Friday, January 21, 2011

Another thing...

I'm doing wrong: my titles.
Two pieces of advice follow from these observations. First, find the simplest title not yet taken for your papers. One word titles are the best. Second, before you get started on a paper, think about the title. If you can’t come up with a short title for it then its probably not worth writing.

The absolute worst thing you can do with your title is to insert a colon into it. (quiet down beavis!) As in, Torture: A Model of Dynamic Commitment Problems. Or Kludged: Asymptotically Inefficient Evolution. In the first case you have just ruined a seminal-signaling one-word title by adding spurious specificity. In the second, you just took an intriguing one-world title and turned it into a yawner.

The second worst kind of title is the question mark title. ”Is the Folk Theorem Robust?” This says to the reader: ”You picked this up because you want to know if the folk theorem is robust. Well, if I knew the answer to that I would have told you right away in the title. But look, all I could do is repeat the question, so you can safely assume that you won’t find the answer in this paper.” [More]
Oh, and I'm a habitual two-spacer, too.
What galls me about two-spacers isn't just their numbers. It's their certainty that they're right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the "correct" number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space "rule." Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. "Who says two spaces is wrong?" they wanted to know.  [More of magnificent rant]
In following this tempest in a typewriter, I also found out I'm dashing in an un-American fashion.
I couldn’t agree more – though I’d be even more impressed if he allowed his long dashes a little breathing space on either side. But then Americans never do. And, come to think of it, Americans are far more likely to double-space than Britons (unless they’re British concert pianists who lived for 20 years in New York, where double-spacing is endemic). [More]
In fact - if you're still with me - it's amazing you can read this post at all.

1 comment:

Brian in Central IL said...

When I was in Grad school earlier this decade I was in a small group, four of us of which I was the only guy, and as we were working on a group paper. One of the members commented on the spacing between sentences in the paper and the result was a HEATED debate where two of us stated the single space was correct (I was in this camp) while the other two defend the two spaces with a fire! This was so much a debate we had to seek resolution and found the single space to be correct and that the double space found roots in the typewriter era where the typewriter spaces were much narrower than on a word processor.