First Impressions

title pic“A first impression is the most important impression you’ll ever make—and you get only one chance to make it. Business deals can be made or broken, first dates become second dates or not, friendships are created or fail to form; everything hinges on that all-important initial encounter” (Demarais and White, 2005). The same can be said for titles.  A title is most often the one chance an author gets to catch the attention of the reader.  In most cases titles can make or break the article, book, journal, etc., they are the foundation, the building blocks for an author’s work.

As a reader of many different types of articles the first thing I consider is the title, if it’s not “catchy” sometimes I won’t read it. I have found no matter how borrowing the topic, it’s the title that grabs my attention.  I have noticed recently that quite often even after being “grabbed” by the title that I continue to read the article or book long after I find it borrowing, mainly because I’m still hopeful that the catchy title will lead to something interesting in the article, journal, etc.  To me the title is a promise of good things to come.



As composition and rhetoric scholars Maxine Hairston and Michael Keene explain, a good title does several things:

  • First, it predicts content;
  • Second, it catches the reader’s interest;
  • Third, it reflects the tone or slant of the piece of writing; and
  • Fourth, it contains keywords that will make it easy to access by a computer search.

Great titles are PINC (pronounced “pink”). They do at least one of the following: make a promise, create intrigue, identify a need, or simply state the content (Michael Hyatt, 2014).

The Colon

Now, the dreaded colon! A colon is used to explain or start an enumeration. A colon is also used with ratios, titles and subtitles of books, city and publisher in bibliographies, etc.  It seems a lot of people don’t like the colon or it’s best friend, the semi-colon, however they can be very useful in title  Personally I like a colon in a title, I think it tells me a little bit more about what I’m about to read.  I also think it helps make a statement about the book or article.

Some rules to colon use:

  • the colon signals that what comes next is directly related to the previous sentence;
  • only use them after statements that are complete sentences. Never use a colon after a sentence fragment; and
  • a title with two parts: On Privileged Grounds: Sport, Law, and Agamben’s State of Exception.

As I previously mentioned, a good title is quite often why I read a certain article. However, on the other side of the argument, what does a bad title create?  In my mind a bad title will deter the reader from taking a second look at the book or article, it can create a negative lookout on the author or the piece of literature, or it can even make the reader not read the article or book at all.  In my opinion the title reflects the work, therefore if they author has a bad title it can potentially lead to a bad first impression.

Potential Titles:

  • Sports and Law: An interdisciplinary look at today’s athlete;
  • The Law of Sports;
  • Today’s Super athletes;
  • Law today, a look back; and
  • Law and Sports: what is reasonable

Overall, I think most people would agree that a title needs to make a statement. It defines what the piece of work is about and it helps the reader choose.  Titles need to be clear, concise and to the point.  You only have one chance to make a first impression.



First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You Paperback – March 29, 2005
by Ann Demarais Ph.D. (Author), Valerie White Ph.D. (Author)
Hairston, Maxine, and Michael Keene. Successful Writing. 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2003.
Four Strategies for Creating Titles That Jump Off the Page – 2014
Michael Hyatt, Helping Leaders Leverage Influence (punctuation)


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