Tag Archive for: title

Writing lesson from a museum exhibit

A strong title can boost the appeal of a dull topic, as an exhibit at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts reminded me.

I was leaning toward skipping the museum’s exhibit of Currier & Ives nineteenth century lithographs. The name summons fusty images.

But I changed my mind after I read the exhibit’s title: “The Real Housewives of Currier & Ives.”

The title promised a lively, contemporary spin on old images. Even better, it delivered on its promise, giving me a sense of women’s changing roles.

You can boost the appeal of your articles and blog posts by adapting titles of popular books and shows. If you do this well, you may attract readers who wouldn’t have looked at a more conventionally titled piece.

Have you successfully used a title from popular culture for your writing? Please share it below.

Currier & Ives travel note

If you’d like to see one of the country’s largest Currier & Ives collections, visit the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts’ Lenore B. and Sydney A. Alpert Currier & Ives Gallery.


For another exhibit-inspired blog post, go to Communications lessons from “Torn in Two” at the Boston Public Library

Guest post: “Do Questions Make Good Titles?”

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.