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As a question-quality measure, Stack Exchange automatically rewrites question titles which end with punctuation, following a couple of rules:

  • Multiple ? collapsed into one
  • Multiple . collapsed into one
  • ?! and similar collapsed into ?
  • Spaces before trailing punctuation removed (with one exception)
  • Everywhere but the trilogy, multiple ! collapsed in one

These are common-sense on most sites: "Why do planets spin ?" is simply poor English. However, we're special. I'm asking if we would want some flexibility on these title rules. The two most obvious things I can see are allowing trailing ... and trailing ?, both for extend-the-sequence puzzles. For us, a title of "What's the next number: 1, 2, 4, ?" is better than "What's the next number: 1, 2, 4,?"; the latter looks ugly to me in its inconsistent spacing. (There are workarounds: see how Which number replaces the question mark in <16, 2, 11, 6, 9, 4, 14, ?> uses <> to enclose its sequence and get around the punctuation rewriter.) There are other use-cases for us as well; I'm sure that people who get creative with titles wouldn't mind a little more room to play around in.

The reason I'm asking for y'alls opinions on this is that, as the "with one exception" link suggests, it is possible to get per-site exceptions on this. French Language SE has a per-site exception to the "no trailing ?" rule, on the basis that it's correct grammar for that language. If we have support here then we could ask SE for our own per-site exception. Or do we not care enough to ask for this?

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    $\begingroup$ I would say that we should allow trailiing full stops (.....) or trailing ????, due to the type of community we are. $\endgroup$
    – Stevo
    Nov 13, 2022 at 4:01
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    $\begingroup$ I can easily imagine a scenario where someone posting on this site might have legitimate reason to want a title that consists only of punctuation. This site is very different from a normal Q&A site. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2022 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ What about the minimum chacracter limit for the title? $\endgroup$
    – ACB
    Nov 17, 2022 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ @ACB that's not what this post is about: I'm scoping to just the punctuation rewriter. Feel free to make a different post if you want $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Nov 17, 2022 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ So what are we going to do now? Making a feature-request? $\endgroup$
    – ACB
    Dec 29, 2022 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ @ACB honestly I remember having flagged this for [status-review] a while back but seems I never did. Checking old messages I think I was waiting on a reply to this which never came. Sorry. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Dec 29, 2022 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ Ah that's alright. Btw, I see they have replied to your comment the very next day. $\endgroup$
    – ACB
    Dec 29, 2022 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ACB blame my notifications acting up, I don't think I'd seen that! $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Dec 29, 2022 at 17:24

1 Answer 1

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Yes, we should request exemption from most of these rules

In the question itself @bobble has already pointed out some use cases of relevance to puzzles, but I would suggest that there are even more question types that would benefit from this, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • - the ellipsis is my all-time favourite punctuation mark (as a casual observer of any of my prose would no doubt note...), and aside from indicating further terms of a sequence it also has a role to play in creating suspense, intrigue, and mystery. Use of the ellipsis at the end of a puzzle title would enable question posers to create atmosphere for the settings of their puzzles.

  • Another important use of the ellipsis is to imply that a well-known phrase is incomplete. For example, I desperately wanted to call this puzzle of mine just "When in Rome..." (which would have satisfied the minimum-character restraint), because the rest of this phrase when called to mind would then have served as a hint for solving the puzzle. Instead, I had to employ a clunky workaround, which left me feeling a touch dissatisfied.

  • The use of multiple question marks at the end of a title would potentially be beneficial for 'missing word' type puzzles, where the number of question marks can be used to represent the number of letters in the missing word. For example, a title of the form 'My dog's got no ????' looks visually more pleasing than 'My dog's got no ?' and for some question-posers might be considered more satisfyingly 'puzzle-like' than 'My dog's got no [BLANK]'. (The latter point there is obviously a question of taste, which having the rule relaxed would enable...)

  • Questions posed as a where the narrator is confused lend themselves nicely to a '?!' ending, again adding tone and atmosphere to the post.

But if possible to opt in to just some of the rules, there are a couple I would recommend retaining:

  1. With regards to spaces before end punctuation, I would argue that use of the question mark(s) is the only real exception we would need to this rule (otherwise it is just grammatically incorrect).

  2. Retain the exclamation mark collapse rule (with the exception of the trilogy, as at present). While multiple question marks at the end of a title arguably have a purpose, multiple exclamation marks just look tacky!!!!!

One final caveat, note:

If the rules are relaxed, their accepted use cases within the community should be preserved in a meta post that can be consulted when necessary. After all, nobody wants an 'edit war' based off different users' personal preferences.

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  • $\begingroup$ If we can only get some minimum amount of customization, what among your suggested changes would you find most important? $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Nov 16, 2022 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @bobble I'd say the first 3 of your bullet points for sure, and the fourth one with the understanding that our keen editors will still correct misuse of it :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Nov 17, 2022 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ Most crucial: ellipsis, space before question mark, and multiple question marks. ?! lower priority. $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Nov 17, 2022 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ The most fun is to play out of bounds. Safely. $\endgroup$
    – humn
    Nov 21, 2022 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ To me this kind of rules should be enforced only when there appears to be a recurrent problem with the way people write titles. $\endgroup$
    – Florian F
    Nov 26, 2022 at 10:52

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