While you're writing an essay, if you have an idea for a title, write it down. Often the best time to choose a title is after you've completed a first draft and read it over. Be creative with your title, but don't overdo it. For example, if you're writing a paper about deforestation, titling it “Knock on Wood” might seem clever at first, but it doesn't accurately fit the topic. (Titles are not required for all types of writing—timed essays, for example. Check your assignment.)

Use good judgment when choosing a title. Consider the formality and tone of your essay and your audience. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” might be a good title for a personal essay on the loss of your gullibility, but you should think twice before using it as the title of an analytical paper on Shakespeare's character Macbeth.

The best advice is to strike a balance: Avoid the overly general and dull, or the too clever and obscure. When choosing a title, consider using a quotation from a work you are writing about, an effective phrase from your own essay, or an appropriate figure of speech.

“Sleep No More”: The Role of Macbeth's Conscience

RATHER THAN Macbeth's Conscience

“I'm Nobody”: Finding Emily Dickinson in Her Poetry

RATHER THAN Emily Dickinson and Her Poetry

Gaining Safety or Losing Freedom: The Debate over Airport Security Measures

RATHER THAN Airport Security Measures

Only Skin Deep?

RATHER THAN The Importance of Beauty to Today's Woman

Fit to Be Tried: An Examination of the McNaughton Rule

RATHER THAN Judging Legal Sanity