Article Title Insider QC Tips

One of our article quality control editors (Kirk, Editor #15) offered up an internal memo yesterday for the rest of our editors on the most common article titles errors that we were not catching well enough. I thought I’d share the note with you.

In our editorial guidelines, we cover what should and shouldn’t be in the article title (Section 2. a.). Here are common mistakes we’re continually correcting when doing QC on articles that are already approved:

  • Commas are allowed, but in the middle of titles ONLY
  • The only punctuation we allow at the end of titles are question marks
  • NO exclamation points or periods
  • All colons: and semicolons; long and medium dashes, pipes | and slashes / are to be replaced with short dashes, or changed to word equivalents (man/woman becomes man or woman)
  • Ampersands (&) parentheses () are allowed
  • Quotation marks are allowed to emphasize a PART of a title, but if they surround the entire title, remove them
  • Microsoft Smart quotes: I have seen many editors overlook the smart quote, these need to removed otherwise things will break, ie: RSS Feeds, Email Alerts etc…
  • “Smart” Ellipses (…) which are identified by the fact that they are ‘unbreakable’ – if you try to put the cursor between the periods, or delete one of them, it will become obvious. Replace with standard characters (…), but regular ellipses are fine.


Jan Verhoeff writes:

Hey wait – I’m always and forever using colons in my titles – to separate the keyword lead from the ‘commentator title’. Such as:

Keyword Lead: Common Title Description of Article

Is that not allowed?

Should it be:

Keyword Lead – Common Title Description of Article?

Just want to clarify – cuz I’m funcuzed!


Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 9:13 AM




This is helpful information. Like Jan, I have some titles with colons. Should I revise these right now?


Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 10:34 AM



The reason for the colon to dash conversion is that some URL’s when forwarded break on the colon.

Therefore, use a dash instead but not a hyphen. A dash is the same as the minus sign “-“.

Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 4:10 PM


Edward Weiss writes:

No exclamation points?! Really? That seems odd. Some titles need that extra oomph only an exclamation point can deliver.

Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 4:28 PM




I don’t disagree with you… yet the rule is used to keep authors from over using it.

Can you give us some article title examples when an exclamation point would be worth arguing to overturn our policy?

Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 4:34 PM


Jan Verhoeff writes:

Okay – I’ll try to remember not to use the hyphenated colon thingie…

Dash, dash, dash, DASH! I say!

There’s your title Christopher!



Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 5:49 PM


Jeff Herring writes:

To – All my students and mentees

From – The Article Guy

Re – Colons and dashes

Change your : to –

effective immediately

that is all

Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 8:01 PM


Edward Weiss writes:


To answer your question, I would just train editors to reject or delete the overuse of exclamation points.

Authors who use it judiciously shouldn’t be penalized for those who think it’s another period. :)

Comment provided March 15, 2007 at 10:06 PM


Heidi Loney writes:

Hi Chris,

The reference book I use most is Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Are you familiar with it? It got me through school
and I still refer to it for proper punctuation and grammar.


Comment provided March 22, 2007 at 6:50 PM



Yep, have the book.

It’s a book that we sometimes ask editor’s if they are aware of it or not in the job interview. If they say they’ve never heard of it, we’re immediately suspect.

Every writer or editor eventually gets this book or at least becomes aware of it.

Comment provided March 22, 2007 at 7:16 PM


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