November 19, 2015

Weekly Language Usage Tips: entitled or titled

Posted in entitled or titled, Uncategorized at 2:07 pm by dlseltzer


“Academic Medicine is the official, peer-reviewed journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The journal serves as an international forum for the exchange of ideas, information, and strategies to address the major challenges facing the academic medicine community as it strives to carry out its missions in the public interest. The journal’s areas of focus include: education and training issues; health and science policy; institutional policy, management, and values; research practice; and clinical practice in academic settings.”

–editorial manager, Academic Medicine

Pretty lofty words. And true—this journal is THE major journal supporting medical education in the US and probably the world. It’s not JAMA or Lancet, but its focus on education is its unique quality.

I read it to keep up on changes in curricula, teaching strategies, educational issues such as disparities, and training policies. Its current issue includes titles, such as, “ Mastery Learning: It is Time for Medical Education to Join the 21st Century,” and “Acquisition and Maintenance of Medical Expertise: A Perspective From the Expert-Performance Approach With Deliberate Practice.” Sounds pretty good, huh? It is. The online version provides occasional audio reports, generally presented by house staff or junior faculty. They often are reports of personal experiences in the training process and are sometimes quite compelling.

Now, why I am telling you all of this? It’s not that I am trying to sell you on the journal (although being published in it is a very good thing). No, it’s this: the other day, I was listening to a couple of their audio reports. They were both presented by young women, and both reports began thusly:  “This report is entitled…” Oh dear.

I know that the use of ‘titled’ versus ‘entitled’ is a debatable issue, and the debate certainly has been contentious at times. I’m not going to get into that for fear I could lead you astray. I’m just going to say this (again): In our academic writing, we are striving for clarity and simplicity. To that end, a report has a name, a title. A book has the same, a name, a title, and so on, and so forth. So, to achieve our goals, a book, or report is titled.

In our world, ‘entitled’ means has a right to. So while a person is entitled to vote, the bill he or she is voting on has a name, it is titled (e.g, the bill is titled, The Voting Rights Act).

Now, I admit that many, many, many years ago, when I was first starting out in this world, I was guilty of the same crime; many of my papers were ‘entitled’—I thought it sounded more sophisticated. In retrospect, though, I am sure what the papers were entitled to was a good edit.

So, let’s stick with simplicity and clarity and save ‘entitled’ for when someone or thing has a right to something, and let’s give our reports ‘titles.’ Easy, isn’t it?

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