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My opinion is that titles should be phrased as questions at all times. Simply because it's a Q&A site. We are currently taking different paths with edits in many cases. It's still working out because 3-4 editors on a question often triples its quality, I've been happy to see all of the community effort lately.

However, I'm finding that I don't have the time to catch every title that needs improvement, and I'm probably the only one that sees it as an issue at the moment.

First, it depends on whether there is general agreement towards a consistent approach, and then there is the approach itself.

  1. Do you agree that there should be a consistent wording format for titles?

  2. What do you think the wording for titles should be?

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    No-one's trying to overrule anyone, just thought you'd find the discussion interesting. It's useful to know what variety of views exists and what the reasoning is for the rule currently being the way it is. Currently the voting seems to be leaning towards "allow lean question titles" being the most popular view, but it's something with a variety of views. – user56reinstatemonica8 Feb 19 '15 at 12:03
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    Something to think about: I recently saw a designer colleague land on GD.SE for the first time while googling a problem. They read the question thinking it was a blog article, got to the end, and then said "Oh, this person doesn't know how to solve it" and closed the tab, never seeing any answers. That question actually was phrased as a question, but it got me thinking: normally I support brevity for the reasons in the link above, but maybe, since designers are more familiar with (good) blogs and (awful) forums, we need to better flag the fact we have questions and answers? – user56reinstatemonica8 Feb 19 '15 at 12:16
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    ... just don't think it really matters. – Scott Feb 19 '15 at 17:35
  • ermm.... Dom a difference of opinion doesn't have to mean "argument". Just because other's disagree it doesn't mean your opinion is wrong. Are we all supposed to blindly agree with everything you propose? It is a community driven site, ya know. Some sites adhere to the "title as question" (Home Improvement SE) some don't (StackOverflow) so really it's all just opinion. – Scott Feb 19 '15 at 20:53
  • If the beast that is StackOverflow isn't concerned with this... should we be?? – Scott Feb 19 '15 at 20:57
  • Dom it pains me to see the tech support and font questions here at all. But it's a cross I bear :) Perhaps the titles thing is just your cross. We all have them. – Scott Feb 19 '15 at 21:24
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I don't think the title being a question itself is necessary. That's because the only point of the title is to give a clear reference as to what the question is about. If that is done, I believe it's an appropriate title.

For example, my question Question title cut off could be made into a question by changing it to "Why are question titles cut off?", but this doesn't add additional meaning and makes the title unnecessarily longer.

Another example using a question of mine is a meta post, Flags summary page styling. It could be, "What's up with the flags summary page's styling?" but I don't believe that adds any value.

As such, I agree with all of your points (except the unrelated one I commented about) in the wiki except the following:

  • "Is the title phrased as a question?" - I recommend removing this.
  • "Does it ask the most important question from the body?" - I recommend changing it to "Does it talk about the most important feature of the question?"
  • "Start titles with..." - Remove this as well.

The issue here is that there are poor/unclear question titles to begin, not the fact of whether or not the title them self is a question.

Requiring titles to be questions would result in a bunch of, "How do I..." questions. This exact question was brought up on MSE before and discussed, which mentions that the requirement that a title also be a question is not in Jeff's or the accepted answer of the How do I write a good title? wiki.

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  • @Dom While that's a common and sensible theory, there is actually not much evidence that Google gives headings much more weight than other text. I bet that words like "why", "what", etc. are for the most part ignored unless someone directly has quotes around their question when searching, which rarely happens because people search keywords anyway – Zach Saucier Feb 18 '15 at 21:05
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    I used to prefer titles on SE sites to be phrased as questions, but my opinion gradually changed over time. Most of the Good Examples in that MSE post aren't questions but rather sentence fragments with a question mark pinned at the end. That used to bother me, but I got over it. When searching for something myself, I don't see any significant value in results that are phrased as a question. I agree with Zach, I think there is often no added benefit from prefixing a title with "How do I", it's usually just fluff. – JohnB Feb 19 '15 at 13:13
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    Here's an example from our site. I would strongly disagree that the title would be improved if it were changed to "How can I make the background of an image transparent in Gimp?". It doesn't enhance anything, it just makes it needlessly longer. At 300,000+ views (one of our highest viewed questions), people are finding it just fine. – JohnB Feb 19 '15 at 13:26
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I feel the same way in regards to this is a question and answer site so the titles should be in a question format because it would be proper. I even find myself at times going back and making edits. However, I think this is the least we should be worried about. We have other issues at hand with the site, such as encouraging new/current users to provide EFFORT. In reality, who cares if the title is formatted as a question as long as it is brief and people will understand what the content of the question is about. The beauty of the site as being a community is someone can come back and try to make it better till, as a community, the value of the question and answers will help others.

On that note..

@user568458 one mans opinion rules over all then? Quite anti-community. In the comments on that post there are long time users agreeing with my point of view. Could you all think about it and make up your own minds instead of telling me what one or two people said a few years ago please.

