This is rare to see in Meta, but in Ask Ubuntu itself -- I'm sure I am definitely not the only one who's fed up with seeing short summaries in the question box. If you're asking a question, at least ask it!

If you are not too sure what I'm on about, here are a few pictures:

first lot

Not one of these is a real question!

Taking 4 example questions -- they can be easily changed into real questions.

'Wubi installer error http error 404' becomes:
How can I resolve HTML 404 error? (and including wubi.exe in the description)

'less/pager does not work' becomes:
Why does my pager not work? (and adding more details, perhaps)

'libvpx not getting installed in ubuntu 12.04' becomes:
How can I install the libvpx package successfully?

'Damaged external NTFS hard disk' becomes:
How can I repair a damaged NTFS hard disk? (with more details, possibly).

It also mentioned in Jorge Castro's video tutorial on making a high-quality question, but honestly - I wonder how many new users have even heard of Jorge? Or let alone the FAQ?

I'm probably not in the position to point out any other solutions other than editing frequently and constantly reminding people to make the title into a question, but shouldn't it be more explicit when writing a question, or explicitly noted in the FAQ?

I thought I would open it for discussion anyway. I'd like to hear some suggestions and opinions nevertheless.

  • 10
    +1, this is starting to become a problem. And side note: 99% of meta is more "X is broken, please fix" than "X is broken, fix please?"
    – jrg
    Dec 27, 2012 at 11:55
  • I fixed those questions of mine that weren't framed as questions. But what about questions of others if only a trivial edit is involved? Aren't we expressly asked or told to desist from such edits?
    – user25656
    Dec 27, 2012 at 17:36
  • 4
    @vasa1 I'm not a moderator, but it seems to me that if reviewers are rejecting edits that fix a poorly written non-question title so it's a well-written question title, then there should be a meta question specifically about that. Even if an edit just changes the title, I think it's not "too minor" if the effect of that change is more than minor. However, one should of course also look at the body of questions when editing them, and see if there are any improvements that can be made there at the same time. Dec 27, 2012 at 18:40
  • 1
    I agree, @EliahKagan. It seems like a whole lot of work though - doesn't it? Even if we did correct past questions to a moderate level - what is to stop future askers from continuing this cycle? I certainly don't want to edit each and every question when someone can be doing it themselves.
    – Mochan
    Dec 27, 2012 at 23:36
  • @Eliah Kagan, Sorry I wasn't clear. It's not that my edits were rejected. I'm referring to the pop-up that appears for those of us with lower rep: this pop-up reminds us not to make trivial edits.
    – user25656
    Dec 28, 2012 at 2:21
  • 1
    See Fast Installation Option for Windows which is otherwise a decent question. With my rep, if I edit the question to read "Is there a fast or minimal installation option for Wubi?", I'll see this: "We welcome all constructive edits, but please make them substantial. Avoid trivial, tiny one-letter edits unless absolutely necessary." So, just for guidance in future cases, could someone tell me if the change I suggest will be acceptable? Or, is the only test whether the edit is ultimately accepted?
    – user25656
    Dec 28, 2012 at 5:41
  • 3
    @vasa1, I think changing the title is a substantial edit and would not be rejected. However, if the body of the post can be improved in any sense - that should be done too. Edit the title, and body also if acceptable.
    – Mochan
    Dec 28, 2012 at 5:50
  • 5
    Yeech. No, question titles do not have to be questions. Jan 1, 2013 at 15:13
  • 3
    I beg to disagree. With all due respect, I personally believe that a question and answer site, questions should be asked. The description is there to explain the question in more detail. Instead of asking the question in the description, I find it more fitting to describe the problem - because that is what a description does. Does it not? (I have already posted this comment to you, however I feel that in case someone thinks the same thing, I will not have to repeat my opinion ^-^)
    – Mochan
    Jan 2, 2013 at 12:13
  • Auser has a problem - so long as the problem is accurately portrayed there is no need for syntactical pedantry.
    – user6658
    Jan 3, 2013 at 2:19
  • I feel that it is not pedantic to make the site more orderly and clear. I have nothing else to argue since I have already portrayed my opinion above. Read it if you have complaints.
    – Mochan
    Jan 3, 2013 at 7:56
  • 1
    The issue isn't about clarity, it's about ensuring a so-called 'proper' formatting of titles. Many of those titles in the screenshot could benefit with better clarity but say what the problem is. Your proposal to fix the first, second, and third items makes the title LESS informative. But if you want to spend your life rewording posts such that they have that question mark at the end, then have at you.
    – user6658
    Jan 3, 2013 at 16:26
  • I'm not calling upon you to help clean this, but if you read all but one of the answers, I think you'll find many people - especially people with a big influence on the community, and know what they're talking about - agree with me. It's up to you if you wish to help or not.
    – Mochan
    Jan 4, 2013 at 0:31
  • 1
    I whole-heartedly agree with your point and have edited a lot of titles since this Meta Post. But this question on Meta.SE seems to be against it - How do I write a good title? Just for reference.
    – Aditya
    Feb 21, 2013 at 20:41

