Friday, July 13, 2007

The Scourge of The

I’m sure that I can’t be the only person who’s noticed just how often a book title begins with the word ‘The’. Am I the only one who is annoyed by this? To be completely honest, anytime I see ‘The’ as the first word in a title, I’ve already mentally marked the book down a bit. Now I can’t ever recall having not bought a book due to this, but I’ve come to realize that titles are among the most important aspects of me choosing a book, and it bugs me. To me, it just seems somewhat lazy when ‘The’ is the first word – I’m sure this is an overgeneralization, but it does represent my gut feel.

I took a quick look to see just how prevalent it is – I’ve posted a total of 68 book reviews since starting this blog about a year and half ago. Of those books, 28 start with ‘The’ – that’s over 40% of the titles starting with the same unoriginal word. I didn’t bother to count up how many tags/labels I’ve attached to various posts, but 39 of them start with ‘The’, and most are book or series titles.

What does this mean – well, I suggest that if a writer or editor is looking to come up with a good title that’s more likely to grab the attention of someone like myself – avoid the scourge of ‘The’. Really, put just a bit more thought into it and the title will benefit.

Am I alone here? Thoughts? Any comments from someone who has actually had to come up with at title?

*I’m particularly proud of the fact that I used ‘The’ to start the title of this blog post.
**The was utilized 20 times in the writing of this post.


Aidan Moher said...

It's wonderfully ironic that the title of this post begins with "The"!

A Dribble of Ink

Neth said...

I thought so too.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about how many trilogies start with the word The.

The Wheel of Time
The Lord of the Rings
The lord of the The.

okay I made up that last one.

Neth said...

Yeah, my feeling is that most series do start with 'The', but I haven't done count of any sort.

Neil Richard said...

You use The, I use cover art. People say "don't judge a book by it's cover" but I do it all the time. I've gotten fairly lucky as most I pick up ar decent reads, but sometimes I get suckered with a great cover and crappy content.

So keep your The bias. I'm useing covers.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I feel the same way about this argument as I did about the annoyance of people a few years ago at the profusion of band names beginning with "The". It's silly - the actual rest of the name/title is much more important. And, in fact, "The" appears in many of the best names and titles of books and bands in history. Never mind that it's necessary to be clear and grammatically correct for a significant portion of titles. The article is a common and necessary part of speech in English, you know? So I'll say I disagree on this one.

- Josh

Anonymous said...

I think we badly need some sort of fantasy book title generator that just randomly fills in words like "blood," "sword," "ring," "war," "death" and "fire" into basic title forms like "The X Y," "The X of Y" and "The X of the Y."

Carl V. Anderson said...

Neth, I have to say that you have some of the most interesting pet peeves I have ever encountered! And I mean that in the most good-hearted way imaginable. You make me laugh. Can't say I've ever noticed this phenomenon but there is no way I will be averse to it now as every 'the' will no doubt leap out at me.

Considering the many books that I love that begin with 'The' I would have to say that I've never really noticed so it must not bother me.

Thanks for the smile...and for the fact that 'The' will now be stuck in my head for days. ;)

Tia Nevitt said...

"The" is like the invisible word to me. I don't really notice it, so its presence doesn't bother me at all. They're kind of like dialog tags. They only stick out when the author tries to "dress up" the dialog.

Robert said...

I have to agree with Carl that this is a pretty interesting point of view and one I would probably have never thought of. And like Josh it reminds me some of the debate made on bands that start with "the" in their name.

However, I worked with record labels during the most recent fad when bands like The Strokes & The White Stripes, The Hives, The Rapture, etc., were suddenly becoming huge, and the name did make an impact in who was getting signed and how newer bands were naming themselves.

That's only recently of course as some of the (arguably) greatest artists out there have the "the" in their name, like the Beatles, The Who, The Cure, The Doors, and so on.

As far as book titles, I don't see this as an issue at all. As Josh said, it's just good grammar...

Neth said...

Hmm...I guess that Carl probably used the best term - pet peeve. I know that it is an issue of good grammer and modern English, but I guess it still bugs me.

I guess that I sometimes don't realize that everyone doesn't think like me ;)

Carl V. Anderson said...

There's nothing wrong with being unique, Neth, and I enjoy these posts even more, I think, when I'm exposed to things that I either never thought about or don't agree with.

Unknown said...

Great post.

'The' is not only an attention getter but also a power word. At least according to book titles.

'2. When stressed, indicates that the object in question is considered to be best or exclusively worthy of attention' - Wikipedia

It's funny the little peccadilloes we have. I myself have ignored the age old proverb, 'Don't judge a book by it's cover'. Why not? It's far to easy! (;

Joe said...

I used to have this issue with movies where it seems like so many movies began with a The...which in film may say something about quality. Looking at my DVD collection, though, I don't see too many beginning with a The (The Sandlot, The Spitfire Grill)

So...I'm reading Stephen King's novel "Cell" and every time I type something about it I really want to call it The Cell. Not sure why that is. But, it bothers me. It bothered me even before this post of yours.

Now it bothers me more!

Larry Nolen said...

I guess like some of the others here I prefer using the definite article rather than the indefinite in front of a noun. Makes it more distinct when 'the' highlights the singularity of the object (as opposed to "an object," which is, of course, indefinite ;)).

Anonymous said...

I can't say I have noticed and so definately does not faze me. An interesting pet peeve. Mine is typos in a printed book, can't see why they would put a product out without really checking for these. But first thing I notice is an intiguing title and a good cover.


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