Write a Good Title, Please

On Saturday, Jim Dalrymple posted an article to his blog The Loop called “Scientists create near living crystal”. When the article scrolled into view, I mused as to why a scientist creating something near a living crystal would be of any interest. After all, creating things is part of the scientist’s job, is it not? Then yesterday afternoon I saw an article titled “We should only work 25 hours a week, argues professor” from Science Nordic. Although the first time around I opted not to open it, curiosity got the better of me the second time I scrolled through Hacker News. I opened the page expecting to find a misguided, self-righteous professor of some degree (pun intended) pontificating as to why he felt academics should only work 25 hours a week. What I found, however, was an interesting piece proposing that rather than whiling away our youth working at the expense of spending time with family and friends only to find ourselves with an inordinate amount of free time in our latter years, we should instead work for greater portions of our lifespan in exchange for shorter work weeks.

These short anecdotes have two things in common: the titles to both articles were poorly written. In the case of Jim Dalrymple’s piece, the title led me to believe a scientist was creating something near a living crystal, when in actuality scientists had created a near-living crystal. Similarly, Science Nordic’s title implied that professors were claiming that they should work a mere 25 hours a week, not that the collective we should. Thanks to these grammatically-incorrect titles, it was only by chance that I ended up reading either article. Unfortunately, these are not the only culprits: I see this happen almost daily.

Good writing is not only important in the body of an article, but the title as well.