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Title Vs. Subtitle: What's the Difference?

The title and subtitle of a piece of writing play a crucial role in determining its success. Yet, people often struggle to determine the difference between titles and subtitles. Titles and subtitles both serve to convey the message of a piece of writing, but they each have their own purpose.

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between titles and subtitles. We will also provide tips and tricks for writing effective titles and subtitles, so you can make the most of these elements in your writing. By the end, you will have a solid understanding of the differences between titles and subtitles and how to use them to your advantage. So, let's get started on our journey to mastering the art of titles and subtitles!

Definition of Titles and Subtitles

A title is the main heading or name given to a piece of writing, typically placed at the top of the page or at the beginning of the text. On the book cover above, the title is "Foresight is 20/20." A subtitle, on the other hand, is a secondary heading that provides additional information about the content of the text. The subtitle for the book above is "Unlock Your Past to Create a Better Future."

Subtitles are usually placed below the main title and help to break up the content into smaller, more manageable sections.

Understanding the differences between titles and subtitles–and knowing how to use them effectively–will help you to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting out, this blog post will provide valuable insights and information to help you improve your writing and take your skills to the next level.


The Role of Titles in Writing

The title is the first thing that a reader sees when they pick up a piece of writing. It plays a crucial role in determining whether or not the reader will continue to read the text. The main function of a title is to grab the reader's attention and give them a brief overview of what they’re about to read.

A good title is short, attention-grabbing, and relevant to the content of the text. The title provides the reader with their first impression, so it’s important to make it count.

A good title also establishes the tone of the content, whether it be serious, humorous, or informative. Here are some examples of strong titles that serve their purpose well:

1. "On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin

This title falls under the “serious” category. While “On the Origin of Species” gives us some context about what Darwin’s book is about, it’s a little vague. Still, this sweeping title provides the tone for Darwin’s dive into evolutionary biology.

2. "You Can’t Touch My Hair” by Phoebe Robinson

This title reflects the tone of this New York Times best seller as funny, real, and a little confrontational. It’s a great title for a book written by a stand-up comedian who writes about her experiences with race, gender, and the cultural climate.

This title doesn’t set much of a tone for the book, but it certainly tells us exactly what we should expect to learn. We know we’re going to learn about highly effective people’s habits, specifically the ones ranking in the Top Seven.

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s hard not to judge a book by its title. A title is the first and most important element of a piece of writing, and its ability to impact readers will determine the writing’s success.

The Role of Subtitles in Writing

A subtitle provides additional information about the content of a piece of writing. Subtitles are usually placed below the main title and serve to break up the content into smaller, more manageable sections. Subtitles provide additional detail and support the main title, making it easier for the reader to understand and engage with the content.

The main function of a subtitle is to provide more specific information about the content than the title does. They help the reader understand the structure and purpose of the writing.

Effective subtitles should be specific, clear, and concise, and they should always relate back to the main title. If we look back at our three previous title examples, we can see how their subtitles make them even easier for readers to understand:

1. “On the Origin of Species: by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” by Charles Darwin

What a mouthful! Although Darwin’s title is short and serious, his book’s subtitle provides much more information about the content of his writing. Readers who want to know about the scientific theories surrounding natural selection can rejoice, while the ones who were hoping for a sci-fi origin story can safely set the book down.

2. “You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain” by Phoebe Robinson

This subtitle gives us an even stronger sense of tone. The words “still” and “have to” hint at Phoebe’s exasperation with people who want to touch her hair–and do other things! The subtitle still uses plain, confrontational language, but it also reveals more about what the book might have to say.

3. "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change" by Stephen Covey

This subtitle lets us know we’re not only going to discover these seven habits; we’re also going to learn lessons about them. These lessons will (hopefully) provide us with the tools we need to make a personal change. While Covey’s original title was pretty specific, the subtitle works perfectly to give even more information to curious perusers in bookstores everywhere.

Subtitles provide crucial information and structure to the content of a piece of writing. By understanding the definition of subtitles and their purpose, you can use them effectively to help your writing flow and make it easier for the reader to engage with the content.

Differences Between Titles and Subtitles

Titles and subtitles are both important elements of writing, but they serve different purposes and have different characteristics. While both are used to provide structure and organization to the content, there are some key differences between titles and subtitles that are worth exploring.

The first difference between titles and subtitles is their size. On covers and title pages, titles are typically much larger and more prominent than subtitles, and they are usually placed at the top of the page or at the beginning of the text. Subtitles, on the other hand, are usually smaller and less prominent, and they are placed below the main title.

Another difference between titles and subtitles is their purpose. Titles are designed to grab the reader's attention and give them a brief overview of the content, while subtitles are designed to provide additional information and support for the main title. Titles also set the tone of the content, while subtitles provide specific details to help the reader better understand the content’s structure.

How to use titles and subtitles effectively is a skill every writer must learn. By knowing the specific purposes and characteristics of each, you can use them effectively in your writing to provide structure, organization, and detail to your content. Don't let title confusion hold you back! Knowing the difference between titles and subtitles will help you give your readers the sneak peek they need to tip the scales in your direction when they see your writing.


Using Titles and Subtitles Effectively

One of the keys to successful writing is the effective use of titles and subtitles. When used correctly, titles and subtitles can help to organize your content, make it easier to read and understand, and increase engagement with your audience. Here are some tips for using titles and subtitles effectively:

  1. Keep titles short and to the point. Titles should be concise and easy to read with a maximum of ten words. They should grab the reader's attention and give them an idea of what the content is about.

  2. Make subtitles specific and relevant. Subtitles should be specific and directly related to the main title. They should provide additional information about the content and help the reader understand the structure of the writing.

  3. Use different levels of titles and subtitles. When organizing your content, use different levels of titles and subtitles to distinguish between different sections and topics. This makes it easier for the reader to follow the content and understand the overall structure of the writing.

  4. Consistency is key. When using titles and subtitles, be consistent in your use of capitalization, font size, and style. This makes your writing look professional and organized.

By following these tips and using titles and subtitles effectively, you can make your writing more organized, easier to read, and more engaging. Whether you are writing a novel, an article, or any other type of writing, the effective use of titles and subtitles is an essential skill to master.

Take some time to reflect on your own writing and see if there is room for improvement. Maybe your longer titles would work better split into a title-subtitle combo. Maybe your subtitle is better off as a title by itself! By reviewing your own choices, you'll be able to make changes to give your writing more clarity, structure, and impact, and engage your audience more effectively. Remember, the right use of titles and subtitles can make a big difference in your writing, so make sure to use them wisely!

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