The most common edit other users do with my posts is to edit my title and change my title's formatting when the formatting is already correct. I have my preference for a title's style and I respect others who choose a different formatting.

For some users, changing the title of a question forces it through the tag RSS feed every time an edit is made. I've seen (mainly from another site that I no longer follow) the same question come through on the feed up to six or seven times in one day, just because someone tweaked the title for the umpteenth time. I don't think anybody wants to see that!

As well, there's no need to edit a title when its format is already correct.

When should a title be edited? When should a title be rewritten?

4 Answers 4


The most recent occurrence of this with one of your posts seems to be this. Which did go through my feed once when your title was edited, and again when you rolled back. The person who edited however made the note "rm exces capitalization in title", which (barring his input) seems to me that he didn't think it was a style change, but rather that it was incorrect.

It just so happens that on StackExchange sites (at least in my experience), that predominately questions are typed out in sentence style. To me this seems most intuitive, since when I type up a question I want it to accurately portray what I am asking. Everything in the body of the question I use to support/reflect on the question. Because of this stand-alone nature of the question (i.e. it could be asked without delving into the body material) it comes naturally to me to type it out as a standalone sentence. (This is where the sentence style comes from.)

I personally agree with:

"If all spelling, grammar, and punctuation in a poster's title are correct, the OP's style preference -- headline or sentence style -- should be respected."

As long as the style is either well-known or doesn't disrupt the readability of the question.

However in the example above, the person who edited your post seemed to be under the impression that the capitalization was wrong, and not just a style choice. Unfortunately, since the predominate style used seems to be "sentence style", you will occasionally come across people who either assume or think that the headline-style is wrong, and who will edit to correct it.

So the obvious answer to "When should we edit a title?" is: when it is difficult to understand what the OP is asking. Furthermore, I agree that style should be respected with the understanding that if you use a style that (while correct) is not typical of the site, then you will likely occasionally get it "corrected" for you. C'est la vie.

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    +1 - while I personally prefer the sentence style, editing just to change the style is a waste of resources unless the style is wrong (which this one isn't) Sep 14, 2012 at 19:11
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    @DVK I agree with Mechanical snail on this one - that title is really difficult to read when it's in title case, because there's proper names in there that are supposed to stand out, but don't. It should be either edited into sentence style, or "International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy" should be quoted/italicized/something.
    – Izkata
    Sep 14, 2012 at 23:39
  • @Izkata - AFAIK you can't itilicize in the titles...? Sep 15, 2012 at 0:04
  • @DVK Correct, I checked after posting that comment
    – Izkata
    Sep 15, 2012 at 0:06
  • @Izkata -- If anyone seriously can't read my titles in the headline style, either in chat or via email I would be happy to type it out in all lowercase letters. I kid. But seriously, I disagree that it should be edited to the sentence style when the headline style is not incorrect to begin with. I'm not suggesting that we all won't have our preferences as to style, but just pointing out that either style is equally valid. :) Sep 15, 2012 at 0:25
  • @NominSim - Yes, and when I get those "corrections" I will continue to roll them back. I know it's going to come with the territory. I just basically wanted to show our community's users that both styles are, in fact, correct. :) Sep 15, 2012 at 0:27

In general, I agree with everyone else. However, since NominSim brought up this edit history, I'm going to disagree and use it as an example. Here's several possibilities for capitalization:

  • Do Wizarding Photographs Kept in Muggle Homes Violate the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy?
  • Do Wizarding photographs kept in Muggle homes violate the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy?
  • Do wizarding photographs kept in muggle homes violate the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy?

(..And I was going to add an additional example with the original casing, but the Statute in italic, but question titles don't support that)

Now - which one is the easiest to read? For me, the first (and original) casing is by far the worst, for two reasons:

1) Capital letters should almost always belong at the beginning of the sentence or in a proper noun. Because if this, I get mental stuttering when I try to read the sentence, a pause right before each capitalized word that isn't part of one entity. Basically, it reads like Kirk-speak, which can be headache-inducing.
2) There is nothing distinguishing the one proper noun in there from the rest of the sentence, so when skimming the list of questions on the front page, the subject blurs into the rest of the question. Even worse, because there are lowercase words still in there, it looks like "Muggle Homes Violate" and "Wizarding Photographs Kept" are intended to be proper nouns in and of themselves, which especially doesn't make sense.

The second one is what Mechanical snail edited it to. Better, but "muggle" and "wizarding" arguably aren't proper nouns. I have no problem with this version, but it does look a little odd.

The third version is what I would have edited it to: Write the question as a sentence, and only capitalize the proper nouns. The subject now stands out as one entity in the sentence, and is overall much easier to read.

