The instructions for titles, found on the AGU author instructions page, seem simple enough:
This isn’t much to go on, so let me fill in a few other pieces of advice about paper titles.
- Be specific and informative: being too vague in the title runs the risk that your target audience won’t be able to find it or realize it is relevant. Focus on the original contribution to the field, usually the main science point for a Research Article or new methodology for a Technical Reports paper.
- Be brief: Bibliometric researchers have investigated the optimal length for a paper title, with one study, that included over 400 Open Access journals, finding that shorter titles (below 95 characters) that focus on the results rather than the method yields more citations. Another study, focusing only on papers in the journal Cell, found that 30-50 characters yields maximal citations.
- Abbreviations and punctuation: as much as I dislike acronyms in titles, they are allowed in the title as long as they are defined in the Abstract. These usually refer to methodology, though, so I suggest omitting them unless absolutely necessary for context about the science finding. Punctuation, like colons, commas, hyphens, parentheses (used properly), and quotation marks are fine.
A good title is a balance between completeness and brevity while maintaining clarity. It is not an easy part of manuscript preparation, yet it is a critically important element of the final paper. Even before readers see the Significant Points, they see the title. Write it so that it catches the interest of all researchers that might find it useful for their studies.