This title is more credible than one with 0 numerals

Lately I’ve been noticing that a big percentage of entry titles in the RSS feeds I read contain a numeral. Often these titles are of the form: “N ways of doing X” or “M best Ys.

This trend seems particularly pronounced in the del.icio.us/popular feed. As I write this, the top two popular bookmarks are Top 17 Search Innovations Outside Of Google and Top 57 Wikis By Rank.

Today I noticed Show Numbers as Numerals When Writing for Online Readers, one of Jakob Nielsen’s last columns. The summary of the article goes:

It’s better to use “23” than “twenty-three” to catch users’ eyes when they scan Web pages for facts, according to eyetracking data.

Apparently writing numbers as numerals, instead of spelling them out, improves scannability of the text. Which is, of course, the exact opposite of what our language teachers taught us.

And not only numerals make your facts easier to extract from the text, Nielsen claims that numerals can also increase your credibility:

Even when users aren’t scanning for data, having your facts stand out visually by presenting them as numerals is an easy way to enhance credibility by making your page seem more useful.

This might explain the numbers-in-titles phenomenon: the “10” in the 10 R’s to Apply if you Want to Succeed makes the title/article so credible that 668 people found fit to bookmark it. Scary stuff.