English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

If the title of a book is in two parts and the parts are separated by a colon, which is the main part and which is the optional or dependent part.

An example of such a title is "The Quest for Freedom: Struggles of Migrants".

share|improve this question
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think you're making a conceptual mistake here. The structure "Part 1 of Title: Part 2 of Title" does not tell which part is more important than the other. Consider some titles

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman,
Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg.

Clearly, the second part of the above titles are the most important, as they tell you what the book is about.

Albert Einstein: A Biography,
Edward Teller: The Real Dr. Strangelove.

And clearly, the first part of these titles is the most important.

If you are going to drop one part of the title, and just refer to the shorter part, the convention is to drop the second part. So for that purpose (and probably only that purpose), the first part is the main part. But note that you can't always do that unambiguously:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest,
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End,
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

For this last movie, you would have to refer to it either as "On Stranger Tides" or "Pirates of the Caribbean 4".

share|improve this answer

For reference purposes and shortened citations, use the first part of the title. 'The Quest for Freedom' is the title, and what follows the colon is the subtitle.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.