I have been thinking about the problem with using "problem" in question titles, which spawned these threads:

Current Behavior

As a test, I pretended to ask a question on Stack Overflow with this title:

Help with a Poisson distribution problem

Today you get a popup that essentially says don't do that" in response to the aforementioned question title:

the problem with problem

My gripe is that there is only negative reinforcement and no positive guidance to correct the "offense". While I would prefer that we don't ban "problem" in the title, I'm quite aware that it isn't a realistic expectation given the winds blowing internally at Stack Exchange.


In the "Oops!" message, say something like:

Oops! Your question couldn't be submitted because:

  • (red text) You have used the following words in titles: 'help', 'problem'
  • (red text) Enumerate other errors here
  • (green text) For suggestions to improve your use of 'help', see This Hyperlink About Improving Titles With Help
  • (green text) For suggestions to improve your use of 'problem', see This Hyperlink About Improving Titles With Problem

We can selectively implement which words get positive examples; certainly "help" and "problem" would be good starting points.

I'm sure smarter people than me can come up with the correct things to put on those pages.

This would reduce the complaining (which I have done as well) about the title filter; it is frustrating to have common words banned, if we have no timely recommendation for improvement.

  • 12
    You know what else would reduce the compaints about the title filter? Removing it. Dec 30, 2011 at 19:29
  • 4
    Egads, I can't believe we don't already do this! Here are some guidelines we could link to: Writing good titles. Dec 30, 2011 at 19:51
  • 2
    Essentially, the message should tell users not to just swap "problem" with "issue" or "problems" (Yes. "problems" works.)
    – slhck
    Dec 30, 2011 at 20:08
  • "Problem is not allowed in question titles. Please see this link for help in writing better titles." Jan 2, 2012 at 16:43
  • 2
    So what would the helpful suggestions be for someone wanting to ask about the halting problem? Or Knapsack problem? Or NP-Complete Problem? Jan 2, 2012 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


When we display those error messages, we'll now also link to Mark Harrison's excellent How do I write a good title? post.

I think it's better to give general advice rather than per-violation advice, since what we're pushing for is overall question quality and not "better versions of word X".

  • Thanks Kevin, I still contend that word like "problem" warrant specific focus, but we can see whether this helps Jan 3, 2012 at 20:34

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