26 votes

Much Ado About Title Case

Tags: meta, titles

I've noticed some people making a point of editing titles on articles to either impose or undo title case on articles. I dug around a bit and haven't been able to find any style guide suggestions on the matter.

Barring some kind of official stylistic standards being laid down, that I'd like to respectfully request that curator roles refrain from overruling a submitter's formatting choices without good reason.

34 comments

  1. [2]
    Deimos
    (edited )
    Link
    I think we just need to formalize the standard somewhere so it's defined. But the standard is sentence case (which should be obvious just by looking at existing topics). Title case is harder to...

    I think we just need to formalize the standard somewhere so it's defined. But the standard is sentence case (which should be obvious just by looking at existing topics).

    Title case is harder to read, especially because it makes no distinction for proper nouns. It's impossible to distinguish things like company/person/location names or titles of movies/books/games/etc. in title case, and they're extremely common in titles.

    31 votes
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      That's cool. My only concern is that changing case on mobile is pretty annoying. A case switch button would be nice (I'd only have to manually change the case for proper names).

      That's cool. My only concern is that changing case on mobile is pretty annoying. A case switch button would be nice (I'd only have to manually change the case for proper names).

      3 votes
  2. [2]
    spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    Tildes allowing title edits at all is one of the biggest "quality of life" type improvements over Reddit. I really like the consistency it allows on the front page. It'd be better if it were...

    Tildes allowing title edits at all is one of the biggest "quality of life" type improvements over Reddit. I really like the consistency it allows on the front page.

    It'd be better if it were automated, but having it manual for now is classic "do things that don't scale" type stuff. Having it automatic but with a poor user experience would be much worse - if you've ever submitted to Hacker News, they apply a ton of headline edits automatically and with no user feedback. Your post just shows up with a different title than you input.

    I think a possible improvement would be a "sitewide topic log" view. By analogy to wikipedia, each article has its own edit history, but there's also the recent changes page which shows edits across the entire wiki (with some filtering options).

    In the absence of a formal "Tildes headline style guide" (which I think would be an excellent thing to have but would require a lot of manual work) having a view like that could be an "80% of the benefit for 20% of the effort" type solution, by showing what the most common topic/title edits are.

    15 votes
    1. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Same with editing links, IMO. I just had to edit a broken link for someone, and many times in the past have done similar as well. Being able to quickly edit in the correct URL rather than force...

      Tildes allowing title edits at all is one of the biggest "quality of life" type improvements over Reddit.

      Same with editing links, IMO. I just had to edit a broken link for someone, and many times in the past have done similar as well. Being able to quickly edit in the correct URL rather than force someone to resubmit, de-AMP the link, or even change the link to a temporary mirror if a site goes down, is incredibly useful. It has the potential to be abused, but that's where the "trust people but punish abusers" philosophy comes in.

      15 votes
  3. petrichor
    (edited )
    Link
    Alternatively, I like it. Even if there isn't a formal stylistic guide laid down, Tildes historically has gone the quiet-title route, and having it be unified one way or another makes the front...

    Alternatively, I like it. Even if there isn't a formal stylistic guide laid down, Tildes historically has gone the quiet-title route, and having it be unified one way or another makes the front page nice and readable.

    If you have strong feelings about title case on a specific post, you could send a message like so. I know @mycketforvirrad tries to read the situation as much as possible, and I'm sure they'd be happy to oblige.

    12 votes
  4. streblo
    Link
    Counterpoint: I don't really care one way or the other re: title case but it's nice and less jarring on the eyes to have it be all in the same style.

    Counterpoint: I don't really care one way or the other re: title case but it's nice and less jarring on the eyes to have it be all in the same style.

    7 votes
  5. Amarok
    Link
    I just use whatever the title from the article itself is using, same case, same words (even if I could easily think of a better, more accurate headline). At some point the goal should be for the...

    I just use whatever the title from the article itself is using, same case, same words (even if I could easily think of a better, more accurate headline). At some point the goal should be for the submitter to not even have to enter all of this information. The submission process could look up the metadata and auto-populate the tags (running them through formatting/synonym filters) so that the submitter only needs to proofread the tags. That would also cut down on the work our taggers are tasked with, as they'd be able to manage the filters doing the tagging and guide them towards something with more uniformity.

