Observations on the Use or Lack Thereof, of Long Titles in Writing on the Web

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When writing an article, I sometimes find it difficult to come up with a title. Personally I prefer short titles, and often I find that others do too. The book I am currently reading, which was written in the 18th century, shows me that writers of that era often took a different view.

The book to which I refer is James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson which was first published in . Now this book itself has a short title which aptly describes its contents, but it is not the title of this book to which I refer, but more to the many articles, pamphlets, and essays that it refers to.

The authors of such writings had no qualms about using long titles. For example, an article written by Johnson himself in is entitled “an Address of the Painters to George III. on his Accession to the Throne of these Kingdoms”. Other examples mentioned in the book are called: “The Conduct of the Ministry relating to the present War impartially examined”, “Hales on distilling Sea-Water, Ventilators in Ships, and curing an ill Taste in Milk”, and my favourite, “Some further Particulars in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, by a Gentleman of Oxford”.

Writers of this period did not of course always use such long titles, and other writings mentioned have relatively short titles such as “Orphan of China” or “The Life of Chaucer”, I merely found it interesting that it did occur frequently and that nowadays with web writing, article titles tend not to be so verbose.

To finish up I have taken the liberty of proposing alternative, 18th-Century-style, titles to a handful of web development articles from around the web:

  • “A Solution to make Websites more Adaptable to Being Displayed on the Multiple Devices that Exist Today” – Responsive Web Design – Ethan Marcotte,
  • “A Thought on the Proliferation of Overlays that Appear on Many of Today’s Websites” – Bullshit Overlays – Brad Frost,
  • “Observations on the Notion that CSS is not for Developers, Containing a Refutation of this Idea” – CSS is for developers – Lea Verou,
  • “Comments on the use of Hashed Classes in CSS and how They Might be Put to Use” – Hashed classes in CSS – Harry Roberts,
  • “Advice on Words that should be Avoided when Writing an Educational Article with a Focus on Clearer Understanding of the Content contained Within” – Words To Avoid in Educational Writing – Chris Coyier,