar, Blue Lioness, Snow Cheetah). Same thing for my Azura series: Angel Mine, Angel Fierce, Angel Brave. Then the Blue Phantom series: Angel Ship, Angel Guardian (oct.2023), Angel Revenge (Oct.2024).

  3. Haha, love this! I too, was in the journalism field and it was often the 'layout' girl who came up with the title. Almost always, they were better than my suggestion.

  4. Sometimes that's harder than the coming up with the story...Nice post!


I have opened up comments once again. The comments are moderated so if you're a spammer you are wasting your time and mine. I will not approve you.

Popular Posts

Books We Love Insider Blog

Blog Archive