Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cryptic phrase - colon - descriptive title

If 2007 and 2008 are truly going down in history as making a contribution to scholarly publishing, they can do so by pruning the colon title. You know the one I mean. They start of with a pithy-yet-cryptic phrase ("Fatal Modality," "Discourse and Presupposition," "The Chaos of Exile,"), continue with a colon, and then conclude with a practical title that makes sense.
Editors have a gardening term for working on paragraphs that might be helpful: topping and tailing. By snipping off the confusing opening plus colon, and (occasionally) by tightening up the trailing explanatory matter, the book may end up with a title that tells readers what it is about.

I am also guilty here, but I did learn that one way to tell if a title "works" is to practice saying it before an audience ("As I say in Reclusive Yet Ubiquitous: Cultural Sightings of Agnetha Fältskog..."). If you stumble over it, readers will too. One reason why titles like Pride and Prejudice and The Perfect Storm work so well is because they are easy to say and remember, and they give us a memorable image of their respective books' themes.

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