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Recently, I asked a question about the difference between the German verbs senden, schicken, and verschicken. I titled my question thusly:

Senden, Shicken, and Verschicken

A user decided (and this has happened before with someone else) to edit the post to fix my spelling mistake and make the first letters of the last two words lowercase like this:

Senden, schicken, and verschicken

I rolled it back but fixed my spelling mistake so it then became:

Senden, Schicken, and Verschicken

I was then asked in a comment why I was rolling back those changes and the answer is that I find those edits to be petty, ridiculous, and downright incorrect.

Those who claim the words should be lowercase insist that they are German verbs and therefore shouldn’t be capitalised. I get that German verbs aren’t capitalised, but these are German verbs in an English clause titling an English question, and in English, we capitalise our titles, regardless of what part of speech the words in the title may be in another language (because that’s completely irrelevant).

Regardless, who cares? It doesn’t improve the question whatsoever – it is simply a petty and ridiculous edit, and I do not think petty and ridiculous edits should be allowed.

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    That user was me. And no, you didn't fix the mistake, you simply rolled back my edit. Twice, I think, so finally somebody asked you why. The main reason for my edit was shicken, of course, but since I was editing the title anyway I also fixed the capitalization. I am all for title case where appropriate, but German rules should apply for German words. – Ingmar Nov 27 '14 at 15:53
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    I rolled back your edits (yes, twice) because I didn't notice that I had made a typo, so for that I apologise. However, that is the ONLY edit you should have made. Since there is no explicit rule, it is MY CHOICE whether to use "title case" or "sentence case." I don't care what you think should apply; the German words were in an English clause, so I'm going to use English grammar. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 15:58
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    Title case is a matter of style, not grammar, I think. Either way, I probably wouldn't edit a title for that reason alone, but I for one certainly will continue to make changes as deemed appropriate. Which really is all there is to say, far as I'm concerned. – Ingmar Nov 27 '14 at 16:14
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    That is fine. What you do on other people's questions is none of my concern, but if you continue to make case changes on my questions, I will continue rolling them back. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 16:17
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    Well, we should not forget that all people here spend their free time doing this cumbersome boring janitorial edit work to the best of their knowledge. There is absolutely no advantage whatsoever for any editor other than helping to make the site better. We should be grateful for that. – Takkat Nov 27 '14 at 19:23
  • @Takkat I am grateful, and I am moderator on a forum with 15 million posts and 200,000 members, so I feel the pain. But as I've stated, making an edit to change the letters to "sentence case" is neither helping the site nor a useful or reasonable edit. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 19:33
  • Of course you had to go and re-edit the original question as soon as you were able to ... I won't stoop to an editing war, but to me your clear disregard for the community suggest that you really might be happier at some other sites. – Ingmar Nov 28 '14 at 8:53
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    @Ingmar I've calmed down and I'm perfectly happy. That doesn't change the fact that I believe I am right in this case. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 8:59
  • Of course you do. – Ingmar Nov 28 '14 at 9:14
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    @Dustin: The roll-back you performed again now makes the question to us native Germans eyes appear as if you were asking for the nouns "das Senden", "das Schicken", and "das Verschicken". That would be fine per se and the roll-back would then make sense but later in your question body you only ask about the verbs. This is rather confusing. – Takkat Nov 28 '14 at 9:15
  • @Ingmar I've done my job of explaining and apologising to you in my answer below. If that's not good enough, well then so be it. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 9:17
  • @Takkat If the question were related to the nouns, I would have included the articles as you did in your comment. I frankly don't see how it is confusing to you as a native German speaker, considering my question isn't about nouns. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 9:18
  • You should use the comment section on editing, to indicate why you did what you did. This could have clearified schicken vs. shicken. – user unknown Dec 5 '14 at 21:27
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We have essentially three aspects here:

What is the optimal formatting of that title?

First, one (reasonable) formatting paradigm for all titles and posts is advantageous for readability and is something to strive for (though to what extent is debatable, see below).

