June 2005 Vol. 10 Issue 2
Grammar Trap: titled vs. entitled

Example: Hugh Jim Bissell is giving a talk entitled, "What's Wrong with This Sentence?"

You've read sentences like this a million times, but "entitled" is the wrong word choice.

Most often, "entitled" means one has a right or claim to something. As in, "Americans are entitled to free (albeit grammatically warped) speech."

And yes, "entitle" can mean to give a title to something, but does not refer to the title itself. As in, "The esteemed Mr. Bissell entitled his talk after he wrote it. It's titled, 'What's Wrong with This Sentence?'"

Or entitle can mean to confer a title on a person. As in, "The queen entitled Sir Loin of Beef at a state dinner."

In other words, do not use "entitled" before the name of a book, lecture, article, diary entry, speech, poem, rodeo, etc.

If you must, use "titled."

So our original example should be corrected to: Hugh Jim Bissell is giving a talk titled, "What's Wrong with This Sentence?"

Better yet, avoid the extra wordiness: Hugh Jim Bissell is giving a talk, "What's Wrong with This Sentence?"

Kevin Leigh Smith, kevlsmith@purdue.edu

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