From My Desk To Yours – 25th Edition

SPECIAL CHARACTERS IN TITLES
By: Penny, EzineArticles Managing Editor

The title is an important determining factor in the overall performance of your article. To ensure that each article you write performs optimally, it’s crucial that you focus your energy on creating working titles.

It’s also crucial to understand and follow the Editorial Guidelines established for titles (Section 2.a). This section lays out what types of characters are allowed and which ones aren’t. As HTML has evolved over time, the list of restricted special characters has grown. In this Blog, we’ll discuss a few of those characters and why they are restricted.

Titles Placed in Article URL

Did you know that the TITLE of your article comprises the unique URL for that article? Well, titles (and the URLs generated from them) are primarily made up of individual characters on the alphanumeric scale (A-Z and 0-9). Some special characters are also allowed in titles, like the single dash (-), the colon (:), the question mark (?), and the exclamation point (!). However, there are other characters that perform special functions in HTML code and would make an otherwise good URL, not work properly. For this reason, these characters aren’t allowed in article titles. Here’s a quick summary of those special characters and what they mean in HTML:

  • Greater Than/Less Than Symbols (< and >) are the building blocks of HTML code. When these are placed in a URL, they cut off the URL. Elements of HTML are enclosed in <> pairs (a.k.a. tags) that surround sections of text to give the text formatting, style and other traits. For example, to make a section of text italics, you place italics tags around that section. This:

    <i>This Text is in Italics</i>

    … becomes this:
     
    This Text is in Italics

  • Ampersands (&) represent the word “and,” but in HTML they point to a new stream or begin a new reference of information. When a web browser or RSS reader detects an ampersand in your title URL, it interprets the symbol as independent and a new command is then followed. Because the follow-up command isn’t present, the URL errors out as you just confused the browser on where your HTML code begins and ends.
     
  • The Pound Sign or Hash (#) allows links to particular sections of a webpage, not just the page in general. For example, each EzineArticles Blog post has a Comments section that you can click on directly from the Blog homepage. Clicking on the Comments link for each post brings you to that area of the page, like for this post from last week:
    http://blog.ezinearticles.com/2011/04/social-media-best-practices.html#comments
     

    Instead of linking you to the top of the page, the hashtag directed you to the comment on that page. You can see how this would confuse the browser when added to your article title.

  • The “At” Symbol (@) is commonly associated with email addresses but is more often used in text language or shortened less-formal writing styles to replace ‘at’. When the @ is added to a URL, the web browser or RSS reader interprets the symbol as part of an email address rather than a web address. So, a web URL with the @ symbol won’t translate properly.

MORE special characters, like tildes (~), pipes (|), and asterisks (*), aren’t allowed for similar reasons. When your browser tries to interpret the URL with any of these special characters, the intended URL gets lost in translation. Most web browsers are sophisticated enough to correct and know the difference. However, you don’t want to chance that your title may or may not work.

Characters Not On Keyboard

Some special characters are restricted from use in article titles because they aren’t on the standard keyboard. If you use a word processing program to write an article, you may be able to add some of these special characters in that program. However, when you copy and paste that article with special characters into the EzineArticles Submission Form, the special characters won’t display properly. Writing your articles in a plain text editor will ensure that any special characters are not present in your submission.

Special characters that fall in this category include foreign language characters (e.g. é, í, ó, ú), Microsoft SmartQuotes, © (Copyright), ® (Registered Trademark), ™ (Trademark), € (Euro), £ (English Pound) and other related symbols.

Other Title Tips

  • Avoid putting quotation marks around the entire title. The quotes will confuse readers on whether your title is original and where it came from. If you add them, we will remove them.
  • Don’t end your title with a period. (.)
  • The placement of an ellipsis (…) means some piece of information is being left out. Don’t use ellipsis as it creates confusion and unfinished thoughts. Be clear.
  • Stick with the alphanumeric range of characters and other common characters when writing titles.

Do you have any effective title writing strategies? Leave a comment and share them with the rest of the EzineArticles community.

20 Comments »


1
Deepanjolie writes:

Hi Penny,
great tips as usual! I now understand the importance of using special characters for EzineArticles and online content. This post was especially useful for me because I am prone to using an ellipsis and # hash tag since these symbols create intrigue and are eye-catching, respectively – esp. when making PDFs or web sales content.

One effective title writing strategy that has worked to get relevant traffic for my online business and given value to my readers is: Giving the take-away in the title and justifying this in the body of the article.

Cheers!

Comment provided April 14, 2011 at 11:35 AM

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2
Lance Winslow writes:

Wow, I had never considered this, but I do have a question, I probably have a number of articles (very old ones – 2005, 2006, 2007) with the #, *, (, ), $. Does that mean those older articles are going to cause issues? Or have you already had your staff re-configure them? What do we do now? Just suffer the consequences of those older articles, or do we go change them? But doesn’t your system not allow an author now to change the title, only edit the body?

Comment provided April 14, 2011 at 2:18 PM

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Lance,

My apologies for the delay in my response. Maybe I addressed this with you already but I didn’t see it so I’ll do it again. :)

We are currently in the process of reviewing older articles. If they can be fixed, we will make those changes. If not and in either case, we’ll let you know.

