Are Interrogative titles bad?

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Tue Jul 1 06:29:55 CDT 1997

At 01:41 PM 06-27-97 +1100, Geoff Read wrote:
>While scanning the journal Lethaia a segment in the instructions to
>authors caught my eye.
>"Avoid  titles that are assertive ('Conodonts are vertebrates') or
>interrogative ('Are conodonts vertebrates?')."
>What rationale lies behind this, and do taxacomers agree queries are  bad
>style? I personally find such titles vaguely pretentious, but no
>more than that. Is it partly that it's not a genuine question (unlike my
>subject header :^)) - the authors presumably answering themselves?
>(The recommended title was 'The relationship between ...').

I have no a priori objection to such titles, if it accurately describes the
thrust of the paper in a concise fashion.  To me, it is overly long titles
that can sometimes seem pretentious.    Assertive titles seem appropriate
when the results of a study offer strong support to a position not widely
accepted before, in which case, stress may be inferred on the verb ("The
Moon IS Made of Green Cheese").  Question titles seem best when results are
equivocal and more research is indicated. If the author does reach a
definite conclusion, the title may be regarded as a rhetorical question.
And after all, isn't  good science question-based?  (Hey, that'd make a
GREAT title ...)

Thomas G. Lammers

Classification, Nomenclature, Phylogeny and Biogeography
of the Campanulaceae, s. lat.

Department of Botany
Field Museum of Natural History
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317

"In no affairs of mere prejudice, pro or con, do we deduce
 inferences with entire certainty, even from the most simple
                -- Edgar Allan Poe

More information about the Taxacom mailing list