Now, the paradigm according to which these verbs would be capitalised would be one that does not only include title casing but also capitalising German words¹ in English sentences according to English rules. As per this Meta post, sentence casing for question titles is community consensus (with good reasons, in my opinion). Moreover, applying English captialisation rules to German words hinders reading and may cause confusion. So neither requirement for capitalising all verbs is fulfilled.

Finally, when referring to a word itself, we usually mark this in some way (preferrably italicising), however for titles, we can only use quotation marks. Thus we arrive at:

“Senden”, “schicken”, and “verschicken”

Arguably, this is not the nicest formatting since we have many quotation marks and it is quite apparent that you are referring to the words themselves. However, in my opinion this is the lesser evil in comparison to having an inconsistent formatting.

Do you have a right to format your title the way you like anyway?

Yes and no.

You may write your questions with whatever casing you like but you cannot require them to remain like this. As soon as you post something, it becomes the community’s. To quote from the FAQ:

If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

Also note that addressing issues such as title casing in a meta post and voting on the answers is how we as a community make rules here (unless they are overruled by a comparable decision on a per-site meta or StackExchange itself). If you dislike this, you can still offer the alternative as an answer (with good arguments).

In another argument, consider the case that somebody insists on a question title to be in all-caps. They are particularly difficult to read, half the Internet feels shouted at by them and they stand out visually on any list. Is there a written-in-stone rule that you have to sign before creating an account that all-caps mustn’t be used? No. Should we decapitalise all-caps question titles, no matter what the OP prefers? In my humble opinion: Yes.

Should questions be edited to fix title casing?

Edits bump questions to the front page and, if they come from users without editing privileges, they also require approval. This creates noise and work and should be taken into account when changing aspects with little relevance (which probably everybody here agrees is the case for the casing of your question title). Thus, I think nobody should have edited your question for the sole purpose of changing the casing.

However, this also applies to you: You should not edit your question for the sole purpose of changing the casing – in particular against the community norms on formatting. Moreover, if you know that an edit is against the community consensus on formatting, you should not perform it.

On the other hand, if somebody edits the question for a good reason anyway (e.g., to fix a spelling mistake, which is crucial on this site), they are absolutely free to change the casing towards the community norm. Thus, the edit performed by Ingmar was perfectly acceptable.


¹ When referring to the words themselves. Loanwords are a different thing.

