Titles: How to Hook Your Learners

When does a story need a title?

A small story doesn’t always need a title.  It depends on when and where the story is used:

  • If you share a small story via email you use your title as the subject line to entice people to open their email and read your story.
  • If your small story is part of a longer training session, then you do not need a title because the story is part of a bigger whole that already has a title.
  • If you share a small story, as a teaser, on social media, a title is optional.  If your opening line is strong enough you don’t need a title.  However, sometimes a title can increase the reader’s curiosity and make them read on.

What’s a good title?

The main purpose of a title is to entice learners to start reading your story.  So good titles arouse curiosity.

And you can arouse curiosity in two ways:

  • The first type of curiosity is our hunger for knowledge and learning.  Any title starting with how to or promising a tip or guide will tap into this form of curiosity.
  • The second type of curiosity is when we give people some information, but we hold back the details.  This is when we open up a gap in their knowledge.  We raise questions in their mind and they want to get these questions answered.

Here’s a good example:

How to write an irresistible first sentence.”

The title above is a how-to, promising learners how they’ll learn how to write a first sentence.  Note how specific this is.  It’s not about writing anything that’s irresistible.  It’s about writing an irresistible first sentence.  Specificity makes a promise more interesting and more believable.

How to evaluate titles:

  • Does the title indicate what this story is about?
  • Does it arouse curiosity?

If in doubt, try to how-to title and promise learners specifically what they’ll learn from your story.