Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is this a bad title for this post?

According Jeff Ely, it is bad, but not as bad as "Titles: Referring You to a Post on How to Signal Your Seminal Contribution."

The absolute worst thing you can do with your title is to insert a colon into it. (quiet down beavis!) As in, Torture: A Model of Dynamic Commitment Problems. Or Kludged: Asymptotically Inefficient Evolution. In the first case you have just ruined a seminal-signaling one-word title by adding spurious specificity. In the second, you just took an intriguing one-world title and turned it into a yawner.

The second worst kind of title is the question mark title. ”Is the Folk Theorem Robust?” This says to the reader: ”You picked this up because you want to know if the folk theorem is robust. Well, if I knew the answer to that I would have told you right away in the title. But look, all I could do is repeat the question, so you can safely assume that you won’t find the answer in this paper.”

By the way, I love that Ely's seminal blog post on this topic is entitled "Titles." Way to demonstrate by example.

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