Writing, Arts & Entertainment


Malcolm Gladwell

Lesson time 8:28 min

For Malcolm, a title is the ultimate attention-grabber. Learn how to write powerful titles that will speak to your reader's emotions.

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Topics include: Grab the Reader • Add Tension to Your Titles • Think of Your Title as an Ad


I'm fascinated by that notion of capturing someone's attention. And that's what a title is. Right? A title is an even more edited attention grabber. So I think I spend enormous amounts of time thinking about the titles to my books-- "Tipping Point," "Blink," "Outliers." And no one-- for each of those titles-- well, for "Blink" and "Outliers," there were people who thought-- they tried to talk me out of those titles. And I will not-- I cannot be talked out of my titles. That is the one thing-- I can-- I will open-- I am open to criticism on every level, and I-- but not about titles, because that's the thing that I feel most strongly about. You know, my podcast, "Revisionist History" was-- no one wanted that title. I was like, nope, that's what we're going to call it. Because these are-- this is something that I've-- that I have-- that I kind of prioritize, that notion of-- because the title fr-- the title or a phrase frames something quickly in someone's mind. And that fr-- once you own the frame, you have a huge advantage in capturing their attention. Like, the title of my podcast, "Revisionist History," that's it. That's everything I want to do. Right? I want to go over the thing that you think you know, and I want to twist it. "Outliers," the-- it's one of those beautiful words that the definition of the word is in the word. I don't know if-- is there-- is there a word for that? There must be. It-- someone who lies outside of the mainstream. That's what I wanted to describe. How do you get outside? "Outliers" is this great, fantastic, one-word description. And "Blink" was about-- That's what it was about. Right? That moment. What happens in the moment? You don't need any other words if you've got that word. And so I think those-- very often in writing we leave the titles to someone else, which is, in my-- you know, a mistake. You should spend as much time, I think, thinking about titles as you do about content. In fact-- I sometimes do this. And I think I mentioned it once. I have on more than one occasion come up with the title first and realized, oh, that's a great-- that's a great story to write. I don't know what the story is, but the title's fantastic. Right? Titles and conceptual names and whatever are always more powerful when there-- there's an emotional connotation attached to them. It's like-- on the theory of titles, I once made a list of what I thought were the 20 or 25 greatest book titles of all time. And there's a very, very consistent pattern in great book titles, which is that they-- there is a-- if there are two words, the two words in the title are in tension. They are contradictions. Ralph Nader famously wrote a book about how unsafe cars were. It was about the Corvair. It was called "Unsafe at Any Speed." The title has a contradiction, right? Speed is about-- is a continuum with safety on one end and unsafety on the other. He's saying, unsafe at any speed. Meaning, the continuum doesn't w...

About the Instructor

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.

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Malcolm Gladwell

In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.

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