If you see them and we have yet to make the changes, let us know and we’ll make your recommended edits to them.

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3

Hi Penny:

Love this article and would like to include it on my blog http://www.bigsitesinc.com. It is good for instructing new authors how to title their articles. I could not have said it better. I notice there is no link to copy/share this article like others on EzineArticles. How can I include this or is it not allowed.

Keep up the great work,

Liz Lombardi

Comment provided April 14, 2011 at 3:35 PM

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Liz – You are welcome to use this Blog post provided you keep the byline intact and include a link back to the original post on your blog.

Thanks for asking! :-)

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4
Ben Hannan writes:

Hi Penny,
Thanks for the helpful reminder. It is one of those areas that you read through when you first start posting articles but then over time it is possible to forget some of the fundamental rules of writing effective and error-free titles! And of course, this advice is useful for titles beyond the realm of articles!

Cheers,
Ben Hannan

Comment provided April 14, 2011 at 6:25 PM

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5
Bob E. Jones writes:

First of all, I make sure the article talks about what the title says it will talk about. I like to create a title, then write the article, but sometimes the article I end up with talks about something else. That means the title has to be revised.

Second, I like to have keyword-rich titles for my articles. I will put my proposed title into search engines to see how often the keywords come up on the results page. If the first page is full of articles in my subject area with these keywords, I know I have a good title. If, however, only one or two articles in my subject area get returned, people using these keywords are probably looking for something else, so I have to write a different title.

Third, I try to create a title that lets readers know the article will show them how to do something they really want to do, rather than just give them interesting information.

Comment provided April 14, 2011 at 6:59 PM

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6
John Box writes:

I am a Linux user and prefer almost everything in plain text. Computing technology has improved so much lately that using special characters is fine almost always. Yet, all it takes is one broken link and then the whole article goes.
There are a few online html editors which are all free. I got into the habit of running all articles thru there first. They catch inconsistencies immediately. Google for free html editor and they normally come up on first hit.

Comment provided April 15, 2011 at 3:48 AM

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7

My tip for writting effective titles is to try and make sure that the keyphrase that appears the most in the body of the article is in the title. Also, make sure the title has commonly used (relevant) long-tailed keyphrases in it.

Refrain from only using a few words in your title. Take advantage of the space and get those keywords in there. Of course, the title should flow.

One great way to help with brainstorming for a title format is to spend time looking at magazine covers in the lines at grocery stores. If the headline catches you, chances are that format will work well with your online articles.

Comment provided April 15, 2011 at 8:35 AM

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8
Dr.R.C.Chhipa writes:

Is there any chemical formula can be used in titles

Comment provided April 16, 2011 at 4:14 AM

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9
Dr.R.C.Chhipa writes:

Special characters for titles are important in which impression of information is reproduced .In technological era whether Language of technical words such as chemical formula can be given in titles bnut how this possible
Dr.r.C.Chhipa

Comment provided April 16, 2011 at 4:21 AM

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Dr,

Do you have examples that you can share?

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10
Tim at IMM writes:

The tip I would add is pay attention to capitalization! EzineArticles is not picky about the formal rules of capitalization, but it does want capitalization of the title. You can either capitalize minor words like “and,” “or” and “the” or not. Some word processors and text editors have a built in capitalization tool that will auto-capitalize selected text, but few of them are smart enough to ignore the minor words. If in doubt, just capitalize every word.

Comment provided April 17, 2011 at 10:28 AM

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Tim,

On submission, we auto-capitalize your title for you but we omit common words from that process. (The ones you mentioned.) Those we leave for our editors to review and if needed, we capitalize them if it makes sense to do so. In most cases and in most titles, common words are not capitalized.

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That’s true Penny. I sometimes experience such when i am entering my article’s title into my ezine account. That saves me more time.

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11
Erik van Geest writes:

Thanks for this. I try to get my top 3 keywords for the article into the title and capitalise each word. It generates better targeted traffic to the article.

Comment provided April 30, 2011 at 2:41 PM

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12
Elaine Spitz writes:

Helpful reminders and some new tips, Penny – thanks to you and all commenters trying to keep us on the straight and narrow!

Comment provided May 23, 2011 at 1:10 PM

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13

Glad I followed a link to end up on that post. Anyway, I really appreciate the explanation as always. It does help me to focus more on the subject that I am writing, rather than to keep asking myself if I follow the proper EzineArticles’ rules or not.

Always appreciate it, please keep us update!

Regards,
Dev

Comment provided May 23, 2011 at 8:27 PM

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14
Wolfgang writes:

Hello Penny, not only was this post very helpful but also the comments on it have given me some ideas, like doing a search using the title that you intend to use, I never thought of doing that.

Comment provided May 24, 2011 at 6:01 AM

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15

The title of article should be attractive which can grab the attention of reader but don’t try to be over because your article should also be promising, for example if you have a title “Top 5 Tips To Buy Computers” and your article body contains only 4 than your article will be rejected :).

Comment provided May 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM

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