The Most Worthless Word Used in a Title.

Most titles don't need to begin with the word THE at all. The Feast Day of Fools doesn't have the same poetic rhythm.
Most titles don’t need to begin with the word THE at all. The Feast Day of Fools doesn’t have the same poetic rhythm.

This opinion is like all of my other opinions.

It is not backed with research.

It is not supported by any data.

It did not come from any focus groups.

It’s not gospel.

And it may not even be truth.

But it’s all guts, gumption, and instinct, and this this is what I think

When it comes to writing titles for novels, the most worthless, unnecessary, and over-used word in the English language is THE.

What purpose does it serve?

We are in the midst of the digital revolution where all the rules are being changed, revised, re-shuffled, or broken.

What worked in the good old days of bookstore book sales isn’t viable anymore.


First, only the big boys in New York have full, widespread access to the dwindling number of bookstores.

For the most part, Indie authors have been pretty much ignored, overlooked, and shut out.

All that’s left is the world’s biggest bookstore, a retail establishment we all know, love, and curse on a regular basis – Amazon.

That’s where indie books are primarily sold each day.

No longer do we have room to produce big, bold, shiny book covers that are large and colorful enough to reach out and grab a customer’s attention as soon as he or she walks into the store.

Now, our books appear smaller than a postage stamp on the eRetailers, whether it’s Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, etc.

Every square inch counts because you don’t have a square inch to work with.

Words are at a premium.

Your name is important.

Print it big.

The title is important.

Print it big – using the fewest number of words possible.

Lose the THE.

Want proof?

Take a look at James Lee Burke’s titles. He’s a favorite writer of mine.

Feast Day of Fools.

Purple Cane Road

Creole Belle.

Black Cherry Blues.

Light of the World.

Sunset Limited.

Not a one of the titles begins with THE.

Sure, James Lee wrote The Neon Rain and The Glass Rainbow.

But Neon Rain and Glass Rainbow work just as well, maybe even better, and you don’t have the word THE taking up critical space on a minuscule book cover image.

There’s nothing wrong with using THE.

Authors do it every day.

Best-selling books for years have proudly printed THE in the title.

But I don’t have room for the word.

I’ll stick with Secrets of the Dead.

Conspiracy of Lies,

Night Side of Dark.

Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk.

Long ago, I wadded up the word THE and threw it away.

I have a trash can full of them.

Don’t want the word.

Don’t need it.

Won’t use it.

But that’s just me.

You can do what you want. You can do whatever you think reads and looks best on your book. After all, the novel is your child and you can choose whatever name is dearest to your heart.

Go ahead. Read your title aloud if it begins with THE and remove the THE.

Is it better?

Is it worse?

Did the THE, in or out, make any difference?

Do you really need it?

If you do, you would be a fool to publish a book without it. If you don’t, you might be foolish to waste crucial space in order to leave it in.



Please click the book cover image to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his books. Secrets of the Dead would have bogged down if it began with the word THE.

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