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I've been wondering why so many people recently are putting their question in the title, and only supporting information in the body text. (It used to be that the question itself belonged in the body, and the title was used as a summary, or hook, to draw people to the question.)

I've discovered - by asking my own question recently - that the prompts seem to have changed. Now people are prompted,

  • Title: "Be specific and imagine you’re asking a question to another person"
  • Body: "Include all the information someone would need to answer your question"

Is this expected? Is this right? And if not can we have it changed so that people are encouraged to summarise in the title and put their question in the question body? Or is it just me that finds a question placed at the end of a body of text more helpful that lost in the title?

I'm not entirely sure that even our moderators are necessarily aware of this. For example from today, "Please edit your question and […] ask a question […]", where the question is nicely phrased in the title (but not in the body). It's not the first one of these I've seen in the last few days

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    Personally, I don't think this is right. The title should be a terse summary of the issue that makes it easy to see what the question is about. The body of the question should be the full question, including supporting information. Once you've clicked on the title to open the question, the title should no longer be needed.
    – Kusalananda Mod
    May 28 at 14:45
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    Question bodies that only say "as in the title" bother me, too. I guess it's my habit of scrolling only the body back & forth to understand it. I don't know off-hand if the prompts have changed, but I'd certainly claim that "include all the information someone would need" would include the pertinent information from the title. Also: unix.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5015/…
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    May 28 at 14:45
  • @JeffSchaller how many people read that? :-) It's a pleasant version of ESR's "how to ask a decent question", which although accurate is also IMO way too long for most readers
    – roaima
    May 28 at 16:35
  • Yep, I have that problem (writing too much). No one's going to read it before they ask a question here, either. All to say, I agree with the sentiment.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    May 28 at 17:00
  • @Kusalananda, yes, it reminds me of when people would send e-mail with the message starting in the Subject and then continue the sentence in the Body. It was especially annoying when someone would then forward the message with a new Title like "Can you help with this?", and the most important part of the whole thing would get lost. May 29 at 0:43
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    It's standard practice in any writing that the main text should be complete in itself, without needing the reader to read the headings. It's also usual for lazy writers to completely ignore that guideline... I wonder how much that correlates here with the question otherwise lacking needed information.
    – ilkkachu
    May 29 at 10:29
  • @ilkkachu the question writing prompts do not lead people down this route, though
    – roaima
    May 29 at 12:16
  • Worse is, that it seems that this kind of "trend" invite more possibility for "duplicate" posts than anything else @RayButterworth May 31 at 18:08
  • I think it makes a to of sense to use the title as the question. The most important reason is to prevent people form posting multiple questions in the body of a single post, as each post should be only 1 question. Using the title to ask the question makes the post very clear to the people that are looking for ana answer to a is,ilar question. The body should only be used for supporting information.
    – Shōgun8
    Jun 4 at 8:37
  • @Shōgun8 The body should only be used for supporting information. – Only? Awful practice. I fully agree with what @ilkkachu wrote: the main text should be complete in itself. Jun 4 at 9:48
  • @ Kamil Maciorowski, "awful practice?" No, it is pragmatic to ask the question in the title, and use the body for supporting information; if you don't use the body for supporting information then what is the point of the body? It most certainly shouldn't be used to ask multiple questions; therefore it should only be used to add information to support the question.
    – Shōgun8
    Jun 4 at 9:54
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    @Shōgun8 My point is per standard practice in any writing the main text should be complete in itself, so the question should be in the body, even if it's in the title. I don't mind the question in the title; I do mind the question not in the body. So IMO not only supporting information should be in the body. Supporting information and the question. It's about style, elegance. We encourage proper formatting, paragraphs (i.e. not a wall of text), general clarity, punctuation… One can either write with style or not. If you choose extreme pragmatism over a bit of style, fine. And awful. Jun 4 at 13:25
  • @ Kamil Maciorowski, take this very post as an example. It written very well and the style is pleasing. You can see that the question is in the title and it looks great. It is not in the body and it wouldn't addy anything useful if it was.
    – Shōgun8
    Jun 4 at 16:50
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    @Shōgun8 my questions are in paragraph three. My summary is in the title
    – roaima
    Jun 4 at 17:02
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    @ roaima, but those are basically just supporting information to your question in the title, even if they're in the form of a question. The subsequent questions provide information about why you ask the question on the title. With every additional question, scope creep becomes more probable, but in this case, the topic brought up in the original question is supported and strengthened by the questions in paragraph three.
    – Shōgun8
    Jun 4 at 17:13
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I'm aware of this shift and I admit I found the change a little unexpected and jarring at first. But I don't really agree with the thrust of this question.

For one thing the question isn't "hidden" in that big bold block of large-print text at the top of the page. Yes, when viewed like an email, it is slightly odd. But once you know about it, it's easy to adjust to... so I see no actual problem with this form.

I do feel it's had a positive impact in another way though. I've lost count of the number of "questions" written as:

I did this ... and that happened

... "Yes, obviously it did, that's what it's supposed to do, now what were you expecting, or what were you trying to do, or otherwise why are you here asking your "question". Incidentally it does help to ask a question when you ask a question".

What I mean to say is this: Prompting people to package their actual question into a short succinct one-liner as prompted them to tell us what their question really is.

I feel it's also reducing the number of "Please help!!!" title's I've seen. It's reduced the number of times I've been wholly disappointed by a question. I really hate clickbait. The correlation between question and title was previously pretty poor.

So in summary I don't think we should push for the prompts to change.


As far as writing questions myself, or advice to others... Yes, it's not a bad idea to copy-paste your question title to the very last line and ensure the rest of the question nicely builds to it and the wording still makes sense.

I would advise everyone to do this as it's a great check that your title is meaningful in context of everything else you've written. It also scans more freely.

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    Agreed. IMO, if you can't put your question succinctly into a single sentence that ends with a question mark, you don't know what you're asking well enough to write an intelligent post asking it. You might need to include additional explanatory context, but I really dislike wading through a sea of context to find out that the actual question is never explicitly stated. The new prompts seem specifically aimed to prevent that situation.
    – Wildcard
    Jun 3 at 7:01

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