  • I appreciate your detailed opinion but I firmly stand by mine. I don't care what the community consensus is so long as I'm not confusing anyone (I've already explained why it isn't confusing and refuse to continue doing so), harming anything, or breaking any rules. Therefore, I will continue to title case my questions as I see fit. To clarify, I understand why the title would be annoying to read if it were an actual question, like "What Is The Difference..?" (albeit anyone annoyed by that needs to get a life), but that is not the form of my title. My title was three specific words and the.... – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 4:46
  • word "and." Therefore, I wouldn't consider it an actual question, so I'll use title case. If that bothers you (and I'm not referring to you personally), then get over it. Scroll down, ignore my question, and go on with your day. It doesn't harm anything it isn't confusing (unless you aren't familiar with English titling rules, in which case you can click the question and read it, and perhaps all will become clear). I don't have a problem with people editing my posts if it adds value and is for the good of the site, but edits for this purpose (as you have stated) do not and are not. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 4:50
  • By rolling back the edits, I am acting on a matter of my own principle. I do understand your point that it also applies to me, and I agree with you. However, if I find an egregious edit to have been made (and I do find them egregious), I will most certainly roll it back. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 4:52
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    To selectively quote what's been written above: This may not be the site for you. – Ingmar Nov 28 '14 at 7:13
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    @Dustin: From comments only you will not be able to get a community agreement on your opinion. As we are a community driven site it would be much appreciated you wrote your own answer where you can say how you expect us to deal with minor edits for formatting on your own, or on other people's posts. – Takkat Nov 28 '14 at 7:27
  • @Takkat I will likely not do that because it will simply open me up to downvoting from this pack of people that seems to think I have committed a serious offence by making some letters capitalised (and rightfully so, according to English grammar). I worked hard and continue to work hard for my reputation points and I wouldn't want them to be negated because of this ridiculous discussion. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 7:33
  • He was talking about Meta, i.e. post an answer here. I don't think you'l be in much danger of down votes here. – Ingmar Nov 28 '14 at 7:43
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    @Dustin downvotes on Meta are different! They won't affect your reputation in any way, they are not even displayed anywhere. That's where Meta is totally, entirely, completely different to the main sites. Just take it as kind of a poll to hear poeple's opinion on a matter. – Takkat Nov 28 '14 at 7:45
  • @Takkat I appreciate that information. I will definitely write up an answer tomorrow morning. Let me be clear though - I am not trying to be rude about this at all, but as you can possibly relate, it's hard to remain calm when someone tells you "You better have a damn good reason that isn't "because" to justify this...," again as if I've committed a serious offence or done something terribly wrong. Ingmar and Takkat - I apologise if I've come off in a rude manner; that certainly hasn't been my intention, but I was quite offended by that comment left by another user. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 7:58
  • @Dustin thank you for that note. The "offence" as far as I can see that appeared to be on both sides, when a user who just did a well-meant edit on your post with the true believe that it followed community consensus felt offended by your then still unexplained roll-backs. I believe we can all calm down now and look forward to hear about your reasons. – Takkat Nov 28 '14 at 8:13
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    @Dustin: One thing to clarify: If you use title case, you do break some rule, namely the one established in said meta posts. Yes, even knowingly breaking this rule probably won’t result in any punishment, but that’s simply because we can fix the (very little) harm it does by editing. However, if somebody sentence-cases your title (and does some relevant edit along it), they are acting by the rules. Compare once more to the all-caps example. – Wrzlprmft Nov 28 '14 at 8:21
  • @Dustin... having it not all in caps but going by how it is done in German actually does add value as you can see by the examples I have given in other comments. Maybe not in your specific case, but there are others where it does. Anyway, I strongly favor the formatting Wrzlprmft has proposed – Emanuel Nov 28 '14 at 11:08
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When editing we should take care to not only remove a typo but while we're at it to also edit other minor issues we came across. This also includes formatting of a post. Having said that we also have to point out that an editing guide for German Language still waits for community contributions.

Typos

In your case a user edited an obvious typo from your title which I believe was a good edit because being a language site we should not tolerate misspellings in titles, and such edits usually also help people to learn correct spelling. Unfortunately your initial roll-backs re-introduced the typo, hence we had to edit it again.

Format

By editing a title for a spelling mistake it is not unusual to edit its format as well. There is no general rule for capitalizing questions but there are quite interesting posts explaining why most questions on the Stackexchange network are not formatted in "title case" but in "sentence case":

As a small site focussing on German language we should not have too strict rules about capitalization of English questions but I also believe we should not be different to other sites, including English Language.

With German question titles this is irrelevant as from German orthography all titles follow the same general rules where nouns and names only are capitalized, and must be capitalized. Capitalizing German words in an otherwise English question may at times even lead to confusion, when e.g. adjectives or verbs will appear with capitals which would be wrong in German.

