Prefer note titles with complete phrases to sharpen claims

When writing Evergreen notes, I’ve found that using complete phrases as note titles helps maintain concept-orientation (Evergreen notes should be concept-oriented). For example: Educational objectives often subvert themselves, Evergreen notes permit smooth incremental progress in writing (“incremental writing”).

These are often declarative or imperative phrases making a strong claim. This puts pressure on me to adequately support the claim in the body. If I write a note but struggle to summarize it in a sharp title, that’s often a sign that my thinking is muddy or that this note is about several topics (contra Evergreen notes should be atomic). In both cases, the solution is to break the ideas down and write about the bits I understand best first.

Questions also make good note titles because that position creates pressure to make the question get to the core of the matter. Some questions really are evergreen (To what extent is exceptional ability heritable?); others are more ephemeral creative prompts (How might the mnemonic medium enable readers in genres outside platform knowledge?). The goal with the latter type of note is to eventually drop the question mark, refactoring it into declarative/imperative notes.

A few common exceptions to this policy:

I often begin by writing a note without knowing what the title will be. The title often emerges from the text as it’s written. When a note suggests a strong title with a clear claim, that’s a good sign that it’s starting to make sense. Related: Evergreen note titles are like APIs

Last updated 2023-07-13.