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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 28, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(16):2026. doi:10.1001/jama.291.16.2026-a

One of the interesting features of the editor's work in looking over other medical journals is to note the varieties in titles and the peculiarities of authors. The titles of some articles are so long that they almost make it unnecessary to read the paper. Harris Hawthorne Wilder, in a letter to Science, March 18, comments interestingly on long titles, which he classifies as "explanatory" or as "modest." In the first, an author endeavors to show exactly what he is covering in his paper; in the second, he seeks to bring out that he appreciates the vastness of the subject and how little he really has accomplished. One of the latter often begins, "A contribution to the study of." Wilder says that although composed in the most laudable spirit, such titles are hardly necessary, since there is little danger of misunderstanding on the point guarded against by the writer. Wilder suggests the use of a title and a subtitle. This is a plan we often use in THE JOURNAL, making the title brief and general, and including in the subtitle certain definitions and limitations of the subject. We are amused by the title at the head of Wilder's communication, but we do not know whether he or the editor of Science is responsible for it. It is "On Titles for Papers." What possible use the word "on" may have is unknown to us. There is often much room for improvement in titles, and the elimination of unnecessary words is one means of improvement.

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