6

That's my question; what do you think?


Okay, that was a particularly egregious example (though not unlike some I've seen on Mi Yodeya). A more common example is when someone is asking, say, whether sledding is permitted on the sabbath, but the concept "to sled" appears only in the title. (The question body might say only "Is it allowed on the sabbath? On the one hand, it's like a vehicle, but on the other it's not motorized. And then maybe it's furrowing the snow and forbidden as plowing?" or the like.)

I've long edited such questions so that sufficient information to understand the question is in the question post itself and people needn't look at the title to understand the question. I do this because (a) people might skip over the title while reading a question and (b) it just seems reasonable to me that a written work be self-contained (to the extent possible) and not dependent on its title, of all things.

However, I've made such edits many times. Which means that many posts have been made (by many users, actually) that don't include full information in the question body, relegating some to the title only. Which makes me wonder: maybe all those users are in the majority, and the site user body as a whole disagrees with me. Is that the case? Should I stop making such edits? Do people think information that appears in a question title is just as good as if it appears in the question body? Or should I (and others) keep making such edits?

6

I am under the impression that the question title is supposed to be a summary, and the question body is supposed to be a complete question. I can't now find evidence on Meta.SE of a formal guideline to this effect, but I would like to see us (continue to) operate under this guideline, editing as necessary to fix questions that don't contain all the information.

5

I agree with Monica Cellio's answer

In addition, I agree with msh210 in the question that "a written work [should] be self-contained (to the extent possible) and not dependent on its title, of all things."

I find that whenever I encounter a question post whose body, for whatever reason, doesn't clearly express what question it's asking, my brain has to do more work to try to decipher this crucial information, even if that means looking [again] at the title.

In all writing, it's incumbent upon the writer to make the written work as understandable as possible to the target audience, with a minimum of impediments to efficient and clear understanding. Mi Yodeya is a permanent, public, knowledge repository, so the target audience is much larger than the population of active Mi Yodeya users. If leaving the point of the question out of the body creates extra cognitive load for experienced Mi Yodeya users, then it is safe to assume that there are many members of the reading population who will be similarly affected. Therefore, I think it's incumbent upon writers and editors here to make sure that question bodies, on their own, clearly express the question.

  • Alternatively, maybe it's easier for non-MY users to understand since they're not assuming the convention that the question post is self-contained. – Daniel Jan 19 '17 at 3:50
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    @Daniel, at a minimum, it is no harder for anyone to read if the body is completely comprehensible on its own. I argue that it is likely easier for many readers this way, since all of the information needed to understand the question is in one container, and since independence of body from title is the norm in most media. So, on net, making bodies coherent is a benefit to readers. – Isaac Moses Jan 19 '17 at 4:02
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    Regarding "extra cognitive load": I agree. When I find questions like these, I usually 1) See interesting title 2) click on title 3) forget what I clicked on (sometimes because I open questions in new tabs to read later) 4) skip title 5) read question. If the question body doesn't stand by itself, I will be confused until I return to the title. – Shokhet Jan 29 '17 at 4:41

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