How is @user568458 link in any way anti-community?? Also, what is there to think about? So you're saying you want to force new members and existing members that already have issues with populating a quality question to also focus on their titles? I think this question still has great value even though you think it is a few years old it completely doesn't come into play with what you're saying, which has already been mentioned.

After a year and 8 months, I'm tired of this site. My efforts on here have almost always been met with arguments. As if I'm doing it for some kind of selfish gain. People don't know how to work together here and I'm done trying. Good luck to yas.

How have your efforts been met with arguments? This is a community RAN BY A community and not one single person has a deciding vote on how it should be ran. Example, look at how, as a community, we have come together over the past couple of months and changed font-id questions, critique questions and have addressed the form issues when users post. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I think your comment is built up from other issues that we've addressed. I think, maybe other mods also, have tried to be very diplomatic and consider the longevity of the community. I'd hate to see you go but I think you're taking things too personally, even here. You're addressing an issue, that as user pointed out, has been addressed. Other community members are telling you what they think and since it's different then what you want to hear you get defensive which I see no warrant in.

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    @Dom As I mentioned, I agree with most of the points you make about edits, just not changing the title itself to be a question – Zach Saucier Feb 20 '15 at 0:44
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I agree with Zach's answer, in that not every title needs to be a question (all titles CAN be formulated as questions, but in some cases that is not necessary), and mostly in that the main problem is low quality titles.

I tend to edit the titles into questions, but not in every case. Sometimes there is more than one issue stated, sometimes it seems to add noise.

I casually looked at the side bar while reading this thread, and found out that not all of the popular questions of the day are questions, yet they work:

enter image description here

I wouldn't, for example, change "Finding prime numbers without using 'prime characters'" into "How do I find prime numbers without using 'prime characters'?". It's short, concise, easy to read and clearly stated it's a question even if the ? symbol is missing. It also goes in that direction I fancy that is a collection of original content. We are a Q&A site, but the answers generally carry so much valuable info it's becoming more and more of a reference guide.

I would try to encourage editing, in small or big scale. Not everyone edits, and they don't have to. A small change to give a title more meaning is better than no edit at all.

I wouldn't make it mandatory... I feel it just makes things less flexible. More rules to follow, when the basic ones such as spelling and giving the question a meaning are not respected.

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Why full question titles are better

Somebody said that the prefixes are unnecessary because they don't add anything. That's incorrect, each and every one of the 12 options I've suggested give a strong indication of what the post should contain.

  • Who? - Identification / Information
  • What? - Identification / Information / Explanation
  • Where? - Recommendation / Information
  • When? - Information / Explanation / Recommendation
  • Why? - Information / Explanation
  • Which? - Comparison / Identification / Recommendation
  • How? - Method / Information / Recommendation
  • Can? - Explanation / Recommendation
  • Do? - Information / Explanation
  • Should? - Recommendation
  • Is? - Identification / Recommendation
  • Are? - Many possibilities

Almost every time a question includes How in the title, I can expect to see a method answer, or an answer stating there is no specific method.

Whenever Should appears in a title, I think it's a pretty safe to assume it's asking for a recommendation of some sort.

Each of the 12 prefixes inherently implies important information about what the post contains. Is that a good enough reason for anyone to agree that full titles would benefit the site?

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  • I agree that some question titles should be questions and that doing so increases their value. However, I believe that not every title is bettered by doing so, and thus not every title should be forced to be a question – Zach Saucier Feb 23 '15 at 19:51
  • @ZachSaucier when I originally wrote the guidelines, they weren't so strict, but in trying to remove unnecessary clutter, I tried to distill it to its essence. The more long-winded, the less likely it'll be read. It originally said 'Consider starting titles with...' and if you look at my profile, not all question titles I've asked are phrased as questions. The more ifs, buts and maybes, the more bloated and tedious it can get. – Dom Feb 23 '15 at 20:45
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What should I be looking for in the title?


  • Is the title phrased as a question?

  • Is the spelling and grammar correct?

  • Is it too simple, broad or non-descriptive?

  • Does it ask the most important question from the body?

Bonus questions:

  • Are there any obviously important keywords completely relevant to this?

  • Is there enough room for improvement in the title, for me to justify adding that highly relevant keyword? (Or should I just leave it, as the wording is sufficient?)


If the title does need to be edited, how should I edit it?


  • Start titles with

    • Who?
    • What?
    • Where?
    • When?
    • Why?
    • Which?
    • Would?
    • How?
    • Can?
    • Do?
    • Should?
    • Is?
    • Are?
  • Avoid phrasing the question title as a simple yes or no answer.

  • Make the title descriptive of the question and use the language the OP has used, unless you know of better keywords.

  • If it's a software question, mention the name of the software and a summary of the question/problem (if at all possible).

  • Mention the name of the software at the end of the title e.g., ...in Adobe Illustrator?, rather than the beginning. It's possible in most cases.

Always edit as little of the original language as possible, but as much as necessary to make it clear and descriptive.

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  • I am not sure that "Is it written simply enough for people who don't have a deep background in graphic design to understand?" is a good one as that is very hard to define. So long as the title is clear I don't think it's an issue – Zach Saucier Feb 18 '15 at 20:48

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