How to Write Effective Titles for Magazine Articles

Before you can capture readers with your words and voice, you must write an effective title! Whether you’re writing magazine articles, blog posts, school essays, or a book – your best title makes readers drool with anticipation.

How to Write Effective Titles for Magazine Articles In this guest post, Sara shares three ways to write effective titles for articles, blog posts, essays or any type of writing, really. To delve even further into the craft of writing nonfiction, read Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction — because you can never read too much about writing!

“Fewer than 10 little words, but so many headaches,” says freelance writer Sara Bimmel. “Why is writing a title so difficult? It could be the pressure to hook your reader before the article has even begun; or it could be the fact that condensing an article with hundreds of words into just one snappy phrase is impossible!”

Writing Effective Titles for Magazine Articles

For me, the easy part of completing a writing assignment is always the actual writing. Finishing the article is never hard—the paragraphs just add up, and before I know it, I’ve gone past the intended word limit and need to cut some of what I’ve already written. No, the hard part, for me, is writing an effective lead.

Over the years, though, I’ve picked up a few tips that have led to winning headlines. Hopefully, they’ll be useful to you, too!

Remember your audience

If you’re trying to write a great title for a blog post, your process is going to be quite different from penning one for a newspaper. Keep the people who are likely to read your piece in mind, and consider what they want to hear. Newspaper readers might be skimming the whole paper, so they want clear, concise information. Tabloid readers want something inflammatory so that they’re tempted to read the article immediately. And general-interest Web sites—such as Yahoo!—try to cultivate headlines that are both informative and catchy.

Get even more specific

For example, I once wrote a blog post targeted mostly to other bloggers that was titled “Bloggers Should Never Get Paid.” The title was meant to incite controversy and invite debate, and it certainly motivated people to read the piece and talk about it!

Don’t use your first idea as your title

Writing Effective Titles

“Writing Effective Titles for Magazine Articles” image by Squashbee via DeviantArt

This is one of those rules that can sometimes be broken—after all, your first idea has the potential to be your best—but usually shouldn’t be. Just as you can almost always improve a sentence, you can almost always improve a title. When you have something in mind, try adding or subtracting words, swapping in synonyms, or completely rephrasing the whole thing. If you have a lot of time, grab people around you, provide them with several choices, and poll them about which title seems most interesting to them.

When you resist the urge to quickly dash something off, you greatly increase the odds that your title will be effective. My first title ideas are almost always yawners—”How to Improve Your Grades,” for example—but with a little thought, I can transform them into catchier lines, such as, “Land Straight A’s in Half the Time.”

Consider the magazine article, blog post, or story

Now that you’re nearing the end of this piece, would you agree that “How to Write Effective Article Titles” is a fitting headline? It might be a tad boring, but it gets the point across and communicates what the reader can expect. When you’re writing your own leads, it’s great to be clever and funny (humor is always welcome!), but your main priority should be coming up with a title that fits the story. By that, I mean that the title should go along with the piece in tone as well as in content. If someone else wrote your headline and it’s anything other than straightforward, the style inconsistency is likely to pop out at the reader.

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Keep the whole picture in mind, and think of your article as a meal. The content is the main course and the closing line is the dessert, but your title is an enticing appetizer that should never be overlooked.

If you have any thoughts or questions about writing article titles, please comment below…

This post was contributed by Sara Bimmel, who writes about Halloween costumes at

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9 thoughts on “How to Write Effective Titles for Magazine Articles

  • Sara Bimmel

    Thanks for the great comments and feedback, everyone! When writing blog posts, I’ve also found that titles that either start with “How to…” or are a numbered lists (“10 Great Ways…”) tend to be among the most read posts.
    .-= Sara Bimmel´s last blog post ..32 Bizarre and Fascinating Facts about Thanksgiving =-.

  • Omar

    Earlier this morning I couldn’t think of a title for my blog post. It was too bland or boring. Thanks for the tips.
    .-= Omar´s last blog post ..Uncomfortable With Comfortable =-.

  • George Angus

    Hi Laurie,

    I’m very lucky to have some kind of gift in this area. Often, a post title pops into my head and I’ll formulate an article around that. I’ve had some beauty titles in the past and it is a part of blogging that I really enjoy!

    .-= George Angus´s last blog post ..A Roarin’ New Blog of the Week =-.

  • Laurie PK

    I think the article or story needs to determine the title. For instance, if you’re writing a title for the cover of a magazine, you can get creative. But if you’re writing a title of a blog post that you want readers to find on Google, I think you need to be direct and specific (and a little boring).

    Thanks for your comments, everyone — it’s great to hear different perspectives 🙂
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..How to Spend Less at Christmas – Money Tips for Couples =-.

  • Crtystal R. Martin

    Hey Sarah, Thanks for some great ideas and things to keep in mind. Unfortunately now I have to go write that essay. 😉
    .-= Crtystal R. Martin´s last blog post ..College kills – Or that is my belief at the moment =-.

  • Ryan


    I think that it’s a balance between not being too boring yet not going off topic. Some authors try to hard to be clever and it shows in the title.

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for the reminder about How to write effective titles for magazines and blog posts. Sometimes the “how to” is too boring. Then again, you can try to be controversial and it may backfire on you. It’s trial and error. Then again, my “Travel Writer Struck by Lightening Finds Antidote” title draws people to the article posted on Affsphere.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog post ..Freelance Writing from Home Saves Money =-.

  • Ed Martin

    There are so many different approaches to titles. Do you write a “how to” tile, or ask a question or try to be controversial, or pack in keywords? Ugh! I like start off writing with a title so I know what I’m writing about, then when I’m done go back and figure out how to make it a good title. I’m always torn between the titles I like and the ones I know I should write to because some expert says it should be that way.
    It was the “tips” part of the title for this blog post that caught my eye. Tbanks for sharing!
    .-= Ed Martin´s last blog post ..How to Safely Manage Your Money – 8 Things You Can Do Now =-.

  • Jim Lochner

    Ugh, those bloody titles! Something I always have trouble with, whether it’s articles or blog posts. Clever or to the point? Subtle or controversial? A quote or something original?

    Toughest for me are my blog posts. Since I blog about film music, the title of the film is usually in there somewhere. It helps with search engines and Twitter notifications, but I’m don’t know if it grabs people to read any more than something more original would do. I’ve tried both and both seem to work about the same, traffic-wise.

    Either way, invariably I suck at it but I keep plugging away. 🙂
    .-= Jim Lochner´s last blog post ..CD Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon =-.