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It has been pretty clear on other sites that eye-catching pixels, like emojis and arbitrary fonts, shouldn't be placed in a post title, and if they were encountered in the title of a post, they should be edited out. However, I'm not sure how strictly that rule applies to Puzzling Stack Exchange, if at all, as one could argue "That was part of the puzzle!".

My opinion is that they do not belong in post titles even on PSE, because if they were to be allowed, users might start adding emojis or fancy fonts to their titles just for a higher view count. Now, I encountered this recent post that has a pool ball emoji with the number 8 in its title: Rack 'Em Up! 🎱

I attempted to edit the emoji out of the title, but then got hit with

Title must be at least 15 characters.

Should I just leave the title as it is, or find some replacement character for the emoji?

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To focus specifically on emojis rather than fonts, while using them in a title purely as illustration might appear spammy in most cases, I think there is one situation where this actually adds value...

Permit relevant use of emojis in the title when the tag is required for the puzzle

Here's an example of what I would consider a decent emoji puzzle:
🍩🔔🔥Scrambled emoji tale⚛️🎶🛒 #2️⃣

In this instance the puzzle involves interpreting the emojis within the question body to identify something from popular culture (I won't spoil it for you here). While the title could have been written without any emojis at all, picking out a few key ones here and inserting them in the title as an extra hint to the solution is a great twist on the very common (and widely praised) device of hiding a hint in a puzzle's title.

On PSE we usually applaud a clever clue concealed in the title when done with words, and the use of good visuals in a puzzle is also something which is rewarded with many upvotes - it's clearly something the PSE community values. Combining these two, if there existed a way to include visual clues in a title it follows that this might also be considered a clever piece of puzzle-play by the creator. For this reason, I do not think we should blanket-ban the use of emojis in a title.

HOWEVER... I think that the reason the emoji usage in this particular puzzle's title come across as very clever is that this is an tagged puzzle. The use of emojis in this title is entirely in keeping with the theme. If emojis had been used, say, in the title of an puzzle with absolutely no relationship to emojis, I would consider that spam or clickbait-type behaviour. Likewise, if an emoji puzzle just included a random or irrelevant selection of emojis in the title 'for the sake of it', what does this actually add to the puzzle experience? The tag is already there; we don't need another reminder!

So I think there's a contextual element at play. In my opinion a good rule of thumb would be:

  • For an puzzle, relevant use should be allowed.
  • For other puzzle types, emoji use in titles should be discouraged.

In all cases, I think it would be best (and polite) to engage with the user who has used emojis in their title to discuss these points before simply editing them out - at least for the first time they do it. In my experience, explaining an edit action which isn't just an obvious retag or spelling/grammar correction usually generates better feeling than going ahead and doing it without any conversation.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very good point +1. I agree that [emoji] tagged posts shouldn't just include a random or irrelevant selection of emojis in the title 'for the sake of it'. But if that were to happen, users will only know to edit them out after the answer to the puzzle is revealed. If this were the consensus, does that mean that every [emoji] tagged puzzle can get away with having emojis in its title (before an answer is accepted), relevant or not? $\endgroup$ – risky mysteries Jan 6 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ @riskymysteries This is where my last paragraph really comes into play... People will do things and experiment because they think something is interesting or looks good - and often it isn't until after someone points out the problems that they realise it wasn't such a good idea or it's something that's not widely accepted in a particular community. Talking to the OP in comments is a perfectly acceptable way to gently point out how this community works - there's no harm in asking if the emojis in the title have any significance. The OP's reaction can be gauged and acted on accordingly :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Jan 6 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ (The comment above really assumes that the OP is using irrelevant emojis in the title oblivious to their effects or the reaction of others. Flagrant repeated use in order to gain attention is behaviour that would probably benefit from a flag and mod intervention. I wouldn't be surprised if the HNQs formula already excludes questions with emojis in the title anyway.) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Jan 6 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the information :D $\endgroup$ – risky mysteries Jan 6 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ (It is also possible and helpful to embed, as an html comment, a note to a would-be editor that some otherwise suspect looking part of a post is a fully intentional part of the puzzle. This isn't as relevant for puzzle titles, but wouldn't hurt to do anyway if there is something in a post that shouldn't be edited away.) $\endgroup$ – Rubio Jan 7 at 4:47
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Stiv's answer is excellent, I'd also like to add that its important to be aware of what happens with screenreaders and emojis - some read out each individual one as a description, others ignore them completely. Chunks of an emojis can be an accessibility nightmare.

This doesn't mean they should never be used in puzzles though! I agree that emoji use should be relevant, and irrelevant ones should be removed to prevent confusion. If the puzzle (or title) contains essential emojis it should be clearly marked with the tag then anyone using a screenreader can decide for themselves.

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