26

< Do I need to write anything here? >

6
  • 21
    Then you're doing it wrong. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 9:00
  • 7
    Yes, absolutely. If you can explain everything in the title, it is a pretty good indication that your question is not all that great (or that you don't formulate good titles).
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 9:02
  • Could you give examples of sentences that you would consider self-sufficient questions that could be put into the title only? Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 9:03
  • @JoachimSauer For example, there is a question I'm planning to ask in Cooking community: How do they extract kernels of sunflower seeds in mass production?. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 9:06
  • 11
    @hkBattousai Context matters (and in this case, could be the difference between and off topic question and a question that is allowed to stay on the site). If you provide context ties it to the topic of Cooking, then it's likely it'll stay on the site. If you just post the question as is, then it'll get closed as off topic. When that happens, the OP usually complains, "But I wanted to know so that I could see if the process keeps sunflower seeds from being usable in my bacon-wrapped souffle. to which everyone will say, "Why didn't you say so in the first place?" Context matters. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 12:45
  • related and possible dup target (I like Grace Note's answer): Should "Title Says It All" questions be edited or closed?
    – starball
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 1:21

5 Answers 5

42

Yes, your body should contain content. A title alone is not the correct way to go. If your title contains the full content of your question then there are two possibilities:

  • Your question is not all that good to begin with
  • You put way too much information into your title

For example, what you could have asked is:

Title: Does a question always need a body?

Body: Sometimes I have a question which can be fully expressed in the title. If that is the case, should I just leave the body empty or do I need to restructure my question?

Now your title is short, sweet, but descriptive, while the body contains the full question you're asking.

In short, if your title says it all, you're doing it wrong. A title needs to be descriptive, but a title is not the question.

0
23

If your question can be explained in one sentence, then it fits one or more of the following categories:

  • Lacks research effort
  • Is unclear
  • Is not useful
  • Not a real question
  • Too localized

Short: You're doing it wrong. If your question only consists of one sentence, there's a very straight out possibility that it is a very poor question.

Now I'm going to do something I've never done before, I'll hopefully never do again and which I've frowned upon very often: Did you try to enter your question (that one line) into a searchmachine?

5
  • And now I feel dirty. :( Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 9:03
  • 2
    You could have at least Googled that for.....nevermind. ;)
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 9:29
  • 4
    If somebody can express his/her thought in shorter form, it shows more work, not less of it. And more thinking, too.
    – Gangnus
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 15:32
  • 1
    I have seen many question with many up-votes which ask a very important but short question. your criteria are not a general rule.
    – Ahmad
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 13:00
  • 5
    @Ahmad: "Has upvotes" is not the same as "is a good question" is not the same as "is on topic according to the rules" is not the same as "this question can't be made better". Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 20:52
17

There's nothing special about StackOverflow. The question of title-vs-body affects almost every piece of communication.

  • The title (and perhaps abstract or cover text) serves to allow a potential audience to decide whether or not they want to engage with you. Your audience is busy and has many better things to do, so the title should be honest and accurate enough to let them decide confidently whether opening the post is in their interest or not.

  • The body contains the entire, complete subject matter, without dependencies. People may have opened the post a long time ago when they went through their daily agenda and decided what to put on their plate for the day. They expect to be presented with a complete description of the problem and not have to play mental treasure hunts to discover how to best serve you.

In a nutshell: Write the title for everyone to see. Write the body for your interested audience who has already committed their attention to you.

If someone opens your post and is frustrated that it doesn't suit her, you're doing it wrong. If an eligible reader dismisses your post because the title doesn't delineate the domain properly, you're doing it wrong. If an expert on the subject doesn't understand what you've written in the body, you've done it wrong.

11

Think about the question title as the label to a jar of cookie, and the content of the question being the cookie inside.

The title of the question is important in drawing attention to your question - as how the external appearance will draw people attention to the jar of cookie.

But what's important is the content of the question (or the cookie in this case). Even if the jar is not beautifully decorated with a flash label, some people will still buy it, while no one will like an empty container that says there is cookie inside. Similarly, the body of your question should be able to survive on its own without the title.

0
3

The context that led you to ask the question.

If a title is sufficiently self-explanatory for it to be possible to answer the question without reading the body, then it’s probably a very good title! But it could still benefit from some contextual information:

  • what circumstance led you to ask this particular question (for example, the immediate problem to which you want to apply the answer; if you ask for an explanation of a term, where you encounter that term);
  • why the question may be not as easy to answer as it may seem at first;
  • what depth of explanation you expect of an answer.

The XY problem may be a tired meme, overused by some people who may want to seem smarter than they are, but it is actually occasionally useful to reframe the question at a different level of abstraction, broaden it, or narrow it down. Having the context where the question came from helps in doing that.

Also, ideally a question should be answerable from reading either only the body, or only the title, without having read the other; and an answer should address the core of the problem posed, not merely quirks of your wording. Therefore, you should probably also include a different formulation of your question in the body as well. It shouldn’t hurt to say the same thing twice.

You must log in to answer this question.

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