  • You said it yourself - there is not a rule. Therefore, I want my questions left how they are unless there's a REAL mistake or a REAL improvement. I have no issue with the edit to remove the typo I made but I have a real problem when someone finds errors where there aren't any. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 14:11
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    Well, writing a verb in capitals would be consider an error in German. If there was any reason you really need your title capitalized you should probably explain this so we can better understand. – Takkat Nov 27 '14 at 14:31
  • I don't see how you guys don't understand this: the title was NOT in German. Just because a few words in the title are German does not mean it is in German. It is in English, hence why I said AND Verschicken and not und verschicken. In English, we capitalise our titles. I wrote it in English. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 14:34
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    We do understand, but I'm afraid you really are in the minority here. There is no general consensus on title case here on SE in the first place, but it's particular important with German words (they may be part of an English title or not) resulting in a possible different meaning. If that means generally using sentence case in English questions, so be it. – Ingmar Nov 27 '14 at 16:16
  • I realise I am in the minority but I am free to title my questions however I want so long as they are not incorrect. Using title case is not incorrect, it is simply an unwritten rule for lack of a better term, and I don't like unwritten rules. If one is confused about the title, one should read the question. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 16:21
  • Uhm... no one edited the title "Zufällig", "Zufälligerweise"... (a question which has been asked around the same time). And here an edit would actually make sense since the word is put in quotation marks so as to establish it as "word" rather than part of the sentence. And what about "Grammatischer Begriff für...". This title is not a sentence and "grammatischer" is not a noun, so if we edit @Dustin s title you should edit that, too. I'm pretty sure I can find many questions here that would need to be edited. I agree with Dusting though... it's a title. It starts with caps. – Emanuel Nov 27 '14 at 18:16
  • If the word is put in " ... ", then we should go by what it actually is. – Emanuel Nov 27 '14 at 18:16
  • @Emanuel Thank you, Emanuel. That's exactly my point. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 18:19
  • @Dustin... actually I joined the discussion based on the title as it is now (first word in upper case, rest lower case) and I thought it revolved around whether or not "senden" should have a capital "s". It clearly should but I do agree that the other verbs should be in lower case. Otherwise they will not be perceived as verbs by a native speaker of German. Context my help out here but suppose someone where to ask "What Does Paar Mean?"... the spelling would affect the answer in that case. – Emanuel Nov 27 '14 at 18:41
  • @Emanuel Fair enough, but your examples are still valid. Those haven't been edited, and as you said there are likely plenty that haven't. If these are not perceived initially as verbs, then one should read the actual question and realise that they are being used as verbs. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 18:43
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    What is missing in the whole discussion here is that the corresponding Meta posts on English Language and on Meta SE come to the conclusion that our questions are questions, not titles. If they were not titles then they should not be capitalized. – Takkat Nov 27 '14 at 19:15
  • @Takkat They are welcome to conclude whatever they want. My conclusion is that it IS a title and not against the rules to use "title case," so I will continue using it as I see fit or until it is made a rule. – Dustin Nov 27 '14 at 19:34
  • @Emanuel I have edited the post in question. – Ingmar Nov 28 '14 at 7:07
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While I do realise that the SE network's consensus is to use sentence case for the titles of questions, and that the titles of questions are not really titles, in certain cases I prefer to ignore the consensus and write the title of my question as it technically should be (since, quite frankly, it really is a title). I would like to also bring to the attention of those opposed to my argument that, if you look at my question history, I rarely (if ever) format an actual question using title case like the following:

What Is The Difference Between X and Y?

Despite being an extremely minor and petty annoyance, I do understand how some may find it annoying. So, I don't do that. However, in this case the title to my question was not a question, nor a sentence at all. It was simply a list:

Senden, Schicken, and Verschicken

If that alone isn't reason enough not to use sentence case, then perhaps this will suffice:

  • My entire post (including title and the question itself) was in English. Therefore, I believe it proper to apply to it the rules of English grammar. The APA's title case rules are:

    Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading; Capitalize all “major” words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns) in the title/heading, including the second part of hyphenated major words (e.g., Self-Report not Self-report); and Capitalize all words of four letters or more.

    The rules state to capitalise all major words, and this is regardless of the grammar of another language, I assume. I did that and made sure not to capitalise the word "and," since it is not a major word.

Why This Bothers Me (See what I did there?)

  • Some of you have stated that the capitalisation of these words in the title could confuse German speakers reading the question because only nouns are capitalised in German. I, of course, cannot control other people, but if they simply clicked on the question and read it (or recognized the word "and" and not "und"), that would seemingly clear up any confusion quite quickly, since my question was as clear as I could make it.

