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I titled a short story "The Girl without a Soul". But recently I've been thinking on naming it "The Girl who didn't have a Soul."

Do they mean exactly the same? Which sounds better as a name for a short story?

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closed as off topic by Robusto, Matt Эллен, FumbleFingers, Mitch, jwpat7 Apr 21 '12 at 18:47

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This should go on writers.se –  FumbleFingers Apr 18 '12 at 12:58
    
I would just like to point out to those who closed this as 'off-topic' as it does not meet the requirements of the faq, the first bullet point on the faq says that questions on 'usage, word choice, and grammar' are welcomed here. This is most definitely a question of 'usage, word choice, and grammar' and should not have been closed as off topic. It could have been worded better, but the core question: the advantages and proper usage of "without" versus "didn't have" is a question of 'usage, word choice, and grammar' and should most definitely be welcomed in the English SE. –  Jed Oliver Apr 22 '12 at 1:50
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Yes, they mean exactly the same. There are plenty of stories that have "who didn't have" in the title; and it really doesn't connote an event in the past. By contrast, Amazon has no fiction books with "who doesn't have" in the title.

It's very common to use the past tense in the title of a story, without any implication that something happened in the past, or that something is not happening in the present.

To answer the second question, "The Girl without a Soul" flows better in my opinion.

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+1 for the only correct answer. –  Robusto Apr 18 '12 at 9:59
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To your second question first, because it's easier, "The Girl Without a Soul" would definitely sound better as a title of a story.

These two phrases do not mean the same.

"The Girl who didn't have a Soul" sounds like a story about a Girl who once did not have a soul, but may have one now. This phrase emphasises the fact that the Girl had no soul in the past.

"The Girl Without a Soul" sounds like a story concerning a girl without a soul, and implies that this is the case throughout the whole story. It does not give the impression that the Girl will, at the end of the story, have a soul.

However, the difference between these two statements are so slight, to dwell in them would be pedantic. Based on how your story goes, you could choose either statement. However, "The Girl without a Soul" does sound better.

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You're imagining differences that do not exist. Take parallel of "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest": do you really suppose that that book is about an incident in the past (vis-à-vis the book's timeframe), or do you think it is about what happened as part of the story in that book? "The Girl Who Didn't Have a Soul" could easily be (and probably is) about something that is the narrative of that novel, not its back story. –  Robusto Apr 19 '12 at 1:08
    
Funny. I think this answer had +2 votes last time I checked it. –  janoChen Apr 19 '12 at 3:57
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