    It should be at least partly automated. No automation is ever going to get to 100% but we could cut down the work needed this way.

    7 votes
  6. [16]
    boredop
    Link
    I agree 100%. It's extremely annoying behavior. Same goes for tags on topics. I have long though about bringing that up. The tag police are so pervasive, I have pretty much stopped tagging my...

    I agree 100%. It's extremely annoying behavior. Same goes for tags on topics. I have long though about bringing that up. The tag police are so pervasive, I have pretty much stopped tagging my submissions. There's no reason to waste my time adding tags if some small group of users is going to come along and edit them within minutes to conform to some undocumented unknowable standards.

    6 votes
    1. Deimos
      Link Parent
      As others are telling you, I think you're taking this far too personally. Having a few extra tags added to your topics or the capitalization of the title changed has no meaningful effect on you at...

      As others are telling you, I think you're taking this far too personally. Having a few extra tags added to your topics or the capitalization of the title changed has no meaningful effect on you at all.

      @mycketforvirrad does a lot of (mostly unacknowledged) work in the background to try to keep things consistent, which helps make site functionalities like searching and filtering work better for everyone. We should appreciate that, not attack it.

      I agree that we should document more of it, but it's also something that's very difficult to document well and will always have a major reliance on being done mostly through convention and experience.

      23 votes
    2. [3]
      streblo
      Link Parent
      Having the same people curate tag selections makes them far more useful to search. If everyone tagged what they felt you'd end up with things like 'usa' and 'america' and etc. splitting tagged...

      There's no reason to waste my time adding tags if some small group of users is going to come along and edit them within minutes to conform to some undocumented unknowable standards.

      Having the same people curate tag selections makes them far more useful to search. If everyone tagged what they felt you'd end up with things like 'usa' and 'america' and etc. splitting tagged topics. I do agree that it would be nice to have a list of the 200 or something to make it less opaque for newer users.

      19 votes
      1. [2]
        Kuromantis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Alternatively, we could embrace and add functionality for it.

        If everyone tagged what they felt you'd end up with things like 'usa' and 'america' and etc. splitting tagged topics.

        Alternatively, we could embrace and add functionality for it.

        6 votes
        1. Micycle_the_Bichael
          Link Parent
          I can think of some complicated and some simple ways of doing those. I'm swamped with shit to do right now but I'll try to at least look through some code and see if I can make a better-informed...

          I can think of some complicated and some simple ways of doing those. I'm swamped with shit to do right now but I'll try to at least look through some code and see if I can make a better-informed plan and submit it to the community to see what people think sometime in the next couple of weeks.

          1 vote
    3. [5]
      petrichor
      Link Parent
      This seems unnecessarily aggressive. Tags have to be edited to work - nobody wants to wade through covid, coronavirus, and sars-2 when everything could be neatly grouped under...

      This seems unnecessarily aggressive. Tags have to be edited to work - nobody wants to wade through covid, coronavirus, and sars-2 when everything could be neatly grouped under coronaviruses.covid19.

      Taking ~30 seconds to tag your posts is a common courtesy. If you're unhappy a tag got removed, why not just contact @mycketforvirrad?

      some undocumented unknowable standards

      No, Tildes' standards are perfectly knowable, just look around you!

      13 votes
      1. [4]
        Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        I mean.... I would disagree with this. I've been a fairly-to-very active user of the site for a little over 2 years and I still struggle to know what the tagging best practices are. And I read all...

        No, Tildes' standards are perfectly knowable, just look around you!

        I mean.... I would disagree with this. I've been a fairly-to-very active user of the site for a little over 2 years and I still struggle to know what the tagging best practices are. And I read all the docs! The only reason I could link to docs last touched in 2019 is because the original author of the docs talked about them in discord the other day and I happened to see it and remember. Other than that your best bet is to just exist and hope you learn through osmosis or you read a thread about tags because if you try and search tag or tagging or tags in the search feature you're not going to get very helpful results.

