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There was a question a few years ago on Meta about the correct title for a translation question. Although there was some legitimate disagreement about what makes a "correct" title, it was clear that a certain kind of title wasn't helpful, along the lines of, "Help with translating a phrase."

However, a sizable amount of questions asked on this site have just that kind of title, e.g.:

Others offer a little more context:

I find the first group of titles (and, to a lesser degree, the second) wanting because they really don't give any indication about what I'm going to see if I click on the question: in fact, I've often checked the same question multiple times, because the title was so generic. This is not to say that the questions themselves aren't good: often, really important and helpful lessons, broadly applicable to other scenarios, emerge from a certain kind of sentence.

My question: Should we make it a practice to edit these question titles so that they give some indication of what is being translated?

This could be anything from the literal phrase (e.g. Translation of "May Change Nourish Me") to a text reference (Translation of de Natura Deorum, 53) or some broad description of what's being translated (Translating a saying about love into Latin).

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I agree with Joonas that such titles should be made more specific. This is also common practice on other language sites, at least on English (though it isn't always applied). A title should be descriptive: it should tell you what the question is about, the subject matter.

I do feel, however, that it is extra nice to also have the type of the question in the title as well. It is true that tags could tell you the type; but somehow I tend to forget that tags exist, my eyes block them out. Or perhaps it is that I only look for a certain font when browsing a list. So I don't mind having double information, in title and tags. Something like "Ex aequo" in English or "Incest between brothers" in Greek sounds good to me.

In any case, anything that makes the title more specific is a definite improvement to me. So, if you see such a generic title, do edit it. The new title doesn't have to be perfect.

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  • I didn't mean that one never should repeat information in the title and the tags, but I realize my wording suggested that. I edited my answer to add the main point that not everything needs to be in the title. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 18 at 11:13
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    @JoonasIlmavirta♦: Hah, I think our answers are converging! Yours has nice examples. – Cerberus Jul 18 at 13:29
  • I'm late to the party, but one more reason to be appropriately descriptive is because it's better for search engines. We don't want hundreds of posts with titles that are just some variation of "help translating into latin" or something like that. The best titles for broad SEO benefits are phrased as questions, e.g. "How do I translate 'I love my dog' into Latin?". Considering how many questions we get of this nature, that'll really help increase how much traffic we get from Google. – Adam 2 days ago
  • . @Adam: Agreed. – Cerberus 2 days ago
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Yes, we should make it a practice to edit all titles that inadequately describe the question. The problem is indeed most prominent in translation questions. I encourage anyone to go ahead and edit those titles. (Please don't edit ten posts a day as it bumps them all to the top of the front page, but on the other hand a temporary flood is not a huge price for improved titles across the site.)

The obvious problem we face — and many of the original posters faced — is that of choosing a descriptive title. The word "translation" can be entirely omitted as it would be indicated by tags anyway, and words like "request" and "help" convey no information. (In fact, searching for such words is a way to find titles to edit.) Perhaps a titling guide of some kind would be useful to compose.

If no other solution presents itself when looking for a title, I would suggest these starting points:

  • If there is a suggested translation and the OP has a focused concern on some structure, bring that structure to the title, as in "Why the accusative in the opening of De bello Gallico?"
  • If the translation concerns a passage from a classical Latin text, one could simply title the question as "De bello Gallico 1.2.2–4" and tag with relevant translation tags.
  • If the text is not as clearly part of a Latin corpus, at least the title of the work or the name of the author should appear, like "A passage of Moby Dick in Latin".
  • If the problem is to translate a short motto or phrase into Latin, the motto itself should be in the title, abridged if necessary. E.g. "Oh no!" in Latin.
  • Overall, keep it short and to the point, and feel free to leave details to be given through tags. (I don't mean to forbid giving the information twice. I just wanted to remind that not everything needs to be in the title.)
  • A title has several uses, describing the content and differentiating between questions among them. Many of my suggestions have to do with differentiation, which is indeed a problem brought up in the question here. Also, giving some details in the title and not making it essentially "Please help!" gives the impression of effort which helps reception.

Please go and edit anything that needs an edit! As long as it's a step forward, whether small or big, it's useful and appreciated.

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In cases of sentence or phrases they should clearly be in the title, but other case where the text is longer this might pose an issue.

Several days ago I asked a question whose title was "Translation of a passage". I can't say I was content with this title - not at all. Yet, I expect title to contain relevant information for the heart of the question. In my case it made no difference for the question whence the passage was taken. I would be happy if I could point out more specifically a phrase in passage that was impairing my understating, but in that case I couldn't do that (so maybe that was a bad question that should be split or avoided altogether.)

To illustrate the point, naively and theoretically when one sees a "de Natura Deorum" in the title, he might expect it has something to do specifically with this work. But I agree that in practice adding this to title might be a good idea.

With respect to the issue of question-recognition, I think that, at least in theory, using the "questions" tab (rather than the "home" tab) - which allows reading several lines from the question body- should be sufficient for question recognition, and to let the user a direction as to what to expect (such as the work name)

To summarize: in my opinion adding the work name or a general description for the sake of question recognition should be used as last resort (if should be done at all), when there is no way to convey the crux of the OP's issue (i.e specific phrase inside a passage, irreconcilable grammar issue) in the title.

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    In your example question, couldn't the title be expanded to "Translation of a passage by Johann Gottlieb Heineccius" or something of the sort? That seems to be covered by Joonas's third bullet point. – brianpck Jul 17 at 22:30
  • @brianpck, yes I it could be expanded. its probably better than nothing. – d_e Jul 17 at 22:34
  • I agree with @brianpck. While the author and the origin of the text may have little to do with the actual question, they help differentiate between different questions. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 18 at 11:16

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