The headline – whether page title or link text – should tell people exactly what’s in the article, they say, so that people will know what’s in your article before they even read it. There’s certainly justification for this approach. In tech writing, for instance, it just makes sense. If your article explains how to repair your mobile phone in the field, it’s clearly better to entitle it something like “Fixing Your Mobile Phone On The Road” rather than “When ET Can’t Phone Home” or “The SIM Sins” or “Lost Verizon.”
Pfft. Me, I would have gone with "No-Bar Blues". Get it? You get it, right? See, it's like "12-Bar Blues", but, you know, when someone doesn't have any phone service, you'll sometimes hear them say they don't have any "bars", because, uh...ahem. You know, "bars", the indication of signal, uh, strength. Um. Heh heh.
Anyway, I just had a good laugh imagining someone like Jakob Nielsen palming his face over my post titles, which, in case you've ever wondered, are usually snippets of song lyrics or poems, groan-inducing puns, or exotic words with a poetic ring to them that somehow relate to the theme of the post. Clarity doesn't factor in to my decision-making at all. (The title of this one is a direct quote of something my friend Arthur said to me about a poem I showed him.)
But not everyone who posts writing on the web is doing so for the benefit of web visitors. Some of us are more interested in readers. Eyeballs are one thing. Eyeballs hooked up to a functioning cerebrum is an altogether different, better thing. It’s a simple concept that seems surprisingly hard for some experts to grasp: there is more than one kind of writing on the web. There are news alerts. There are How To shorts. There is poetry. There are aimless diary entries. There are screed. There are plays, short stories, rants, recipes, verbal fusillades meant to inflame, prose meant to enlighten, verse meant to perplex. Try to make rules about structure and tempo and tone for any writing that appears on paper, and you’ll be laughed out of the one remaining independent bookstore in your county. The Web isn’t a genre. It’s a medium. The Web is paper, only faster and with a higher carbon footprint. Tech pundits and journalism pundits seem slowest to grasp this general point, for some reason, but the vast majority of writing on the web is neither tech writing nor journalism. It’s essay, memoir, epistolary writing – literature. Not all of it’s good literature, mind. But literature.
Yes, yes, yes. This is exactly what I love about the Internet, especially the blogosphere, and it's what underlies my loathing of the increasing tendency of people to coagulate around the lowest common literary denominator of social networking sites. I have friends who know about this blog yet never stop by to read, never answer emails, but repeatedly ask me why I'm not on Facebook or Twitter. Because fuck you if you're not willing to make any effort, that's why. I'm only interested in people who love words as much as I do.