        I'd argue the Tildes standards are the least defined part of the site and that's a part of the reason we constantly have meta-discussions about the site.

        Also, how is a new user to know that mycketforvirrad is the sole editor of tags? What docs would I read that show me that info? Because I've searched the docs now and I can't find that anywhere that isn't a comment in a thread which isn't intuitive or consistent for setting standards.

        8 votes
        1. pseudolobster
          Link Parent
          They aren't. They're just the most enthusiastic about doing it. I can edit tags, titles, and move posts between groups. I just rarely do so unless I see an obvious typo or someone requests moving...

          Also, how is a new user to know that mycketforvirrad is the sole editor of tags?

          They aren't. They're just the most enthusiastic about doing it. I can edit tags, titles, and move posts between groups. I just rarely do so unless I see an obvious typo or someone requests moving a topic. I can rarely get to a post before mycketforvirrad tags it though, so I pretty much defer to their judgment.

          Anyone can request these permissions. The eventual goal is to have these powers granted semi-automatically, but the mechanics of that are still up in the air.

          It's not easy to find but this is actually mentioned in the docs. At the bottom of the Instructions - Posting wiki page there's a link to this thread where those permissions are explained.

          As for actual style guides and editing standards, there aren't any. It's really up to the person doing the editing and tagging to use their best judgment. Tags have more guidelines than titles, and the docs do explain that to some degree. It's worth noting that the docs say this about tags: "If you don't enter tags on your topic, someone else will probably come along and add some for you!"

          8 votes
        2. [2]
          petrichor
          Link Parent
          Hmm, maybe it's just a me thing, but I usually read tags alongside the title. Osmosis along with the tag autocomplete when making new posts usually means that my posts end up using existing tags....

          Hmm, maybe it's just a me thing, but I usually read tags alongside the title. Osmosis along with the tag autocomplete when making new posts usually means that my posts end up using existing tags.

          The Topic Log at the side of any post shows changes made to the post's title or tags and the user who changed them. It definitely could be introduced better to new users.

          5 votes
          1. Micycle_the_Bichael
            Link Parent
            As with many things, I expect my brain is 0, your brain is 10, and the correct answer is somewhere in the middle. Edit: NOTE: This is just supposed to be an arbitrary scale to indicate we think...

            As with many things, I expect my brain is 0, your brain is 10, and the correct answer is somewhere in the middle. Edit: NOTE: This is just supposed to be an arbitrary scale to indicate we think and learn differently, I am not trying to make any implications with who is 0 and who is 10 or using numbers.

            I have pretty bad inattentive adhd, and I miss and overlook details all the time. It is a running joke that dishes can't be left more than 4 feet from the sink because if they aren't in my immediate eye line I will forget they exist and not wash them. Similar things happen to me on websites a lot where I will notice the things that are directly important (Article title, article contents, comments) and completely miss anything else. I have opened Tildes ~20 times today and been in this thread and still can't remember what's on the right-hand side of the topic page if I don't scroll up to see it.

            Additionally, I think your way of learning how to use tags is perfectly valid! If it works for you, then no one can say it doesn't work and doesn't have merit. That said, based on how I described my brain working, that would never work for me (and historically hasn't). And I think for new users, the amount of <things> you're trying to absorb at once can get overwhelming, so I think relying on UI and osmosis wouldn't quite be where I'd want the final state to be.

            Like I said initially, I think the answer is in the middle. There should be docs that you can read so you can get a feel for best practices for people who prefer to learn via docs, autocomplete of tags to normalized names should benefit all users but especially anyone who prefers to learn by experience, and I would suggest that we could send an automated PM with what tags got replaced, what they got changed to, and a link to the relevant area of the previously mentioned documentation to help understand why the change occurred.

            3 votes
    4. psi
      Link Parent
      On the other hand, I'm quite thankful for those folk! I forget to tag my submissions half the time anyway, so I appreciate that someone else takes the time to fix my posts.

      Same goes for tags on topics. [...] The tag police are so pervasive[.]

      On the other hand, I'm quite thankful for those folk! I forget to tag my submissions half the time anyway, so I appreciate that someone else takes the time to fix my posts.

