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Monday, June 11, 2012

Deliver What You Promise

When I first receive a nonfiction article submission, I glance at the title.  But if the title fails to promise what it plans to deliver in terms of content, I’ll ask the writer for a new title.

Recently, I had a submission with a title that led me to believe that the piece would be about specific scientists helping people in unique ways.  Instead, the article centered more on the inventions than on the scientists.  So the author had two choices:  either change the title to reflect an emphasis on the inventions or revise the article to focus on the scientists. 

Titles should reflect what the piece is about.  They can be straightforward, but a creative title works better when writing for young children.  For example, I titled one of my own nonfiction pieces “Wild Thing.”  The title entices children to read about the unruly plant known as kudzu. 

Titles should ideally pique a reader’s interest.  My article “Below the Sidewalks of Pioneer Square” makes people wonder:  what lurks underneath the city streets?   An article written by Erin K. Schonauer and Jamie C. Schonauer and published in Stories for Children Magazine was titled "The Cresent's Ghostly Guests".  Makes you curious, huh? 

Here are some tips in choosing titles:

Choose a title after you’ve written the article. 
Keep the title short.
Use playful titles and alliteration for a very young audience. 
Use snappy titles for older children.
Create intrigue.
Read your article again and see if the title is a good fit.

Nonfiction article titles don’t have to be boring.  Aim to create a title that will pique the interest of an editor and of course, the audience.  Above all, remember to relate the title to the content of the piece.  That way, you won’t disappoint your readers by promising them something you haven’t quite delivered.

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