KISS: Simple Ways to Increase Your Article’s Impact
I have previously blogged about ways to boost an article’s readership. Since then I have learned of a really simple additional way. We all know that to increase readability, use short words and short sentences. It turns out that using a short title for your article can increase the likelihood that it will be read. And cited by others.
Based on a sample of 1,107 papers on the Social Science Research Network’s Legal Scholarship Network, a Cambridge law professor found that for both abstract views and downloads, it helps to have a short title. The author of the study suggested that short, catchy titles quickly capture potential readers’ attention.
An earlier study tracked citations to articles appearing in select U.S. law reviews over a 15-year span. It found that “articles with shorter titles received significantly more citations than articles with longer titles.” (Somewhat paradoxically, having a colon in the title helped, too. But don’t they all?)
Another researcher suggests that shorter titles may improve the odds of acceptance of your article by impressionable law review editors, a necessary prerequisite to reaching readers.
It also helps to make your title snappy. A Stanford law professor once took a boring article, with an equally boring abstract, which had been posted to the Social Science Research Network for nine months, and reposted it. His only change was to give it a new, catchier title. Within a matter of days, the “new” article had been viewed six times as often, and downloaded three times as often, as the original article. Details here.
So the KISS principle applies to titles. If you want to boost your chances of being published, read, and cited—and who doesn’t?—remember this titling strategy: Keep It Short and Snappy.
Otto Stockmeyer has retired from classroom teaching at WMU-Cooley Law School. He is a past president of Scribes—The American Society of Legal Writers and a longtime contributor to legal journals, newsletters, and blogs. This blog post is from the Winter 2017 issue of Scribes’ newsletter, The Scrivener.