Are You Entitled To Entitle?

There are lots of troublesome words that writers often get mixed up: further/farther, pour/pore, comprise/compose, and so on. I’ve discussed this in a previous post. Copy editors are well aware of these words and do their best to catch such errors of usage.

Today in a tweet, a writer described a list “titled” something-or-other (titled used as an adjective). I thought, shouldn’t that be entitled? Are they synonyms? I wasn’t sure and had to go looking.

According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, title means “give a title to.” Titled is the past tense, of course, but it is also an adjective that means “having a title of nobility or rank.” Entitle means “give a just claim or right” or “give the title of.” So a writer can title her work, and she can also entitle her work? In a word, yes.

I title thee Best Grammarian of Them All!

She titled her essay “The Best Headache Cures in Nature.”

He is a titled tennis player.

Diana Gabaldon’s new book, which will be released on June 10, 2014, is titled Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.

My grandmother will entitle her bucket list “To Do and Die.”

The list is entitled “To Do and Die.”

See these here guns? They entitle us to a little respect around here.

(That last sentence? Sounds like an awesome TV script, huh?)

Some sticklers out there feel that entitle should be restricted to the first definition given above: “give a just claim or right.” That certainly wasn’t  my instinct. Thankfully, this is one of those cases where change in common usage over the years has entitled writers to use either title or entitle before the title of a work. I’ll give none other than Grammar Girl the last, succinct word on the subject.

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