Entitled vs. Titled: What’s the Difference?

There is a lot of information floating around about these two words. Are they both the same? Is one wrong to use? Is one more preferred than the other? There’s no need to worry, however. Once you know the functions of each word, using entitled vs. titled is easy.

What is the Different Between Entitled and Titled?

Today I want to talk about the difference between these two words, how they should be used in a sentence, and summarize the most popular and authoritative usage guides’ opinions on them.

After reading this post, you should have a clear understanding on how to use both of these words, and you can decide how to use them in your future writings.

When to Use Entitled

titled or entitled grammarEntitled has two definitions. The first and more common use is “to furnish with a right or claim to something.” For example,

  • As an employee here, you are entitled to two weeks of vacation.
  • She worked the hardest; she is entitled to the promotion.
  • You are entitled to your opinion, but I think you are wrong.

The second sense of entitled is “to give a name or title to.” For example,

  • She wrote a book entitled To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Today I read an article entitled “Why No One Reads,” and it was eye opening.

When to Use Titled

Titled is the past tense of the transitive verb title. It is defined as “to give a name or title to.” For example,

  • What are you going to title your book?
  • After much thought, the author titled her book.

Can I Use Entitled and Titled Interchangeably?

a book titled or a book entitledThe primary question of interest in the discussion of these two words is can entitled be used to refer to the title of a piece of work? And the answer to this question depends. Depends on what? Well, it depends on whom you ask.

Some people emphatically say that you cannot use entitled in this sense, and that it should be restricted in its use to the first sense seen above, “to give a legal right or just claim to something.”

The problem with this claim, however, is that the use of entitled in sense two from above is very well established, dating back to the 14th century, and it actually predates the use of sense one.

The AP Stylebook and several other newspaper guides reserve entitled to the first sense. Other usage guides, such as Fowler’s Modern English Usage, say that both uses are acceptable.

Still, other guides say that entitled can be used in both senses but must be done so within limits.

Garner’s Modern American Usage states that in best usage entitled should be reserved to functioning as a past-participle adjective. For example,

  • I read a book entitled Huckleberry Finn. (CORRECT)
  • The article entitled “America’s Moving Habits” was a good read. (CORRECT)
  • What did you entitle your book? (WRONG)

It goes on to say that as a transitive verb, title is preferred. For example,

  • What did you title your book? (CORRECT)
  • What did you entitle your book? (WRONG)

I think Garner’s suggestion makes the most sense. Given the history of the two words, clearly entitled can be used in both senses, and it’s also clear why title would be a preferred choice in certain circumstances.

It’s a general rule in writing that simpler is better, and since titled is simpler than entitled, we can see why it may be preferred.

Of course, as my college English professor used to say, “A good writer knows when to break the rules.”

Summary

Despite what some people say, titled vs. entitled can both be used to indicate book titles, but in certain circumstances, as outlined above, one may be preferable to another.