Post Titles [Are they descriptive enough?]

Most days I sift through mountains of blog posts (and increasingly, tweets) with sometimes cryptic titles and link references. While it can be fun to discover what a post or page is really about, when time is short I must admit I do sometimes pass over ambiguous links in favour of something with a more definite payoff.

Andy Wibbels just brought up this issue on the Everything Typepad blog. His advice: “Always Be Obvious” and “Stop Being Clever.” Where’s the fun in that?! He’s got a point, though. Regular readers might be willing to give a favourite blog the benefit of the doubt—we’re just talking about a click and a few seconds of attention, after all—but someone scanning through a pile of Google results might not be so willing to investigate a mystery link.

I’ve seen high-volume blogs that use parenthetical comments after post titles or links to narrow down the subject matter. As clunky as it is, it does make sifting through posts easier. It’s essentially a form of tagging, or like subheadlines in a newspaper (remember newspapers?). You can keep the clever title, but just add a little comment that indicates the general topic.

What do you think? Have you ever glossed over a blog post, here or anywhere, because it wasn’t clear what it was about? Do you like to know what you’re getting in to or do you like to be surprised? The litblogosphere is a distinct community and the usual rules of cyberspace don’t necessarily apply here. We like stories. We don’t like spoilers. We’re curious. We don’t mind spending time reading interesting things. We’re about quality over quantity.  We aren’t out to get maximum hits and rake in the advertising revenue. So maybe this just isn’t an issue here, but I thought I’d open the floor to see if anyone has an opinion. What do you like: clever or obvious?

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8 comments on “Post Titles [Are they descriptive enough?]

  1. Milan says:

    Have you ever glossed over a blog post, here or anywhere, because it wasn’t clear what it was about?
    Yes. I have also probably failed to Google hundreds of relevant blog posts, because their titles either didn't seem appropriate to me while scrolling through Google results or because vague titles kept them from coming up at all.

  2. Stop being clever? Consider it done!

  3. wil says:

    I don't usually read high-volume blogs, and I've never let a title dissuade me from at least scanning the first paragraph of a post to see what it's all about. But I think I might actually be turned off by overly descriptive, dry, categorial titles.

  4. Sylvia says:

    Amateur Reader, LOL! But I must say that your post titles are both enjoyable and informative!
    Thanks for your thoughts, Milan and Wil. I'll have to aim for something between vague and dry.

  5. Stefanie says:

    I think your post titles are perfectly fine. I am more likely to skip a blog or blog post if it doesn't have a title at all than if it has a vague title.

  6. Sylvia says:

    Thanks, Stefanie. 🙂

  7. Dorothy W. says:

    I do different things depending on the blog, which I think is exactly what you describe. If I know the writer, I'm willing to read whatever he or she writes no matter how vague the post title. But when it comes to blogs I read only occasionally, though, if I can't figure out the subject from the title, and especially if I don't get it in the first couple lines of the post, I'm gone. I don't apply this to my own writing, though, largely because I'm not really concerned about catching those casual readers, I suppose. But then again, I don't think I write particularly clever titles and tend to stick to the descriptive anyway.

  8. Sylvia says:

    That's pretty much my approach too, Dorothy. I'm not too concerned about Googlers—judging by my stats almost none of them stick around. “Word-of-blog” is probably more important for attracting other bookworms. 🙂

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