# Guideline on Trimming Long Titles

I think questions whose titles are like:

How I can find a recent papers on the subject of Turing machine which exhibit computational power beyond blah blah blah...

Can we have a policy (or at least some guideline) asking the poster to trim his/her question in a meaningful way?

PS: There's already a policy on the minimum length of the title (15 chars). The policy is enforced by the SE. (To clarify, I'm not after such enforcement.)

Edit: Since Tsuyoshi asked for concrete cases, here I mention several:

The list goes on...

• Which questions are you talking about? I think that a common problem is that novice users tend to make the title too short, not too long. See also “Make your title your question” on MathOverflow: mathoverflow.net/howtoask#yourtitle. Dec 3 '10 at 17:09
• @Tsuyoshi: I added some concrete examples. I agree that too short titles are bad. However, I believe the same thing with too long titles. The title should convey the meaning, in the least wording as possible. In particular, it's best not to include verbs in the title: including terms like "How can I do ..." in the title is specially discouraged. Dec 3 '10 at 17:59
• I agree with Tsuyoshi and Suresh, and don't see the title being long as a serious problem, the title being precise is a good thing (though copying the title into the question without any extra information does not seem nice thing to do, generally giving some background or motivation would be helpful). I am more concerned with imprecise and too general titles. Dec 3 '10 at 21:52
• I think finding a crisp title should be a major concern for every OP and shows that the problem's essence has been understood. I do not know wether we should enforce sth there, though. Some upper character limit in order to keep titles one-liners can not hurt. Dec 10 '10 at 12:33
• On a related note: page titles now start with the (alphanumerically?) first tag. Why is that? It makes navigation with many tabs hard. Dec 10 '10 at 12:36

I was originally going to comment, but I realized I have a policy suggestion, so I'm answering, so people can vote up or down as they see fit.

I think question titles should be treated like questions themselves when it comes to editing. Meaning, users should be very conservative about making changes. Commenting, "Please change the title for X reason," is fine, or changing the title to make a formula LaTex instead of text seems ok to me also (improves readability, and is something someone new to the site wouldn't know how to do), but we shouldn't make any other changes except in rare situations.

• Good! At least, this has something to say about a policy. "Please change the title for X reason": Do you agree that suggesting (note: just suggesting, not pushing or enforcing!) a shorter title for the sake of readability is good? Dec 3 '10 at 20:52
• in comments, sure. in the FAQ, no. Dec 3 '10 at 21:42
• I think what to suggest is a matter of personal taste, and a formal policy on meta seems like overkill. Honestly, I don't see a problem that needs fixing here, though obviously you do. What I think is that we're doing pretty well if the meta discussions are about stuff like shorter titles and pixel height of arrows, instead of what to do because someone got answers to the questions on their take-home midterm. Dec 3 '10 at 21:42
• I agree. a quiet meta is a good meta ;) Dec 3 '10 at 23:58
• LaTeX in titles should be avoided, imho. It is just close to unreadable in RSS readers and at least blows titles up unnecessarily. Titles should be formulated in natural language. Dec 10 '10 at 12:34

We should separate two drawbacks of “long” titles: readability and aesthetics. They are related but different. I do not think that the titles which you listed are too long as long as readability is concerned.

It is true that shorter titles often look better and more impressive than longer titles, but the aesthetic issue with long titles should be left to the askers. We should not argue about personal taste. Insisting on readability is fine, but making a title shorter sounds more like insisting on taste rather than readability.

Moreover, deciding a title often involves some trade-off, and there is often no single answer to this kind of trade-off. In your first example, while the original title Are there any models of computation currently being studied with the possibility of being more powerful than Turing Machines? is admittedly verbose, it carries some important information which your version More Powerful Models than Turing Model does not (namely, the “currently being studied” part). Which part to include in the title shows an asker’s point of view, and I would like to respect the asker’s choice.

• That's your PoV. Mine is very different. A title need not include every single detail. It should give others a sense of what they will encounter when opening the question. In the example, “currently being studied” part can be left for the body. Dec 3 '10 at 18:32
• Plus, I don't say I'm not respecting the asker. I'm going to offer a policy/guideline such that the askers can stick to. Anyway, let's see what's other's PoV. Dec 3 '10 at 18:33
• @Sadeq: My point is that it is the asker who decides which part is important and which part is detail. Not you, not me. You are trying to push your taste. I am not. Dec 3 '10 at 18:34
• Why do you consider guidelines as "pushing" people? I was just asking people to see if they agree with me on proposing a guideline. As I mentioned in the question, I'm not after some enforcement. Dec 3 '10 at 19:32
• @Sadeq: As I understand, you are trying to establish some rule/policy/guideline (the name does not matter much) on askers, which I am strongly opposing. Needless to say, you are free to ask in a comment whatever you see fit, and that is different from having “a policy (or at least some guideline) asking the poster to trim his/her question in a meaningful way.” Dec 3 '10 at 21:12

I have to agree with Tsuyoshi here: in matters of taste, we do need to defer to the OP, even if we disagree with their style. In fact in all of the examples above, I was grateful for the detailed title (the second example is a little incomprehensible, but the length isn't the problem there)

• Yes, but a guideline like "keep it short, pal!" doesn't hurt. Dec 3 '10 at 19:33