Brain Book: Is it Titled or Entitled?

brain-bookCNN presented me with this grammar topic — titled vs. entitled — in the form of a bizarre news report that appeared both online and on television.

Apparently 100 malformed or damaged human brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde were discovered in a storage closet at the University of Texas in Austin.

The photographer who made the find decided to publish a book about the brains — with photos, of course. According to the CNN online report:

But even as he was photographing them for a book entitled “malformed”, he was hearing that half of the collection was missing and curators were speculating about where they went.

Overlooking that the title “Malformed” should be capitalized and the comma should go inside the closing quotation mark, entitled is used incorrectly: “a book entitled Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital.”

Entitled means a right to do or to have something:

• After spending the morning cleaning the garage, John was entitled to a nap.
• Susan has worked hard and is entitled to a promotion.

Titled has to do with the name of something — a book, poem, movie or work of art, for example:

• John Steinbeck won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his novel titled Grapes of Wrath.
• A television program titled Parenthood, a favorite of mine, is about to end.

Outgoing Late Night host David Letterman customarily wraps up each show with musical entertainment. He also customarily uses entitled when he should use titled. For example:

“Here with a song from her latest CD, entitled 1989, is Taylor Swift!”

Whether you’re citing a book, a television program or a CD, not one is entitled; all are titled. Let’s use our brains to get it right.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)