Written by Marcia Yudkin, Head Stork of Named At Last.
Brief Introduction by Judythe GuarneraFellow NightWriters,
The article below is focused on names of businesses, but I found it intriguing and questioned the author as to whether the information contained in it might also apply to titles of books and poetry. She believed that it did. I’d like to offer a challenge to you to read the article, and if you are having trouble deciding on a perfect title for your written work, see if this little different twist might be helpful. It also might explain why editors often discard an author’s well thought out title.
Judythe Guarnera, NW Member-at-Large
Tolosa Press Submission Manager
Marcia Yudkin, Head Stork of NamedAtLast.com
July 18, 2011
-- Hard-to-Parse Phrases in Names
-- New: Renaming Handbook
-- Need a New Name/Tag Line/Title Soon?
-- About Named At Last
Hard-to-Parse Phrases in Names
Earlier this month, Jakob Nielsen wrote about the misleading name of a museum he visited in San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum. He stayed three hours and would have remained longer, except that others with him wanted to leave.
The group had gone there thinking it was a "family museum," that is, particularly suitable for children. Once there, however, it became clear that museum was for grownups. Walt Disney's family established it to recount Walt's early business struggles and his ideas about creativity.
In the museum's name, you had to group the four words like this...
(Walt Disney Family) Museum
rather than like this...
Walt Disney (Family Museum)
"This is a standard usability problem whenever you use multi-word phrases as link anchors, navigation labels, menu items, etc. Always consider whether users might parse a phrase by connecting the words in a different manner than you intended," Nielsen said.
The problem comes up in company names, organizational names and product names as well. Take, for instance, a consulting company located outside of Hartford, Connecticut called New Britain Educational Associates. Locals would recognize that "New Britain" refers to the name of a city, but folks from elsewhere might think the firm consults on education in Great Britain, with the word "new" stuck on as window dressing.
Likewise, imagine a bakery called Clean Your Plate Desserts. Perhaps most would understand that "clean your plate" is the relevant phrase there, but some might puzzle over the phrase "plate desserts" and wonder why they needed cleaning. And would you expect a storefront whose sign read Three Island Rentals to be in the business of island rental or, say, renting everything to fix up your house on any of three neighboring islands?
Solutions for names with ambiguous parsing include restructuring the name. For example, Museum of the Walt Disney Family would be clearer (though longer) than Walt Disney Family Museum.
Sometimes hyphenation of the words that go together resolves ambiguity as well as being grammatically correct. For instance, "Small-Business Summit," with the hyphen makes it clear that "small" modifies "business," rather than the summit being small.
However, if a company's online presence represents a prominent aspect of its operations, one or more hyphens in the name make it harder to spell or remember the name and find the company online. And it's no solution to include the hyphen in the marketing copy and signage but not in the URL, because the difference is confusing and hard to keep in mind.
In many instances, the wisest course of action is simply to ditch the ambiguous name completely.
New: Renaming Handbook
It's renaming time - or is it? Determine whether or not your reasons for a name change are valid. Learn who to involve in renaming and why. If you want to emphasize continuity with your new name, discover nine techniques for tweaking your former name meaningfully. If you prefer to break with the past, learn productive methods of brainstorming and use 11 crucial filters for recognizing smart name options. Prevent creativity logjams and naming disasters!
This article is posted with permission from: Marcia Yudkin is Head Stork of Named At Last, a company that brainstorms catchy tag lines, company names and product names according to the client's criteria. For a systematic process of coming up with a compelling new company or product name, book title or tag line, download a free copy of "19 Steps to the Perfect Company Name, Product Name or Tag Line" at www.namedatlast.com/19steps.htm.