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Problem Titles

A common problem with technical documents involves overly general, vague title: for example:

nanotechnology
ebola
smart phones
solar power
graphene

Just think of all the things that a writer could say about each of these topics! Important too is the fact that readers are just not going to know from such a title what the writer is really going to cover.

Elements of Titles

When you craft a title for your document, consider indicating these elements but without creating a title that is a paragraph long:

  • Topic: The topic of your document can be similar to those examples above. But don't stop there—you've got more work to do.
  • Scope: Scope refers to how broad or how narrow your focus will be on the topic. Scope and overview are not always easy to distinguish. The element overview indicates a general review of some aspect of the topic.
  • Overview: As the term is used here, overview refers to an itemization of the main subtopics to be covered. True, it is contradictory to how the term is used to define scope. Not to worry—this is not science. A good example of this use of the term is this: Ebola: Transmission, Symptoms, Treatment. The final three words are the itemization.

Notice that the process of creating a specific, focused title is similar to the process of narrowing a topic, covered elsewhere.

Title Examples

Consider this title: Nanotechnology: Overview of Medical Applications. The giant topic nanotechnology is indeed stated, but notice it is narrowed down to medical applications and a scoping element is applied—overview.

Notice the use of the colon in the preceding example. It's enables you to cut down in words. Another possibility is Medical Applications of Nanotechnology: Overview.

I would appreciate your thoughts, reactions, criticism regarding this chapter: your responseDavid McMurrey.