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This is a very soft question, that is inspired by an edit to one of my questions, which involved a change of the capitalization in the title; the details are not important and I don't mind such kind of editing at all (no whining intended).

I know that there are different accepted possibilities among "grammar lawyers" which one could check here, but I would like to hear about other people's preferred capitalization for titles of MO questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Noted and appreciated the "half-question mark" in your title. :) $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Nov 29 '15 at 18:16
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Both systems of capitalization are OK for use here:

How to Answer Questions on MO.

How to answer questions on MO.

Conclusions:

  • Which system should you use? The one most comfortable to you.

  • Should you change someone else's post from one system to the other? No.

  • Should you complain if someone else changes your post from one system to the other? No.

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  • $\begingroup$ your answer brings it to the point and I fully agree to your point of view. $\endgroup$ – Manfred Weis Dec 1 '15 at 6:04
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A title of an MO question should provide some information on the content of the body of the question post. At a maximal length of 150 characters they can be relatively long and it is encouraged to write informative titles.

A way to achieve this can be to reuse the main question of the post, or a modification thereof, as the title. Indeed, there is a recommendation to make your question your title in the general guidelines on asking. (Tangentially, this does not mean this question can be omitted from the body of the post; the body of the post should not depend on the title.)

However, this is just a suggestion and any title that is informative should be fine.

I am not certain what this implies on capitalization. But I think that at least if the title is long to use standard capitalization is more common and likely preferable to capitalizing each (relevant) word. I feel standard-capitalization is what is predominant in the titles of scientific papers, too.

But I do not think it is much of an issue either way. Only, I feel as a rule titles should not start with a lower-case word, as often this looks a bit sloppy in my opinion.

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I suppose that all of us who don't have English as mother tongue would rather not have the idea of capitalizing nouns or other "key words" in titles. At least to me that idea has never occurred for a question in MO (even though it is the general rule for nouns in German, my mother tongue! - which is in my opinion somewhat obsolete).
It is about questions, not about article titles. And as I skim through the MO questions, only a minority seems to capitalize the titles anyway.
This being said, proper names should of course be capitalized systematically, also in the text. It is "Galois fields", not "galois fields". OTOH, for adjectives like "noetherian" or "gaussian", I see that many people don't capitalize. I personally would prefer to do it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your first sentence made me smile, as I believe OP did capitalize and appears to be German (at least this what is given as location), presumably as they were once taught this is what is done in English (at least that is what I was once taught). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Nov 28 '15 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ yes, I'm German but I am trying to improve my English and personally do not follow the "who cares" attitude of many people because I think that doing things right is the right thing. @quid thank you for the compliment of speculating about my nationality ;-) $\endgroup$ – Manfred Weis Nov 28 '15 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ As a non-German non-native speaker, I find capitalized titles to be a bit funny, unusual and somehow intimidating. In my language capitalizing nouns is considered a mistake, so my opinion could be biased. I would like some insight from native speakers (possibly some grammar nazi). $\endgroup$ – Silvia Ghinassi Nov 29 '15 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Silvia: You mean Grammar Nazi, right? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 29 '15 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Silvia I'm a native speaker. I generally don't capitalize the way I was taught to put capitals in book titles (like The Old Man and the Sea), but I generally do capitalize the first word and proper nouns, just as I do when writing English sentences. Most but not all my questions are in the form of a question. As an aside: for some reason I also find written German with all those capitalized nouns a little imposing, sort of the way I felt as a child trying to follow the serious conversations of grown-ups. Almost like being in a room full of Henry Kissingers discussing Realpolitik. :-) $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Nov 29 '15 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Todd If you look, most of my edits include capitalizing the first letter if the title. Sadly, I haven't asked anything (yet!). For me it has been already hard to write Riemann and Riemannian, as we don't capitalize adjectives coming from proper nouns (fun fact, nothing more). Thanks for your insight. $\endgroup$ – Silvia Ghinassi Nov 29 '15 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @SilviaGhinassi I have no problem with you throwing in the "Nazi" to express your opinion about some from Germany who asks for advice for proper use of English grammar. $\endgroup$ – Manfred Weis Nov 30 '15 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ @ManfredWeis whoops, I didn't think of that. You can call me a grammar fascist, if you'd like... $\endgroup$ – Silvia Ghinassi Nov 30 '15 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @SilviaGhinassi I wouldn't call you that; grammar enthusiast would suffice ;-) $\endgroup$ – Manfred Weis Dec 1 '15 at 6:01
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I think there are two different ways of writing a title for any given MO post: Question & Non-Question style.

Any title in one of these two styles should be chosen in such a way to be both informative and attractive for a typical reader in the first view. These two parameters (i.e attraction and information) are what I personally pay great attention to while choosing a title for my posts not really the capitalization of the words.

If you know how to use the keywords in your title, you will have no problem for coding enough information in short attractive phrases in both question and non-question styles. Correct capitalization can help in this direction. However it is a bit marginal with respect to choosing the right words for the title.

The main point is that your title is a kind of abstract for your question. While too short and generic titles are not that informative, too long ones are also not attractive and a bit hard to read and grasp in the first glimpse.

Anyway you should think and find the appropriate style and the optimum length for any of your questions to maximize the information and attraction in the title no matter whether it is written in a question or non-question style.

For example there could be two alternative ways for titling this question.

1- Examples of Common False Beliefs in Mathematics

2- What are examples of common false beliefs in mathematics?

Both of them seem attractive and informative enough to me to make me curious to open the post and look inside.

Moreover let me add the point that apparently there is no unique way of capitalizing the titles in English grammar. See Rule 16.a and Rule 16.b in this source. You can follow more precise descriptions in standard style books, if you want a pedantically comprehensive answer.

Though, I personally very much doubt that such level of attention to the pedantic points in English writing should be a typical MO user's priority when adding posts here, particularly when most of them (like me) are non-native English speakers who need to focus on improving their more essential linguistic abilities like expanding the domain of their vocabulary or mastering in daily used grammar to soften their fairly mechanical English.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'll be thankful if the down-voter gives me some advice for improving the quality of my answer. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – user82843 Nov 29 '15 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Whether or not the sentence (or fragment of a sentence) that forms the title happens to be a question or not in my mind has no real relevance on the question of capitalizing. For example, the New York Times uses capitalization for its article-titles and some of those happen to be questions. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Nov 29 '15 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ @quid All these arguments about pedantic rules in English language reminds me George Bernard Shaw's masterwork play, Pygmalion. (What a perfectly chosen name for such a story!). As I mentioned in my answer I think focusing on such discussions seems not that essential for this community with completely different priorities. $\endgroup$ – user82843 Nov 29 '15 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ Your addition seems unrelated to my comment, the point of which was that "question" and "article title" is no dichotomy. // On your comment: yes, this is why I said doing it either way is fine. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Nov 29 '15 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Sure! Thanks for reminding! Give me a second for fixing the issue! $\endgroup$ – user82843 Nov 29 '15 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @quid The only word that I found to be immune to your subtle critic point, is "non-question". So I replaced the "article title" with "non-question" in the text. Again thanks for reminding this point. $\endgroup$ – user82843 Nov 29 '15 at 18:17

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