How do I compose an effective node title?

Before you click submit, ask yourself: Does this post have a good title?

When composing node titles, remember their important role in site searching. In particular, keep in mind that the PerlMonks search engine is far more reliant on keywords, and less on context, than a human is when scanning titles. Therefore, titles need not only to be meaningful to humans, but also to have high information value for a keyword search. (Not that you should be appending a list of keywords to your titles, of course!) For example, a human can map "apache" to "webserver" far more efficiently than a search engine can.

Ever since the beginning of the epoch, poorly composed node titles (or email subject lines, or Usenet subject lines) have been a persistent problem on the Internet. Poor titles inhibit readers from finding the posts that interest them, and from filtering out those posts that are not of interest. If you want your post to be read by people who care what's written (and don't we all?) choose an effective node title.

A node title should concisely convey the subject of the node. If the node is a question asking how to sort in reverse-numeric order, the title ought to make that clear. If the node is a meditation on the merits and pitfalls of using map in void context, the title should make that clear as well. And if the node is about betting on basketball games, its title should go a step further by prefixing the title with "OT: "... the abbreviation that many here in the monastery expect to see for Off-Topic posts.

Node titles should be crafted with care and thoughtfulness. A reader should be able to read the node title and already formulate an accurate opinion as to the node's content.

The following is an example list of bad node titles, along with a description as to what is bad about them. They're not intended to pick on anyone. But read them with a smirk, because I'm sure you've all seen them before and thought, "Argh!":

Why is it important to compose accurate, concise, and descriptive titles?

There are several reasons, including (but not limited to) the following:

As a general rule, refrain from changing the title of a reply node unless you're actually changing the subject.

... and in such cases, posting a new root node is generally preferable. (But of course, link back to the original thread if it is relevant.)

If, after careful consideration, you decide that a mid-thread title change is appropriate, please at least retain part of the original title, including the "Re^$x:" part.

A complete title change may seem reasonable when viewed in the context of the thread, but there are too many other places where titles are displayed outside the thread context (especially Newest Nodes and several types of search results) where complete title changes are just annoying. Straining the patience of your fellow monks with such antics is likely to garner you some down-votes.

Also read this related discussion, and this explanation by tye.


For additional reading, please see How do I post a question effectively?.


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