Looking at the question feed right now, it seems dominated by people posting statements as opposed to questions. Does anyone else find this a little annoying? For example:

Centos cannot ping default gateway

The correct answer to this should be along the lines of: "No, that's true, it can't. That's a shame. /hug"

Should we be encouraging people more to ask actual questions?


I suppose a related question is: "Is it legitimate to edit questions to change the title to a question?"


5 Answers 5


There was a time years ago when Stack Exchange was on a big kick about phrasing titles as questions, but I think it mostly died out. Personally I couldn't care less, "Centos cannot ping default gateway" and "Why can't Centos ping default gateway?" are functionally identical.

Any statement in a question title comes with the implied question "how do I fix this?"; the asker is stating something that's obviously wrong and expects readers to recognize that the situation they're describing isn't the way it should be. If I post a question with the title "Kernel panic on boot", there's no actual question there, but anyone who might be able to help me knows that a kernel panic on boot isn't a normal situation and so my question is how to make it stop happening.

  • Fair enough. Thanks for the historical info.
    – Time4Tea
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 22:08
  • Still agree 100%.....but in this specific case the question was "Why do people do it? What is the motivation behind doing this" , not "Is it right? Or do we understand it?".. Admittedly I am being a bit of a pedant (a side effect of my profession) here but rule #1 for me is "read the question as written". Feel free to stand on my head. Am used to it, Sheldon and I are chums. :D
    – bu5hman
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 4:52

@JeffSchaller. 100%, that's what we can do about the questions, but I don't think that what the questioner meant.

In the 'technical community' it is normal practice to 'state' a problem or predicate rather than to pose a question.

The Role of Bose-Einstein Condensates in Flavouring

Will appear in a technical publication before

Why does granny's gazpacho soup taste odd and make my teeth freeze?

If a poster is from a technical background they will tend to use a 'statement of case' rather than ask a question, so maybe linux people are becoming even more techie? If that's possible!

Out-geeking the geeks?

Edit: The point being that it is only a question of style and how you are used to expressing things in your day to day or professional life as to whether a poster will state the problem

`Cannot ping goggle.com`

or ask a question

'Why can't i ping goggle.com?`

The meaning is the same, we all understand what the problem is. Job done.

  • Well, but that example you give looks like the title for an academic research paper, which tends to be on the side of trying to explain something. So, I would say that example is probably closer to an answer than a question.
    – Time4Tea
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 14:34
  • @Time4Tea The first example was a tongue-in-cheek example of style differences, of expressing something either as a question or a statement. I hope the edit makes the point clearer
    – bu5hman
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 4:26

While that question was posted a couple years ago, and was in the recent feed only because Community bumped it, my opinion on questions like that come down to a decision: is there "enough" "there" to discern The Problem? If so, consider adding whatever relevant edits you think would clarify the situation, and/or answer the question (as you understand it). If not -- if you can't figure out where they got stuck, or what the problem might be, then vote to close as unclear (and optionally leave a comment).

  • I don't have anything against that particular question. There were probably 100 others I could have picked on :-)
    – Time4Tea
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 3:23
  • Which is why I extended my answer to the more general case of: is this question salvageable?
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 3:24
  • I wasn't suggesting that people posting questions as statements would make them any harder to answer. It was more about whether posting actual questions should be encouraged, just from a 'standards' or 'best-practice' point-of-view.
    – Time4Tea
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 14:37

You are confusing questions with titles. The body of a question post needs to contain a question. On the other hand, the title is the title of the whole page, not just the title of the question, and thus formulating the title as a question looks rather weird when the question is answered. Remember, most people who will read this title are people who are looking for an answer to their own question in search engine results. People who view it as something to answer are a tiny minority.

This is not to say that it's always a bad idea to formulate the title as a question. But you should not force it. For example, changing “Centos cannot ping default gateway” to “How can I make CentOS ping the default gateway?” would be a net loss. The additional words convey no information whatsoever and make it harder to find the important parts of the question at a glance.

There is good advice on writing good titles on the main meta. I draw your attention in particular to this attention map — red is what people pay the most attention to when scanning, blue is what they read only once their interest is hooked.

attention map

If the red part only contains “How can I make”, the title is wasted. With “CentOS cannot ping”, it conveys a lot of information about the topic of the question.


Yes, the question was a bit pedantic, but I was genuinely surprised to see how few questions in the feed are phrased as questions. It must be literally less than 10%.

Personally, I'm going to start up-voting any legit questions that I see that are phrased as questions, to try to help encourage it. Also, I guess it creates opportunities for people to gain some easy points by editing the titles, if they are that way inclined?

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