The Language of Book Titles

Grace Brody, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (Columbia University Course)

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Abstract This study investigates the possible existence and influence of different linguistic patterns in the titles of books aimed for young adults and adults. If these patterns are effective, they could help explain the popularity of some books over others. The existence of these patterns could also demonstrate expectations for what is more appealing to each age group. However, in surveys given to ten adults and ten young adults, the patterns did not correlate to any title preferences among the age groups, suggesting that the titles serve some other purpose.

We are all taught not to judge a book by its cover, but to a certain degree we always do: with people and with actual books. There is some indescribable attraction when one picks up the “right” book. It is not just the storyline; it is the overall presentation and most importantly the title. Perhaps these titles attract based on linguistic attributes. Specifically, are the titles of books aimed at audiences (particularly “young adults” versus “adults”) different in any linguistic ways? 

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