The Biology of Baleens and Blog Post Titles

Leafing through an Ivy Tech Community College textbook by the name of “Breaking Through College Reading”, I noticed an exercise designed to teach students how to become better readers by differentiating among topics, main ideas, and supporting details. Since, as blog content writers, one big challenge we face is selecting the best title for each of our blog posts, I thought the exercise I found in the reading textbook would be very relevant. 

The lesson quotes the following passage from Biology, by Neil Campbell.

“Humpback whales strain their food from seawater.  Instead of teeth, these giants have an array of brush-like plates called baleen on each side of their upper jaw.  The baleen is used to sift food from the oceans.  To start feeding, a humpback whale opens its mouth, expands its throat, and takes a huge gulp of seawater.  When its mouth closes, the water squeezes out through spaces in the baleen, and a mass of food is trapped in the mouth.  The food is then swallowed whole, passing into the stomach, where digestion begins.  The humpback’s stomach can hold about half a ton of food at a time, and in a typical day the animal’s digestive system will process as much as 2 tons of krill and fish.”

Students are asked to label each of four possible titles for this passage as being either correct, too broad, or containing only a detail (versus a topic).

I invite my blog readers to take this “test” and to choose the best title for the Biology piece from among the following:

  1. Humpback Whales
  2. Baleen for Teeth
  3. The Digestive System of the Humpback Whale
  4. How Whales Filter Food

Now, before you label any of the four as your “final answer”, consider the following definitions offered in the textbook:

A topic is a word or phrase that describes a subject or a general category. “The main idea, in contrast, is a complete sentence that states the topic and adds the writer’s position or focus”. The supporting details are the specifics that develop the topic and the main idea.

In composing business blogs, we need to keep several goals in mind.  We want to write engaging titles, we want to include keyword phrases to help with search, we want to be short and to the point, and we want to use power words.  The overriding goal, though, in composing a title has to be making promises we are going to be able to keep in the body of the blog post itself.

Did you choose title #3, “The Digestive System of the Humpback Whale”? That’s the one that includes the writer’s focus in the paragraph.  #1 is too broad, #2 far too specific, and #4 limited to only a portion of the paragraph’s content.

There’s a “biology” to selecting effective business blog post titles!

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