5 Answers 5


This is what you, and the rest of the community are for. We are all human robots who donate time to clean up the site. That's why anyone can edit, why editing is encouraged, and why low rep users will gain reputation for editing. It's an important part of the site and we expect users, as they become more invested in the site, to take up arms to edit, flag, and vote on questions and answers. We can't do much more than we already do for new users (they're given many popups and warnings prior to even posting a question or answer), if they choose to ignore it, as they often do, it's up to us as regular users to pick up their slack, edit, comment, and inform them of the ways of the site.


Agreed. Question titles should be actual questions, ending with a question mark.

The reason why we have so many bad question titles is because we have many new users and short-term users who aren't aware of the style guide.

To be honest, I'm not too bothered about this: I can tell immediately if the question is by a new user and has not been edited just by looking at the title. This is quite a useful function for me. Questions shouldn't stay like that forever though: they should either be edited, or closed/deleted.

The more important problem with most question titles is actually ambiguity, like in this example: "less/pager does not work". Let's edit question titles to improve both style and content.


Congratulations! Welcome to the world of "local-repository"!

Start submitting some edits to fix em up!

I try to do at least 25 a day; but don't think of it as janitorial work. I've come to learn that my Ubuntu skills really sharpen up just by editing and being exposed to the huge amount of experts on the site.

The bummer is if a title is horrible the body of the question is also likely to be horrible. And while it might feel bad/mean to downvote a question that a person has put no effort into, at least you can help out the next contributor by ensuring they don't waste their time. :) Some questions just can't be fixed by anyone but the person who is asking it. Also remember we're here to cultivate the collective knowledge of the community, so I routinely will butcher an old question to make it useful for the next person.

As far as mentioning it in the FAQ, all new users are forced to read this page before asking their questions, so what you're seeing are people who already decided to skip/ignore that and post a terrible question. There's not much we can do about that, which is why voting is so crucial, bury the junk and let the cream rise to the top!

  • 3
    I agree that something needs to be done - and after all, none of us have to edit anything, but for those of us who choose to do as such - well, we don't have much choice since we opted in for the job! With your argument about new users being forced to read this page - I just read over it then, and I do not see anything clearly stating to write a question, like a question. Under be specific, it says simply: If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. But if you give us details and context, we can provide a useful answer.. :\
    – Mochan
    Dec 27, 2012 at 23:43
  • 1
    I don't think the kind of person that asks a poor question will pay attention to that. Jan 7, 2013 at 21:51

Since posting my previous answer, I've come to the conclusion that it's not merely a matter of style. Question titles should be actual questions for a more important reason: it encourages users to keep only one question per post.

I've seen many question posts that simply bunch all the problems and the questions the user is experiencing into one post. Dealing with these questions is difficult, so we should encourage users gently to separate unrelated questions. If they see a site full of questions titled with actual questions, they are more likely to grasp this intuitively.


The reason is that the field on the form says 'title'. At least, that is what fooled me when I named my question 'forward sudo verification', even though I knew back then that we want questions as topic titles. I just edited it after being reminded by seeing this topic.

Maybe this can be changed?

  • 2
    That's an excellent point but the text in the title box says 'what's your ubuntu question? be specific' before you type anything. If you think it should be made more prominent you can ask for that feature as a new question here on meta (I'd be inclined to agree with that, too). Jan 2, 2013 at 17:23

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