See if this title of an online article grabs your attention.
9 Reasons Why Flying is Getting Better
Your response might be “Really?” Does the person who wrote this always fly first class? Does the writer know a secret to avoiding arrival at the airport hours before a flight? But, of course, I questioned a couple of other aspects of the title. Can you read my mind?
What jumped out at me first was the disrespect of “is.” All important words in titles should start with a capital letter, and “is” is a verb. Verbs are pretty important.
As discussed in a previous post*, the rules for capitalizing in titles are tricky, and a common error is using lowercase for short** verbs like “be,” “get,” or “aim”; short nouns like “boy” or “toy”; short pronouns like “she” or “her”; short adjectives like “big” or “old”; and short adverbs like “too” or “very.”***
The other slip that distracted me was “reasons why,” a common redundancy. A reason tells us why, so using both words is unnecessary.
Generally, we need to watch out for the use of more than one of these three words in a single sentence: “reason,” “why,” and “because,” as in The reason why I selected Sheila is because she recently asked for more responsibility. All we need is I selected Sheila because she recently asked for more responsibility.
Incidentally, if you questioned the use of a numeral, “9,” to begin the title of the article, kudos. You are thinking the right way. But the rule is that we are not supposed to begin conventional sentences with numerals. Doing so is well accepted in titles and headlines.
*To learn a bit more about correctness in composing titles and to take a short quiz, go to www.normfriedman.com, click on “Blog,” and go to the post from March 11, 2015.
**What constitutes a “short” word in a title? Some style guides instruct us to give initial caps to every word of four letters or more, even if it’s just a preposition, such as “with.” Others say the threshold is a five-letter word, like “after.” So decide if your threshold is four letters or five and hold your ground.
***If my punctuation in this paragraph seemed inconsistent, remember the illogical but ironclad rule: Quotation marks always go outside commas and periods, but always inside semicolons.
In addition to presenting workshops on writing in the workplace, Norm is a writer, editor, and writing coach. His 100+ Instant Writing Tips is a brief “non-textbook” to help individuals overcome common writing errors and write with more finesse and impact. Learn more at http://www.normfriedman.com/index.shtml.