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    'Muggle' and 'Wizarding' are generally capitalized as Potter words, as an FYI. Like Dementor, Triwizard Tournament, Occlumency, Chizpurfle, or Potions. Again, I'm not arguing that people should prefer the headline style; I'm merely pointing out that it is correct. And unless Stack Exchange puts in a "sentence-style only" rule, then I'd just like to not see my posts messed with unnecessarily. :) Sep 15, 2012 at 0:49
  • @Slytherincess Ah, but "potions" as in many of the object or "Potions", the class? ;) Otherwise, sure - Dementor, Occlumency, etc., I hadn't thought about it much in that context...
    – Izkata
    Sep 15, 2012 at 0:52
  • 1
    No, "Potions" as in the class. General use would be "potions" -- "I need a potion for this cold" versus "I'm ready for my Potions final". :) Sep 15, 2012 at 0:55
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    I'm not sure Muggles is capitalized consistently by JKR... I seem to recall both upper and lower case useage for some reason Sep 15, 2012 at 1:24
  • +1 This was a very good point about how the capitalization can sometimes make it read weird. It made me think of how the following might be difficult to read with title-style capitalization: Do Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo?
    – NominSim
    Sep 16, 2012 at 4:16

The caption next to the box says Title, so I am personally fine with either the title version (with capitalized major words) or the sentence version which reads like a regular question. Here is what Jeff Atwood said about editting (and edit wars) http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/03/the-great-edit-wars/

As it says on the sidebar of every edit page, here’s what makes up good editing practice as we see it on Stack Overflow:

  • Fix grammatical or spelling errors.
  • Clarify meaning without changing it.
  • Correct minor mistakes.
  • Add related resources or links.
  • Always respect the original author.

Editing is welcomed and encouraged. However, if the author of the post is resistant to your editing changes, even a perfectly legitimate edit based on the above rules, be the bigger man (or woman) and let them have it their way. Our goal here is not to cause friction between users, or to make everything perfect overnight. All we aim to do is gradually clean up and improve questions and answers together. When in doubt, just move on! There will be plenty of other posts and other edits you can make. In time, that reluctant author will learn how Stack Overflow works.

Just is just a snipet of the article, but it goes on to say that we should all act like adults, and not edit just for the sake of editting.

I personally only edit a title if it isn't in the form of a question (doesn't end with a ? or doesn't sound like a question), has a bunch of extra information (like tags) in the question title (ie HARRY POTTER: IS Harry a shephard?!?!?!), or if there are spelling / grammatical errors.


A title to a question should be edited if there is a spelling, punctuation, or grammar error. A title should not be corrected for style, as long as the title adheres to a correct standard. A title should be rewritten if it is nonsensical. Personally, if I find a nonsensical title that, after a few readings, I figure out what it means, I do rewrite the title for the OP, to try and provide assistance.

There are actually two standard styles for titles, both of them equally grammatically correct. There are some exceptions to the basic rules I'm going to lay out, but I'm not going to list them all (They're pretty specific to certain situations that I doubt would come up here.). The two accepted styles of a title are the headline style and the sentence style.


The headline-style title reads like this:

Mneumonics That Work Are Better Than Rules That Do Not
Singing While You Work
A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing
The Editor as Anonymous Assistant

In the headline style, capitalize the first and last words in titles and subtitles, and capitalize all other major words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions). The articles the, a, and an are always lowercase in a headline-style title, as are the conjunctions and, but, for, or, and nor.


The sentence-style title reads like this:

Mneumonics that work are better than rules that do not
Singing while you work
A little learning is a dangerous thing
The editor as anonymous assistant

In sentence-style capitalization only the first word in a title, the first word in a subtitle, and any proper names are capitalized.

The Chicago Manual of Style 16th ed. - page 448 - sections 8.155-8.156 - Capitalization, Punctuation, and Italics

Both of these styles are perfectly correct and standard. As noted in the question, editing titles on a post can cause the question to go through the feed again for some users, so I think changing the title of a question should be reserved for bona fide errors and not tinkered with for stylistic preference. For users who can approve suggested title edits, it's important to make sure there is actually something wrong with the original title before automatically approving another person's suggested style changes.

If all spelling, grammar, and punctuation in a poster's title are correct, the OP's style preference -- headline or sentence style -- should be respected.

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    Whatever feed reader is reloading read items based on title changes is straight up broken and going against the Atom spec. The unique id for the question does not change after created, not even when the title changes. Broken clients do not and should not affect our editing standards.
    – user366
    Sep 14, 2012 at 18:44
  • @MarkTrapp - I don't think RSS feeds are the main problem here. They are just a way for people to be aware of the problem. IOW, people without RSS feed (me) feel that this editing is a problem as well Sep 14, 2012 at 19:09
  • @MarkTrapp - Well, yes, obviously the feed is broken. SE is aware of the problem, but until they fix it, editing titles still may continue to feed through more than once. I was merely pointing that out. As well, I addressed an editing issue. The feed problem was more of an aside to the issue of titles. :) Sep 15, 2012 at 0:08
  • @Slytherincess No, you misunderstand: the feed isn't broken. It's correct. The feed readers that are reloading feed items they have already seen as if they were new because the title changed are what's broken. If the <id> element for a feed item doesn't change, feed readers should not be treating it as a completely new item.
    – user366
    Sep 15, 2012 at 0:48
  • @MarkTrapp -- Thanks for clarifying that. :) Sep 15, 2012 at 0:52

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