What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 130 Stack Exchange communities.

Hi, I'm not sure how one should react to these kind of titles mentioned above.

This question brought it up.

Although I know editing is encouraged you must never change the meaning.

I edited this question because I thought it was the right thing to do and might help the OP to get an answer, but this is MY interpretation of the problem, and in some cases I might guide to something misleading and wouldn't want that.

My change was from:

Simple form is driving me crazy! please check


Problem with HTML form - PHP not inserting into Database correctly


Where should the limit be in general terms?


share|improve this question
I frequently do this when I see a meaningless title, but you have to be very careful when doing so. –  marcog Dec 20 '10 at 14:07
@marcog thanks, thats exactly my point where should the limit be drawn? –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 14:17
@Trufa Difficult to say, I'd like to hear from some of the more experienced users myself. –  marcog Dec 20 '10 at 14:19
@marcog could't have said it better myself :) –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 14:26
You could drop "Problem with" since the entire platform is about problem solving –  random Dec 20 '10 at 14:48
Don't confuse changing wording with changing meaning. Your job is to suss out the meaning and make sure the wording reflects that - if you make a mistake, then chances are the wording was unclear to begin with. –  Shog9 Dec 20 '10 at 18:01
@Shog9 well said, thanks. –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 18:05
Mr. Down-voter, care to explain? :) –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 20:12
I must be downvoter #2 then. With respect I don't think that it's possible to draw a line anywhere -- any such "line" will be of necessity "defined" in terms of completely subjective things. The only possible answer to a question like this boils down to "Change it if and only if you think it will be a net improvement", which is common sense. –  j_random_hacker Dec 21 '10 at 1:36
@j_random_hacker thank you very much for taking the time to explain!! I do agree with you that this question might be quite open, but, it is meta.so, I really didn`t know whether the community felt like it was the right thing to do or if I was out of my boundaries, it is a "honest-do not not understand question" and though it migh come in handy for others too. But thanks again for your feedback!! –  Trufa Dec 21 '10 at 4:33
@Trufa: You're welcome! Obviously others think it is a worthwhile question as I see you're on +8 at the moment. (P.S. I think that's the nicest response to a -1 I've had on SO :) ) –  j_random_hacker Dec 21 '10 at 4:36
@j_random_hacker LOL I must admit I get a little more angry when downvoted in SO :) but here in meta, questions are more open and I just see it as a way of expressing an opinion and as long as there is a decent argument behind a downvote, I dont get mad at all! (besides today Im on a realy good mood for some reason ;) ) so, thanks again for the feedback and wil donvote YOUR questions soon ;p –  Trufa Dec 21 '10 at 4:46
@Peter Mortensen thanks for the edit, that was some ugly engrish!! –  Trufa Dec 21 '10 at 4:48

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

"Please help" is not a very helpful title. It's not going to help people who have the same problem find an answer, and it's not going to help answers figure out your problem. Meaningless titles should be pruned when possible, and in general you can do this for any question in which you can figure out what is actually being asked.

If the question body is pretty clear about what the question is, then definitely edit the title to something more illustrative of the problem. If the user isn't completely clear but you can still figure out what is literally asked, then also edit the title to reflect this. You might pair it with a comment telling the user that you've edited the title in the intent to represent what the author is asking, and that if your analysis is wrong then the author is free to fix it to state what is truly being asked. Stick with an abstract of the question's literal content if you're unsure on the question, and stay your title edit for further author clarification if you're really unsure. While it remains vague and probably not useful, identifying the general gist of the observed problem will be more useful than something which doesn't say anything at all.

If you truly are unable to tell what is being asked, then the question is quite possibly too vague. This is especially the case if you think the question could be derived into two or more possible questions - editing in this case amounts to making assumptions on what the author is trying to ask. In this case, the proper course of action would be to suggest the author to edit the post to clearly represent what the actual question is; failure to do so might result in the question getting closed for its ambiguity.

share|improve this answer
Ok that is helpful thanks, I agree :) –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 15:17

The title makes or breaks a question: if it's not clear, people don't click through and the question won't get answers.

More specifically, the actual question should always be used as the title. If you can't come up with a single-sentence question that succinctly describes the problem, I argue it's not a real question.

That's not to say one shouldn't have to read the question body to get all the relevant details to accurately answer it, but a visitor should know what they are getting into by simply reading the question title.

So you should always replace nonsense titles like "Please help with this problem!" to something that actually describes the question, even if the question isn't yours.

But to be honest, I can't figure out what that question is from what you linked. "Here's my code, it's not doing what I want it to do: please help" isn't a very useful question to begin with; changing the title to Problem with HTML form - PHP not inserting into Database correctly does just as much to describe the problem as Simple form is driving me crazy! please check, which is to say nothing.

share|improve this answer
thank you for your answer it is very insightful! but this is exactly why I asked the question, I think the new title is at least telling you that there is an HTML form, he wants to insert to a DB using PHP, you say I have to correct but? what would you have gone for as I title, I am NOT the OP, so to give it a really good title I have to "study" the question, fully understand the problem, when you do this, you will probably have an answer to his question rather than his title, I agree my edit is not the best, but at least it gives some reference and is on the fly. I don't know.. :) –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 15:15
@Trufa one shouldn't have a problem coming up with a single-sentence question from a question body; my point is that if you're having trouble (heck, I'm having trouble), the question is bad and not a real question to begin with. For questions that are good but just have a title problem, you should always feel free to change the title to make it clearer. In this case, the title is the least of the question's problems. –  user149432 Dec 20 '10 at 15:19
well that pretty much sums it! –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 15:36

If there's a bad question title, I'll edit and then leave a note with the question author to verify. I've never had complaints, and more importantly, most users seem to appreciate it.

share|improve this answer
Yep thats seems like a good idea :) –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 18:02

Yes. When the title is almost meaningless, it's easy to create a real title that still contains the meaning of the original title.

Although, "problem with" could probably be left out, as most questions is due to some kind of problem.

share|improve this answer

I'm just gonna pile on;

I think it's definitely important to consider editing a question's title very carefully before doing it. I've edited some for misspellings of key terms - but even with that one must be careful to be very sure... I saw a question where the person editing (not me) 'corrected' the spelling of an API but it turns out the editor just was not aware there really was an API with the exact name that the OP posted. (for that reason, I would be extremely loathe to edit titles of any question whose topic I am not thoroughly versed in).

Beyond that, I'm not sure what I, personally, would do at all to a question's title. A title like "Please help!" is obviously useless, and perhaps anything you might edit it to would improve it. I'd consider doing something like that I think, but I've not come across one myself.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for that same reason I edited to a title that was very generic trying to avoid confusion since I not the one asking, I do agree that anything even remotely related is better that help me. –  Trufa Dec 20 '10 at 18:11

It's redundant to say something like "please help" in a post.

So yes, rename it. It's a good idea to remove that redundancy from the question.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .