Recently i asked the following question Davening Maariv at Shekiya / or after Plag HaMincha and one of the users said my title was misleading. How close in scope is the title supposed to be to the question? Why bother with a title at all if the title is supposed to match the question to the "T"?

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2 Answers 2

In my opinion the title of a question should be like the title of any non-fiction book, manual, or essay: enough to make you understand what the body of the question is about without duplicating it. E.g.:

(OTOH, "On Liberty" is IMO too vague as a question title here.)

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If it were a question here, I'd edit "A Modest Proposal"'s title down to something like "How can we convert poor Irish children from a burden to a benefit?" –  Isaac Moses Jul 21 '11 at 15:39
    
@IsaacMoses, I agree, but only because of length, not because anything else is wrong with it. –  msh210 Jul 21 '11 at 21:34
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Length is an important quality in a title! –  Isaac Moses Jul 21 '11 at 21:41
    
@IsaacMoses, I agree, but it doesn't seem to be what the asker of this meta question was asking about. –  msh210 Jul 21 '11 at 22:00
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I suppose I was misled by the title into thinking it was a broader question than it is. ;^D –  Isaac Moses Jul 21 '11 at 22:02
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Seriously, though, length is part of the answer to his final point. If the title and question are identical, then the former is probably too long and/or the latter is probably lacking detail or background. –  Isaac Moses Jul 21 '11 at 22:04
    
@IsaacMoses: True. I've emended my answer. –  msh210 Jul 22 '11 at 4:01

Titles perform three important functions that I can think of:

  1. Allow someone scanning a list of questions to determine which they might be interested in reading more of.

  2. Provide for the question the benefit of BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front), helping the reader have the main point in mind when reading the entire question.

  3. Make it more likely that someone googling for the topic at hand will find this question. The title is taken into account by Google's algorithms much more than the body, so it's helpful to put keywords that characterize the question into the title.

I endorse points 1, 2, and 3 of this advice on the mothership meta: Make the topic stand out, keep it short, and lead with the most important words (though I agree with Jeff that it's silly to lead with "Topic:").

If a question is at all complex, I recommend writing the question body first, then looking it over to pull out the main point to put in the title.

IMO, your title wasn't that bad in this case, and I wouldn't call it "misleading," though I agree with the commenter that if the real point of your question is about Shema, it would probably make sense to put it in the title. If I were writing the title, I'd probably make it something like "Repeating Kriyas Shema after early Maariv."

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