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I see a lot of titles that start with "How to..."

Personally, I think that is a bad title, but in A: How do I write a good title?,

  • How to UPSERT in Oracle (update or insert into a table)?

is listed in the "Some Good Examples" section.

"how to..." is not necessarily always bad grammar. Consider this hypothetical page:

How to code in Java?

I want to know how to code in Java.
Can anyone help me?

In the example, the "how to code in Java" phrase in the body is perfectly correct grammar-wise. However, the title is just a dependent clause from the body with a ? appended.

I think titles that match how ?to.* (case insensitive) should be rejected.

EDIT: I just found this related question on English.SE: 'How to' vs 'How do I'.

  • 1
    IMO How to is perfectly fine and way better than Help me please titles – juergen d Dec 30 '13 at 18:15
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    Look at this question: How to undo the last Git commit?. Is this a bad question in your opinion? It has more than 3000 upvotes – user000001 Dec 30 '13 at 18:17
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    @user000001 Well, would the title be better, worse, or the same if you just removed the words "How to"? – Servy Dec 30 '13 at 18:18
  • fixing a title to make it match the question (sometimes the real question) so that it shows up in a useful way in the related, search, or google is a good thing. However, all 'how' questions need to be changed. – user213963 Dec 30 '13 at 18:18
  • @user000001 It's not a bad question, its a bad title. – The Guy with The Hat Dec 30 '13 at 18:19
2

It all really depends on what follows the "how to". It could be nonsense or it could be something really useful. That will be what makes the title good.

Posts generally contain a problem and a solution. In most cases this is basically a guide for how to solve a problem.

3706 How to undo the last Git commit?
viewed 955424 times

My point with this is, I do not think they should be rejected. That question is one of the most viewed questions on Stack Overflow, and it is probable that the title had something to do with that. If you search google for git undo it is the second result, so having "How to" clearly didn't negatively affect its searchability.

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7

In terms of grammar and word flow, "How to do X with Y" does kind of grate on my nerves a bit. However, it is a perfectly legitimate question title. It also has a meaning in a real dictionary, too.

"How to" is an informal adjective, meaning "provid[ing] detailed and practical advice." So it's not that it's grammatically incorrect at all.

Blocking all "How to" questions would be a horrible idea.

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  • Imagine you want to know how to do something, and there's an expert on the subject walking by. Do you ask "How to do this?", or "How can I do this?"? – The Guy with The Hat Dec 30 '13 at 18:25
  • You'd approach them like an expert, give them context into the problem, then ask your question. The title is really something like the elevator pitch about the problem - like "How to undo the last Git commit?" It gives concise context about the problem scope, and what you're trying to accomplish before going into the background, history, and what you've attempted. – Makoto Dec 30 '13 at 18:27
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    Oh, and that link leads to how-to, not how to. how-to does not equal how to. – The Guy with The Hat Dec 30 '13 at 18:27
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1. How to do this in <x> language when I tried <y>?

2. I have read the how to on how to do <x> but it does not work when I do <y>

Those are just two examples of legit questions that could be raised on Stack Overflow that would be rejected with your request.

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  • 5
    But those aren't questions, they're statements. – The Guy with The Hat Dec 30 '13 at 18:16
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    A question title on Stack Overflow is not necessarily an actual question – qwertynl Dec 30 '13 at 18:17
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    They're also generally poor titles, even being that they're not questions. Everything other than x and y in both examples is information too wordy for a title. I've learned nothing interesting about either question in all of that text. – Servy Dec 30 '13 at 18:18
  • @Servy I updated my 1st question. – qwertynl Dec 30 '13 at 18:18
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    @qwertynl That's, again, information that doesn't belong in a title. It belongs in a question body. – Servy Dec 30 '13 at 18:19

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