You’re entitled to your own opinion, except on the definition of entitled

No piece of writing is ever finished. Writers repeatedly return to their work to tighten it and fix errors before publication because even good writers can improve their work.

But one particular word use annoys me more than most errors in grammar, spelling and word usage–the use of entitled to mean titled. I find myself mocking the writer every time I run across this.

These writers are entitled to their own opinion on the matter, however. Three dictionaries I checked for this post–including the dictionary titled, “Oxford English Dictionary”–say the word, entitle is fine for describing works.

In fact the use of entitled to describe the title of a written work goes back at least to the 1800s, according to

There’s even an entitled-versus-titled controversy, which Eugene Volokh outlines in a story published in The Washington Post.

Part of the disagreement stems from variations in style guides. Because I’ve written mostly news stories over the past 10 years, I favor AP style, which tends to be very specific.

AP style defines entitled this way (emphasis is mine):

Use it to mean a right to do something. Do not use it to mean titled.

Entitled brings to mind a person who is or who thinks of himself as deserving. It’s not the wrong word to describe the title of a written work.

But it might not be the better word.

The next time I run across a work that a writer defines as entitled, I’ll stifle my criticism. Meanwhile, I’ll be using the better word.



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