I see many times, that authors use various name formats for chapters:

  • "***"
  • "Twenty Four"
  • "Chapter 5"
  • "XIX"
  • "Last Resort"
  • "Ad notam" (or something Latin or any foreign, (!not author!) language)

    1. For which reason do I need to use any of these methods of naming? Is there any hidden technique?

      For example, if I want to write a 'thinking' book, I will name chapters with Roman digits (not sure, but as an example).
      If I want to write a 'funny' book, I will name the chapters with 'funny' names.

    2. Can I name my chapters in a different language than I write in?
      Use Latin for chapters and English for the story, for example.

  • as a comment: my concept is a set of short stories, that were included in main story. Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


That's one of artistic liberties the writer is free to take. If you write a scientific paper, you name your chapters, sections, subsections 1, 1.1, 1.1.1 but other than that, you're completely free to choose. Choose whatever you see fit, whatever you feel like it fits your book.

* * * is usually reserved for sections/scenes, a subdivision within a chapter. But then, your book may have no chapters at all, just scenes.

Chapters with meaningful names come at risk of spoilers. Readers often peek into the table of contents (even if to find the chapter where they finished if they don't have a bookmark!) and a too revealing chapter name may be a spoiler, so some authors choose more generic names - or ones more obscure.

OTOH, sometimes the author has a difficult time thinking up titles at all, so they skip the whole bother of naming chapters.

But overall, it's artistic freedom and choosing what you feel matches best. Of course roman numerals have a certain weight and elegance to them, fitting a mystery or gothic horror. A fun book for kids may have elaborate names like Chapter 16 or how Agnes learned that broccoli is not the worst of world's evils. A topical non-fiction will have descriptive titles, Chapter 5: Fluid mechanics. But in the end, it's author's hunch and personal preference.

  • 1
    I agree about chapter names having the potential to spoil the chapter itself. I had names on two chapters I had written and it became apparent that "The Incident" took away a little from the story simply telling itself and surprising the reader, so I now just having "Chapter 1" etc. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 6:32

What purpose do you intend the chapter descriptors to serve for your audience? What is the relationship between the beginning of this new chapter and the end of the last?

If you have simply ended the previous chapter because the editor said it was already too long, then it probably does not matter what you call it. But if there is a real difference between the two (such as a new topic, a distinct point of view, or a jump in time) then your chapter label should alert the reader to that (or perhaps obscure it, if you want the element of surprise).

These labels are one of the tools that you have at your disposal as author. Do not give them up too easily because they can add a real dimension to the work. You have not suggested place names or dates and times (for a story where location in space and/or time is important) or the names of significant characters.

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