Descriptive Suspense And Label Titles

A descriptive title depicts content, a suspense one sparks interest, and the label variety is just that —a word or two as on a can of vegetables: "Beans" or "Creamed Corn."

Let's use a poem by Judson Jerome —"Oil of the Pecos Valley" — to illustrate how each functions.

Study the above title for a moment. Now imagine it in a trade publication, accompanying an article on drilling in the Southwest. A magazine editor would call this a descriptive title because it informs the audience what the content is going to be.

Jerome's first line reads: "In that kind of country even the yellowest blossoms. . . ."

Now imagine "Even the Yellowest Blossoms" as a title in the trade publication, illustrating the same article. A magazine editor would call this a suspense title because, on reading it, the audience would have no inkling that the story is about oil in the Pecos Valley. But they might be intrigued by the image of yellow blossoms.

Finally, imagine "Oil" or "Pecos Valley" as possible titles in this trade publication. Either one would be a label title, a generic tag describing news about petroleum or its availability in the valley.

Imagining a descriptive, suspense and label title in a trade publication is a good exercise because we often encounter these types of titles in magazines. You also can familiarize yourself with such titles by paging through an anthology in the library. You'll find many examples of descriptive and label titles and only a few suspense ones. That's because the best titles for poems ground the reader in time or place or set the mood so the audience knows what to anticipate. An occasional suspense title adds a little contrast, a bit of spice.

Nonetheless, there are problems associated with all titles. Descriptive ones can be boring, safe. Label ones, cryptic. Suspense titles, confusing.

Here's how you can lessen the risks.

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