The headline – whether page title or link text – should tell people exactly what’s in the article, they say, so that people will know what’s in your article before they even read it. There’s certainly justification for this approach. In tech writing, for instance, it just makes sense. If your article explains how to repair your mobile phone in the field, it’s clearly better to entitle it something like “Fixing Your Mobile Phone On The Road” rather than “When ET Can’t Phone Home” or “The SIM Sins” or “Lost Verizon.”
But not everyone who posts writing on the web is doing so for the benefit of web visitors. Some of us are more interested in readers. Eyeballs are one thing. Eyeballs hooked up to a functioning cerebrum is an altogether different, better thing. It’s a simple concept that seems surprisingly hard for some experts to grasp: there is more than one kind of writing on the web. There are news alerts. There are How To shorts. There is poetry. There are aimless diary entries. There are screed. There are plays, short stories, rants, recipes, verbal fusillades meant to inflame, prose meant to enlighten, verse meant to perplex. Try to make rules about structure and tempo and tone for any writing that appears on paper, and you’ll be laughed out of the one remaining independent bookstore in your county. The Web isn’t a genre. It’s a medium. The Web is paper, only faster and with a higher carbon footprint. Tech pundits and journalism pundits seem slowest to grasp this general point, for some reason, but the vast majority of writing on the web is neither tech writing nor journalism. It’s essay, memoir, epistolary writing – literature. Not all of it’s good literature, mind. But literature.