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I have a feature request.

Could we have some mechanism to remind the OP to drill down to bedrock right in the title question, in the sense that the expansion given in the body of the post does not amount to an out-of-spec modification (or, an instance of bait-and-switch)?

Here are two examples that I have encountered recently:

Is there an adjective for 'speechless-making'?

“nonplus” answers the broad question posed by the title, but the narrowing examples given in the body of the post almost amount to what is called an “out-of-spec modification” of the title question (or, an instance of “bait-and-switch”).

Here’s another instance: I answered the title question, and the OP complained that it did not fit the examples given in the body of the post, but I explained that I wanted to answer the title question itself:

Phrase or idiom for funnelling efforts in wrong direction

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    What I often do is edit the title to fit the more specific question in the body. It is completely accepted to edit the posts of others here, you know, as long as you maintain the spirit of the question. If you don't have enough points, your edit will be peer-reviewed before it becomes visible, but you can still edit. – Cerberus Feb 10 '12 at 21:17
  • +1 Appreciate your point. What would you think of some kind-hearted editors who change the title, body and everything in between, so the post ends up as only the editor could explain? – Kris Feb 15 '12 at 12:02
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  • Titles are simplifications of the contents and can't carry every nuance.
  • questions and answers can be edited (with enough reputation you can do it immediately without waiting for approval from an editor). Of course one wants to preserve the intention of the OP.
  • To the first example, your answer would work, for the question in the title, but might have been downvoted for other reasons. (an explanation of how or a link might have made it more palatable to the downvoter.
  • for the second example, the title was accurate for the thing wanted, and there isn't enough room in the title to give all nuances to exclude your suggestion. That's the nature of simplification.

As to additional features to help make the title better...what kind of UI or informational technique do you think could possibly be added to encourage better writing, other than 'Please write better'? Note the big 'How to ask' section to the left of where you ask a question.

Don't be discouraged; it'll take time to get past the vagaries of what people appreciate and reading between the lines.

  • Agree completely in the case of OP's two examples, but there are cases where the title itself doesn't accurately reflect the question. As you say, we can always edit it if the disparity is excessive - but imho the revised title of this question changed it so much that the already-upvoted top answer didn't really address the question in its final form. – FumbleFingers Feb 11 '12 at 19:45
  • It is not the title that decides the question being asked, but the body of the question. The answer should be based on the latter, not the first. – kiamlaluno Feb 21 '12 at 23:21
  • @kiamlaluno: I'm not sure I agree (also not sure I disagree). Usually when I go to a question it is with having read the title first. Sometimes I end up answering what the title asked, sometimes what the body asks (and they can be different and it is very disconcerting when they are). Can you make a case for your position (that the question in the body is what should be answered, not the title)? – Mitch Feb 22 '12 at 2:16
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    I was actually agreeing with your first point: Titles are simplifications of the contents and can't carry every nuance. As such, the title doesn't express what the question is; it would be like checking a movie title to understand what its plot is. – kiamlaluno Feb 22 '12 at 2:32

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