We are getting a slew of question titles that aren't actual questions, they're more of a topic sentence.

I counted 13 on the main page right now. A few are normal, but we have too many.

SE is a Question and Answer site.

Please present your questions as actual questions..

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    Remember at this point and even out side of beta, feel free to edit and make the change yourself. I would rather all titles be questions or as much as possible before we leave private beta.
    – Justin808
    Oct 10 '12 at 15:43
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    On the sites I come from, if the title sums up the question, it is good-- regardless of whether it is in question form. This is mainly for conciseness and brevity. Oct 10 '12 at 18:03
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    @Luke Perhaps I'm different. When I see a non-question title I immediately think "Its probably low quality"
    – user47
    Oct 10 '12 at 22:34

If you go to Stack Overflow which is made up of the most experienced SE people and look at the front page, you'll see that the majority of the question titles are not expressed as questions. This includes the questions from experienced users (e.g. rep over 3,000).

I think you'll find similar results on almost every Stack Exchange site.

Although many people believe you should always phrase the title as a question, there are others who argue you do not have to. The latter want shorter and sweeter without excess words like "How do I", "What is the", that don't add anything. Even the addition of a question mark at the end (whether a question or not) is not usually done.

See the question at Meta Stack Overflow: Would the Stack Exchange network be better if titles contained complete, grammatical questions?

That was posted by Joel Spolsky, the supreme ruler of Stack Exchange. He accepted an answer that said yes you should. But the answer with the most upvotes was one that said no, you shouldn't have to. And that answer saying no was by the other supreme ruler of Stack Exchange, Jeff Atwood. So even the two supreme rulers cannot agree.

The style of the title has never bothered me. My own questions on Stack Overflow are an eclectic mix of styles, as they are here on Genealogy and Family History. I don't think we need to be too rigid on this.

And unless I made an error in my title, I would personally get rather p-ssed off if someone edited my title to change its style. I feel that should be up to me.

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    I'd say a good rule of thumb is to make sure the title entices people to click on it. In my experience, titles that aren't questions tend to be pretty poor, but that's just because they tend to be things like "Need advice on search" or "Looking for help finding ancestor". However, a title can still be descriptive without being a question, so I think a good approach is, as you say (1) don't be rigid, but also (2) don't be afraid to improve a title if you see a way to make it more attractive. ;)
    – jmort253
    Dec 2 '12 at 6:21
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    @jmort253 - I would edit the title if it is a bad title. But I would not change its style. If it was asked as a question, I'd leave it a question. If it was a statement, I'd leave it a statement. I would honor the question mark and not delete it or add it if it were not there.
    – lkessler
    Dec 2 '12 at 18:40

The best way to educate people on how to write good titles is to lead by example. Every user has the ability to post a suggested edit, and once we all gain enough reputation, we'll be able to edit any question and answer on the site.

If you see a way to fix a post, go ahead and fix it. It will eliminate a lot of back and forth discussion, and also get you closer to several of the badges geared specifically towards editing.

Lastly, the same applies to other issues with a post. If you see a way to fix a problem, go ahead and fix it. Editing is perhaps one of the most important moderating tools on a Stack Exchange site and has helped turn poor posts into good ones and good posts into outstanding ones.

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    Okay. I edited my last question a few minutes ago.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 11 '12 at 3:49

I would like to propose a couple of criteria for writing good titles for our questions.

Does the title contain phrases that people might look for in a Google Search?

One of the criteria we use during site self-evaluation is whether or not our answers come up as hits in search on Google. Let's consider how the question title might look when it comes up as a Google Search result. My feeling is that a lot of the titles are too wordy and try to cram too much information into the title. I may be one of the worst offenders, so if you can think of a snappier title for any of my questions, please, let's tighten them up. This leads to my second rule of thumb, which is

How will the question appear when it is shared?

I have been making an effort over the past few weeks to be more active on Google+ and Twitter. I don't blog, but I do answer things, and sometimes write self-answered questions as a history of my research progress. So I might share these in the same way that others share new blog posts. If someone else writes an interesting question that I feel may attract others to the site, like the Titanic family legend question that came up recently, or someone writes a particularly good answer that will help a lot of people, I want to be able to tweet that out. There are also site-generated newsletters, posts from the site's Twitter account, and so on.

So let's take a moment to step back from the idea of "are we following the rules" evaluation where we discuss taking out the phrase 'how to' and other 'is it in the form of a question' evaluations and think about whether the title 1) addresses the point and 2) is coherent, interesting, and attractive.

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