When a question is closed, its status is reflected in the title by appending [closed]. However, users tend to occasionally post a questions like this one with square brackets in the title.

For one thing, isn't this what tags are for? Putting square brackets around a keyword in your title is just unnecessary. And more importantly, if square brackets were disallowed in titles, their presence would instantly alert people to a special condition within the system (like a question being [closed]).

One way this could possibly be implemented would be to display a suggestion to use tags if a user tried to enter '[' in the title of a question.


  • 8
    Square brackets are used for tags, but not always. Not able to $array[] for instance is a valid use of square brackets. – Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 22:13
  • 4
    It may be a valid use of square brackets but it's surely an awful question. "Not able to $array[]"? – Vinko Vrsalovic Sep 4 '09 at 11:04
  • look like you need my correct answer is no long correct! – Stu Thompson Aug 1 '11 at 7:43
  • @JohntheSeagull: That's a really poor question title. – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Nov 21 '11 at 11:04


The following Objective C question would not be allowed.

The "return [self square_root: i];" statement does not work with library.rich.b

I do agree that the usage you are complaining about is undesirable, but it can be cleaned up by SOpedians working for a S&W badge, and new users can be taught not to do use brackets inappropriately.

  • 5
    Good point. Also frustrating: array indexes and literals. – Shog9 Sep 3 '09 at 22:08
  • Agreed, good point; although as I've yet to hit 2K rep I'm still working towards getting edit privileges. – Donut Sep 4 '09 at 12:34
  • Patience, grasshopper. The power will be yours soon enough. – Stu Thompson Sep 4 '09 at 14:51
  • doing it as a "title-begins-with-only" match is far safer – Jeff Atwood Aug 1 '11 at 6:42
  • Better to automate this work. I'm certainly getting bored of doing it, though I still feel obligated to. It makes using SO tiring, for no particularly good reason. Why did we invent machines, again? – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Nov 21 '11 at 11:05

Per Shog's prescient answer, this is what we went with. If the title begins with a faux tag:


That is, it is of the form

[jQuery] Entire page or multiple divs with '.mousemove'

We now block submission with

title contains a [tag] prefix; please use the tag field to enter tags instead.

  • Would * not be better than +? It would also catch titles with no space between the erroneous tag and the title. E.g.: [jQuery]Entire page or ... – Stu Thompson Aug 1 '11 at 8:08
  • 2
    there are some code-y things about the form [x]a which make me nervous. – Jeff Atwood Aug 1 '11 at 8:14
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    How about matching the contents of the erroneous tag with known tags? Or the top 100? – Stu Thompson Aug 1 '11 at 8:51

I hate seeing what should be tags crammed into question titles. Especially as a prefix. So while I doubt this will really help much, I'd like to see it anyway, just to make editing them slightly easier.

The suggestion:

Hey, it looks like you're trying to tag this question by putting things in square brackets - that's what the box below the question is for!

Would be even better!

  • 2
    I agree with your suggestion to go forward with the suggestion suggestion. – Andy Mikula Sep 3 '09 at 21:41
  • I would hate to see SO incivilly like an uncivil Office clip bad copy. – Vinko Vrsalovic Sep 3 '09 at 22:40
  • now implemented per my answer – Jeff Atwood Aug 1 '11 at 7:13

What about, instead of not allowing a perfectly valid couple of characters, that have done no harm to anyone, never get into fights, and never drink more than they can take (except for that one time in college), the way closed and migrated questions is changed so its more visible? Maybe the [closed] part of the title could be colored different, or make it bold, or make it blink.

Just make it different than normal title text, and stop pushing the poor [] brothers around.

Don't make me call the <> twins to beat you up for character racism!

  • Don't make it blink! Aaaaahhh! – Ladybug Killer Sep 4 '09 at 6:50

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