      11 votes
    5. Kuromantis
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Given the only person who seems to do this regularly is @mycketforvirrad, calling it a 'police' is IMO hyperbolic. I think it's more mycket doing whatever he thinks makes sense, as opposed to...

      There's no reason to waste my time adding tags if some small group of users is going to come along and edit them within minutes to conform to some undocumented unknowable standards.

      Given the only person who seems to do this regularly is @mycketforvirrad, calling it a 'police' is IMO hyperbolic. I think it's more mycket doing whatever he thinks makes sense, as opposed to conforming to some standard. In some ways this is even worse, given whatever his opinion is basically becomes the tagging standard, but it's not an organized effort to enforce some rule and screw you over.

      6 votes
    6. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      I'm fine with tags being modified (to fix typos) or added since that's more of a sorting and filtering thing and I can't be arsed to keep up with all the conventions. (Completely removing tags...

      I'm fine with tags being modified (to fix typos) or added since that's more of a sorting and filtering thing and I can't be arsed to keep up with all the conventions. (Completely removing tags would be annoying though).

      5 votes
    7. Micycle_the_Bichael
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      To be fair there are some older docs that attempt to give guidance but at the end of the day there is never going to be a system that gives the flexibility of users tagging their own posts and an...

      To be fair there are some older docs that attempt to give guidance but at the end of the day there is never going to be a system that gives the flexibility of users tagging their own posts and an effective filtering system. Either someone/something needs to normalize tags so filtering is effective, or there would need to be a list of "accepted" tags and users make requests to add new ones.

      All that said, I don't fully disagree. I stopped tagging posts I submit outside of content/trigger warnings. It felt like more work than it was worth, but I admittedly don't use tags for anything.

      I've thought about trying to build a system that would allow human and ML tag curation but building a system like that was a bitch and a half for my old company and I'm 3 years removed from ML at this point that I don't know that I could build it again. And that's just my capabilities, which doesn't cover if it would help Tildes, tag curators would want such a system, and kind of goes counter to the core Tildes mantra so probably not going to happen.

      3 votes
    8. [2]
      Pistos
      Link Parent
      So I've skimmed the 6 or 7 replies to your message, and I'll admit that valid points are made therein. However, I would agree with one of your sentiments: If there are people so diligent as to...

      So I've skimmed the 6 or 7 replies to your message, and I'll admit that valid points are made therein. However, I would agree with one of your sentiments:

      If there are people so diligent as to review every post for correctness of tags, it seems to me like a logical next step not to have a tags field at all in the post submission form. Just let the team of tag moderators set the "correct" tags after submission. It seems like it would be a kindness extended to post submitters not to ask them to spend time and energy thinking about the most appropriate tags.

      I might join you in not putting any tags at all on my posts.

      2 votes
      1. hungariantoast
        Link Parent
        It's already mentioned in the documentation that adding tags is not required, and that someone will probably handle that for you if you don't want to mess with it. Maybe that info should be more...

        It's already mentioned in the documentation that adding tags is not required, and that someone will probably handle that for you if you don't want to mess with it. Maybe that info should be more prominently displayed on the "new topic" page when posting something?

        There's no need to remove the ability to initially add tags (I'd find that somewhat annoying, because then I'd have to post something then add tags, rather than just do it all on one page at the same time). We probably just need to better explain to posters that tagging and participating in the folksonomy isn't necessary.

        (There's also a bunch of stuff that could be done to make participating easier and better, but that's another discussion.)

        7 votes
  7. dubteedub
    (edited )
    Link
    Yeah, I prefer the usual headline capitalization of titles and typically submit them like that as its how most sites display them. It can be a bit jarring seeing an article you submitted having...

    Yeah, I prefer the usual headline capitalization of titles and typically submit them like that as its how most sites display them. It can be a bit jarring seeing an article you submitted having the title's capitalization changed. I assumed there was some previous post on this topic where everyone had agreed to a sentence case structure and I had just missed the memo.

    That being said, it is not a big issue for me and judging from this thread it sounds like a lot of folks find the sentence case structure to be more accessible and having consistency is probably a good idea.

