Do Questions Make Good Titles?
By Ady Dewey
In finance-related writing, it seems that titles posing questions are popular. Scan the news, or bloggers’ posts, on any given day and you’ll find queries as headlines.
Is it an effective approach? It depends on the question. In my opinion, literal questions can be more successful than rhetorical ones. This is especially true if the article succinctly answers the question. Your question tells your audience exactly what will be covered, much like how a frequently asked question (FAQ) is formatted. It may draw readers who have that question in mind.
Questions that are rhetorical can mask the subject or be perceived as cynical. When the article does not address what readers expect, they may leave your page—or click to continue searching.
A question also needs to end in a question mark. However, if you are a writing a movie script, you may wish to reconsider this approach entirely as there’s a superstitious belief that films with a question mark in the title do poorly at the box office. This is why the punctuation is missing from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
So unless you’re writing a financial box-office hit, use questions for titles. They can be an effective hook to assure hits, generate interest, and draw in readers.
And there’s another use of questions as titles: ask yourself the question before you even begin to write. It can help you keep your prose or analysis succinct and focused on your audience’s needs.
Ady Dewey writes the blog PensionDialog covering issues in public pensions and retirement security. She is also an associate professor at the University of Maryland University College teaching communications.