A little while ago I revealed my evilish devilish plans about question titles. Let's review what we did:

  1. Write some FAQ.
  2. Clean up some titles and lead by example.
  3. Get some help from the system to stop the bad titles to reappear in the questions.

Our greatest buzzwords are: (Sorting by 'worst1', descending)

  1. "correct"
  2. "grammatically"
  3. "difference"
  4. "this"
  5. "usage"
  6. "meaning"
  7. "below"
  8. "incorrect"
  9. "question"

1: Worst™ is an arbitrary buzzword constant in which question quality and the repetition of the buzzword is taken into account, along with how many possible future false positives will exist.

The other ones are not much of a problem and are scarcely observed in question titles, but these key-/buzzwords need to be banned or the users using them must be given a warning.

The message should be short enough to be heeded, and yet long enough to contain some useful tips on how to write a good title. Furthermore, "grammatically" and "correct" are often seen in the titles of off-topic, proofreading questions and thus an indication of that could be useful.

So the questions are

  • Which keywords should we ban and to which keywords should we trigger a warning for?
  • What should the ban or warning messages contain?

For the record, here are some images to frown, sigh or tut for.

Note that the two images above were screen-shot before TCE. They still might exist after it.

And here's what a ban message looks like in Stack Overflow:

Special thanks to TChrist for the two images above.

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  • 2
    I'm so glad you didn't title this meta post: Is this is a good idea? – J.R. Sep 20 '15 at 1:20
  • "Is this below idea correct or incorrect, and should it enter common usage?" – Damien H Sep 30 '15 at 5:57

I was going to create a list of could-be-improved titles that could be caught with a regex, but while the buzzwords above to appear frequently in bad titles, they also appear frequently in good titles. The only one I could come up with is :

(this/the) sentence grammatically (correct/incorrect/right/wrong)

The other patterns were either very difficult to detect without a natural language algorithm, or there weren't enough of them (in my opinion) to make it worth adding a rule.

I wonder if we should have done this analysis before the title cleanup event.

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I'm in entire sympathy with the effort to create useful titles. I agree that these words raise a red flag, and are very often signs of a useless title.

But I don't think that we can actually ban them from titles. Occasionally one of these words is vital to the substance of a question:

“This” "following" vs "this"
“Correct” “Incorrect” How to thank people who correct me on my incorrect pronunciation?
“Below” Using the phrase "below which"
“Question” Negative and positive question
“Usage” "Usage" versus "use"

And even with the gramma*, mean*, differ* words it seems to me a real imposition to ask our users—especially our first-time users—to search their dictionaries to find abstruse synonyms for the perfectly ordinary words they already know. We know alternative ways of expressing these concerns, but most of them don't.

  • We have a large vocabulary for translating this awkward and unidiomatic title — How to Grammatically Discern "after all", Phrase? — but it's this user's best attempt to tell us what he wants to know—and in fact it does make his meaning perfectly clear. What do we gain by forbidding him to use "grammatically"? What message do we send him?

  • You may have another way of asking thumbscrews - meaning, but I defy you to come up with one that is more succinct.

Uninformative titles are a problem, but I don't think this is the solution.

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  • So what about a warning message? – M.A.R. Sep 19 '15 at 12:51
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    @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M I'm very skeptical about the efficacy of asking our vistitors to do work that they're really not qualified to perform. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 19 '15 at 12:55
  • I still need to see more community participation here, I'd abide by their decision. – M.A.R. Sep 19 '15 at 14:41
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    I did a quick search for Title:Correct is:question, and there might be some benefit to warning about the title "is this sentence correct". I don't think we should warn about individual words, because there are too many ways they could be used in good titles. – ColleenV Sep 19 '15 at 16:10
  • My point exactly @Colleen. FYI people, the results will be a separate feature request. Also, Colleen I'd love your input when you have the time. You're one of the most passionate editors we have on ELL. – M.A.R. Sep 19 '15 at 20:52

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