  • There is no rule prohibiting the use of title case. While it may be the "consensus," and perhaps an unwritten rule, or simply something agreed upon in a few meta discussions, I cannot be expected to abide by an unwritten rule. If it is made a rule, I will abide by it.

  • Generally, I think a lot of us can agree that making an edit simply to change a title from title case to sentence case is simply unneeded. (I am not saying your edit was unneeded, Ingmar, since I do appreciate you fixing my typo. I made a mistake and didn't recognise it whilst rolling back the edits.) The reason is, as Wrzlprmft stated, it creates unnecessary work in some instances and bumps questions to the top for no good reason.

I do want to make sure everyone here knows that I am extremely grateful for your edits if they are of value and contribute to the betterment of the community. I am appreciative of Ingmar's edit since he fixed my typo. I have already admitted my mistake and apologised for it in previous comments.

Let's look at something:

Senden, Schicken, and Verschicken

Senden, schicken, and verschicken

Did it really matter?

Finally, I want to publicly apologise to the community as a whole if I offended anyone. Ben Franklin said "Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame." I was angry at a comment left by a certain user, and begun taking it out on all of you. Ashamed may be a little too strong, though I am certainly sorry.

Dustin

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    "I prefer to ignore the consensus" -- there's your problem right there. – Ingmar Nov 28 '14 at 9:17
  • @Ingmar You seem to have it in your mind that the consensus is the end-all-be-all of standard operating procedures. Fine, but I don't. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 9:20
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    Does it matter in that particular case? Not really. But it does make a difference to a native speaker in that the capitalized version is irritating. Not so much in this case but certainly here "What Is The Difference Between Weg and Fort". So if we leave it open whether to capitalize every word or not, it would have be to decided on a question to question basis whether or not an edit is in order. That is still fine. And it's fine if you choose to write all in caps, seeing how you're used to doing it this way in your mother language.... – Emanuel Nov 28 '14 at 10:55
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    ... however, if someone else invests the extra few seconds to adjust the question and give it the formatting the majority (and the people you want an answer from) prefers, I can't see why you would roll it back unless it destroys a particular message you wanted to convey by having everything in caps. Such an edit is not an offense, it's a service to the community. And in a way it's also a service to you because you can just write however you like. But the moment you roll it back you change it for the worse, again, from the eyes of the majority, and I can't see a good reason why you would do... – Emanuel Nov 28 '14 at 10:58
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    ... that other than anger or pride (my suppositions, no offense meant). You can say "I don't care what the majority says", but if everyone would do that we wouldn't get very far. I for one like to write -is endings like in "Ereigniss" with a double "s" simply because it sounds that way to me and I have always done it that way. But if I do that and someone corrects it I wouldn't roll it back. Why would I. German consensus is to write it with one "s". Sure, there may not be a written rule that states how you have to capitalize on SE so my example is somewhat different. But I think you get ... – Emanuel Nov 28 '14 at 11:02
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    ... my point. You can write however you please, but you shouldn't roll back edits that make the question more readable for the people who are supposed to answer it. – Emanuel Nov 28 '14 at 11:03
  • @Emanuel Thank you for your insight and opinion, and the way in which you have expressed it. Could I simply ask one thing: why would people be irritated by such a thing? Aren't there better things to be irritated about? – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 17:07
  • Also, those who have answered my question already did not seem to have a problem with the formatting of the title and it didn't seem to affect their answers, or they simply decided not to say anything. I don't see this as a service to the community because so far, the only one that has actually stated they have an issue with the formatting of the title is Takkat, and he already knows what the question is about. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 17:17
  • Lastly, I'm going to likely take a break from this site. I enjoy it very much, but I question whether my time is best spent around people who make such a big deal out of something so minor like the English capitalisation of a title. (Not you, Emanuel. You joined late.) I also need to ask myself whether I want to be open to frequent, unneeded, minuscule, and unimportant edits (german.stackexchange.com/users/4869/ingmar?tab=activity). I won't be responding to this Meta question/post/thread anymore. – Dustin Nov 28 '14 at 17:24

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