How to Create a Motto
- Define whom the motto is for. Is it a personal motto for you? Is it a motto for your family? Your group of friends? Yourself?
- Determine values. If the motto is for your own personal use, it needs to summarize the values and beliefs that you hold most dearly. Don’t rush to pick something – think hard and take some time working out what’s the most important of all your values.
- Decide on a structure. Many mottos are simply three words in a row, e.g. “Truth, Honor, Loyalty” or “Liberty, Family, Independence.” Other mottos are whole sentences like “Virtue is its own reward.” Read as many mottos as you can find to get inspiration for the particular form of your own motto.
When to Use a Motto
Mottos are for personal use, and can be valuable in creative writing. There’s really no place for them in formal essays, though. In formal essays, you might use an epigraph (see §1), but not a motto.
Even in creative writing, there are very few situations in which it would be appropriate to use a motto. If your story is about an organization or family, it might be useful to give them a motto as a summary of their values, beliefs, and goals. However, it’s not always necessary to tell the motto to your reader. This is the sort of thing that usually comes across as “too much information” – unnecessary detail that the reader doesn’t really need to know.
However, it’s often a good idea to write a motto as part of your sub-creation. Sub-creation is all the work you do to figure out the details of your story, including details that never make it into the story itself. By coming up with such details, you can make the story feel more real and detailed in your own mind, even as you spare your reader all the tedious details and get to the point in your actual writing.