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December 1, 2006

The World Needs Better Titles

Browsing in the library the other day, I came to a revelation: the world needs to be more creative and specific when giving titles to things.

I ran into about a dozen books called "Chaucer" or "Chaucer's Poetry" or "The Greatness of Chaucer" in my search for specific information for my research project in (guess which class?) Chaucer. It's nearly impossible to tell which books are actually going to be useful when I'm looking at titles like this...

Sure, browsing the table of contents and the index is a good idea, when the title is not helpful. That's not my point, though. (Besides, some of these books were so old that there was not an index or a table of contents--it was more like a bound essay...) My point is that when cataloging books for something like a library, it's more advantageous to have differently named books rather than a dozen with the same title. (Having done all of the Dewey Decimal System work for the library that E-Magnify has here at SHU, I think I can even say this with a bit of authority since the DDS requires various combinations of letters and numbers as identifying information, all of which have a purpose.)

Maybe this is a more contemporary thing, though. Naming books and essays now seems like it's only getting more unique. While I can't say that I've had the opportunity to name a book for myself, I can say that when I name my paper for class and my blog entries I try to make them different and descriptive.

I was annoyed, the other day, with all of these bland titles. It was like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack with all these books that were, at a glance, all about the same thing or maybe even the same book in different versions! I like titles that help me know what I'm going to read... Is that so much to ask?

Posted by KarissaKilgore at December 1, 2006 5:08 PM


This can be truly frustrating for research, true. If, as a writer, you're too specific, then you broadcast a limited audience -- if you're too "creative" you risk being cheeky or cavalier in a genre that's sober and considered "serious." Beyond the lack of creativity you mention, it's also the case that academic publishers are, sadly, often to blame: they will often retitle books, erring on the side of overgeneralization over specificity, in a quest to get books bought by libraries and considered for classroom use by instructors.

Just wait till you're in grad school, and have access to a large research library. You're in for some thrills and eye-opening encounters with the academic book world!

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at December 3, 2006 4:05 PM

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