1

I've noticed this happens a lot in short questions. The OP can think of nothing more to say and just copied the title into the body (or vice versa) and adds a short sentence that adds little to the question.

If we edit out the title in the body, there is usually nothing or little left. If we leave it, it is redundant and vague. If we rephrase it, we run the risk of altering the OP's original intent. If I see this happening, what should I do? Do we have an existing policy on this?

  • What's the down-vote for? – American Luke Aug 10 '12 at 21:12
  • The downvote is because I don't think this is an issue that needs a change to existing site policy. By implication you do, since you've raised the matter (downvotes on meta questions mean something completely different to downvotes on main). – FumbleFingers Aug 10 '12 at 21:29
  • I couldn't find any existing information on this case, and decided to raise it on meta to see what the protocol is. If their was an existing policy, I did not intend to change it. My apologies if I came across wrong. – American Luke Aug 10 '12 at 22:19
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    @Luke - No need to apologize. As FumbleFingers says, downvotes mean something different on meta. It doesn't mean "your question sucks" it just means "I don't agree with what you've proposed" or in this case perhaps more of "I don't think this is a problem we need to worry about". – Lynn Aug 11 '12 at 7:57
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    @Lynn: Absolutely. I suppose if everybody downvotes a meta question, you could say the question was pointless and should never even have been asked. But that's obviously not the case here, so Luke has asked a good question. If nothing else, the downvotes on my answer show that I'm out of step with the majority - which won't change what I think, but it's useful to know where the majority opinion lies. – FumbleFingers Aug 11 '12 at 14:34
7

This is certainly a red flag, since very short questions tend to be bad questions. However, rather than editing the post in that case, simply flag it to be closed or downvote it.

However, some questions are legitimately short. Those you can leave alone. There's nothing inherently wrong with repeating the title in the body, so if the question is otherwise fine, there's no need to edit it.

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    I wouldn't overstate the "short questions tend to be bad questions" bit. So far as I can see there's no real correlation between question text length and the "quality" of the questions. And there seem to be just as many that are excessively long to no purpose as there are too short to provide adequate context. – FumbleFingers Aug 12 '12 at 2:17
2

The idea is somewhat like emails. Should the subject of an email be repeated in an email?

I don't think an exact copy should occur, that is stylistically annoying, but I do think there should be some repetition of the concept.

Very often a person will write something in the title, then in the contents go in a completely different direction. What results is that some answer the title questions, and some answer various things in the body that are unrelated to the title. And it is still unclear what the OP really wants, the title question or the slightly different question in the body.

Also, as to UI design, the title is often separated from the body to such an extent (in size/weight/kind) that it is hardly read at all after the link from the main screen is read, so there is the problem of a discrepancy in understanding of the title and the body even when consistent.

For example, in the question:

Preferences or priorities

it was very unclear in reading the examples that the title had anything at all to do with the examples given, in fact it was easy to answer the problem in the example rather than trying to answer the title.

  • This is a good point – questions can have shoddy titles for several different reasons; "repeating the body in the title" is merely one example. Others include: titles that are irrelevant; titles that reference a minor point in a question, rather than the major point; and titles that are rife with grammatical errors. – J.R. Aug 12 '12 at 10:06
2

We should discourage repeating the body in the title. A title is not merely the first sentence of the body. It's something else altogether.

For example, the title of this question really should have been Repeating the Title in the Body do it the way people set the titles of books and movies in English (let’s call this titlecase), or else Repeating the title in the body if you capitalize the first word only (let’s call this sentence case), as some European publications do.

Sentence case works best with actual questions or long titles. Short titles in titlecase should look like

1

What you say about altering the OP's original intent doesn't apply to question's titles, as long as the title is pertinent with the question. For example, we are required to avoid writing some words in the question's titles; if you change the title to use c*nt, you are not altering the meaning of the question.

Changing the title to avoid it is equal to the question's text is a minor issue. In such cases, the more important issue is that the OP didn't probably put much effort in writing the question, and s/he didn't provide a context for the question, or give more information.
There are simple questions that don't need much, and for those questions it is probably fine if the question's text is equal to its title. Still, I would personally avoid doing that because it sounds like lack of effort from my part.

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I usually edit it out.

If what remains is little, it was little with that part anyways, so why keep it? It's redundant and serves no purpose (besides being redundant).

It is certainly a red flag, like JSBangs says, because if you can't add enough context, then your question has some problems.

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    I really think it is better to leave the question in the body and create a proper title. – tchrist Aug 12 '12 at 20:21
  • @tchrist If the title is ok, why change it? If it can be changed, fine. But then I'd say go case by case. :P – Alenanno Aug 12 '12 at 20:40
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    Why do books have a different title than their first sentence? – tchrist Aug 12 '12 at 20:42
  • @tchrist Apart fromt the fact that we're not talking about books, I fail to see your comparison. – Alenanno Aug 12 '12 at 20:43
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    You really don’t understand what a title is for? Really? We need short summary titles that fit in a few words. We do not need longwinded questions stuck up in the title. – tchrist Aug 12 '12 at 20:45
  • @tchrist No. I'm saying that if the title is already good, then why change it? It makes no sense. If the title is repeated in the body you edit it out and fix the title, if needed. – Alenanno Aug 12 '12 at 22:00
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    Did you notice that I think you edit out of the title, and fix the title, leaving the question in the body? Can you imagine my previous sentence as a title? Or that one? This is what I am talking about. Titles shouldn’t be big long questions. Put that in the body, and learn to title your title. – tchrist Aug 12 '12 at 22:02
  • @tchrist You keep replying saying things that have nothing to do with what I'm saying. Read my comment twice before replying. And I don't need your advice, I already know how to title questions, thanks. We can stop now. – Alenanno Aug 12 '12 at 22:27
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I think this is a matter of personal preference - specifically, the preference of the person asking the question. If you the reader don't like it, that's too bad.

I personally habitually copy the most pertinent block of words from an email and paste it into the title before I click on Send, so that's where I stand.

I used to think it would be a good idea if people were encouraged to change titles like "What's the difference between word1 and word2?" to a standardised "word1 vs word2", because I thought that would make my future searches easier. But I kinda lost interest when the debate ended up getting bogged down in whether it should be vs / vs. / v / v. / versus / whatever.

So long as the question is clearly presented, I say let the original words stand.

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