    6 votes
  8. [8]
    acdw
    Link
    Personally, I really dislike Title Case for many of the reasons outlined in this thread -- harder to read, harder to type, makes Me Read Things Weird In My Head (am I the only one who does this?),...

    Personally, I really dislike Title Case for many of the reasons outlined in this thread -- harder to read, harder to type, makes Me Read Things Weird In My Head (am I the only one who does this?), etc. I really wish it weren't a convention in English.

    That being said, I think on a link-sharing site it makes sense to copy the source title as closely as possible. So I'd recommend a bot doing that, if anything.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      Grzmot
      Link Parent
      I do it too, it's like pronounce every word with way more effort, right?

      am I the only one who does this?

      I do it too, it's like pronounce every word with way more effort, right?

      4 votes
      1. acdw
        Link Parent
        Yep! Like it's a Special Word that means Special Things.

        Yep! Like it's a Special Word that means Special Things.

        3 votes
      2. Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        That's what it does for me. It is like the capitalization forces my brain to put a period in-between words where they don't exist. So a sentence like "Why hello there, friend." becomes "Why....

        That's what it does for me. It is like the capitalization forces my brain to put a period in-between words where they don't exist. So a sentence like "Why hello there, friend." becomes "Why. Hello. There. Friend."

        3 votes
    2. [4]
      dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      While noting I'm Totally Down With Sentence Case, there are some good titlecase converters ("titlecase <string>" at DuckDuckGo, e.g.), and I've written my own (the special cases and acronyms...

      While noting I'm Totally Down With Sentence Case, there are some good titlecase converters ("titlecase <string>" at DuckDuckGo, e.g.), and I've written my own (the special cases and acronyms (initialisms for the pedants) are surprisingly numerous). Not perfect. But pretty damned good.

      3 votes
      1. petrichor
        Link Parent
        Offtopic, but whatever happened to DuckDuckGo's whole keyword functionality stack? I have recollections of it being open source at some point, but it doesn't appear to be active any more? It's a...

        Offtopic, but whatever happened to DuckDuckGo's whole keyword functionality stack? I have recollections of it being open source at some point, but it doesn't appear to be active any more? It's a shame, too, because such a useful feature of Google (and mostly what I still use them for) is their keyword-based responsive answers
        (ex. searching "covid" pops up statistics and case maps).

        3 votes
      2. [2]
        acdw
        Link Parent
        I was about to say, but Sentence Case (ha) is easier to program for --- but the special cases would still be there. You wouldn't want to de-capitalize Paris, e.g., or A.K.A.

        I was about to say, but Sentence Case (ha) is easier to program for --- but the special cases would still be there. You wouldn't want to de-capitalize Paris, e.g., or A.K.A.

        3 votes
        1. dredmorbius
          Link Parent
          I actually hadn't thought of that, but yes, you're precisely right. There are also the ambiguous cases --- is it "Polish" or "polish", or "UPS" or "ups"? That's where something with context...

          I actually hadn't thought of that, but yes, you're precisely right.

          There are also the ambiguous cases --- is it "Polish" or "polish", or "UPS" or "ups"?

          That's where something with context awareness might do better.

          1 vote
  9. mrbig
    Link
    I don't care if the title case is changed, but it seems like a lot of work and I wonder if that is worth the effort. I also add a lot less tags overall because I already expect them to be changed...

    I don't care if the title case is changed, but it seems like a lot of work and I wonder if that is worth the effort.

    I also add a lot less tags overall because I already expect them to be changed and expanded. I don't know if that is a good thing or not. I'm averse to using a lot of tags. I also have difficulty thinking of tags to use so maybe that's a good thing. IDK.

    4 votes
  10. ImmobileVoyager
    Link
    Here is one, which, I think, would fare well with Tildes' intentions, crew and crowd : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Article_titles If I may utter a more personal feeling...

    style guide suggestions

    Here is one, which, I think, would fare well with Tildes' intentions, crew and crowd :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Article_titles

    If I may utter a more personal feeling :

    I Do Hate Title Case

    and don't even get me started on CamelCase

    2 votes