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Forum topic titles

Topic titles, when well formulated, make the chat forum easier to browse and easier for information to be retrieved via the search function. It is for these two reasons that care should be taken when writing the title for a new topic. Let's suppose you're ill, you are in need medical assistance, and you have turned to TT for information and advice...
  • Example of a bad topic title: HELP!!!
  • Example of a good topic title: English-speaking doctors in Berlin - personal recommendations for a GP
Can you see the difference?

A reader should be able to easily determine the content of a topic simply by reading the title. Note how in the first example above the reader does not know what the post is about until after they click the title link and read the first post. In the second example, however, it is immediately clear what the subject of the posting is.

A well-written topic title will result in more readers of your topic. Not only that, but it will attract more of the type of readers who might be inclined to reply.

Further details on how to formulate the perfect title are given in the rest of this article.

Note that the TT chat forum is moderated. This means that the moderation team are entitled to edit all titles in order to improve their quality. Click to see the list of recently moderated topic titles. Also note, all topic titles may be edited by other members. This facility is only accessible to members who have been registered for more than six months and who have more than 40 posts to their credit. See the list of topic title editors.

Accurate and descriptive

Convention: Topic titles should be accurate and honestly descriptive of the content of the first post in the topic. It should be possible for every casual reader of the forum to immediately determine the exact nature of the post by reading the title and description alone, without reading the content of the post.

Rationale: Readers are short on time. They don't have the time nor the patience to wade through every post to determine whether they are interested in reading it. Readers prefer to quickly scan the list of topic titles, then use this information to pick the discussions they wish to read further.

Keywords first

Convention: The keywords should appear first in the title, followed by any other non-keyword text. For example, the following title is bad: "Can anyone on this website recommend to me a really good tax advisor?" and it should be replaced with: "Tax advisors - personal recommendations". Place the keywords first and be concise.

Rationale: The forum index pages do not always show the complete topic title, due to lack of space. Instead only the first few words are shown. Thus if the keywords are at the end of the title, they will not be shown, rendering the title in the index less meaningful. Also, search engines such as Google favour the first few words in page titles when determining how to index the page.

Do not mislead

You might think that in order to raise the profile of your post, and to draw in as many readers as possible, that it'd be a good idea to give your topic a crazy, funny, and misleading title. For example, using the title "free sex here" when the post is actually nothing whatsoever to do with sex, is bad.

Neutral point of view

Write in a neutral point of view - titles should not be biased in tone or word choice.

English language

Convention: Always use English language except when the subject of the topic is a discussion about a particular German word. For example, when advertising an underground garage parking space for rent the title should be, "Underground garage parking space for rent" and not "Tiefgarage Stellplatz for rent".

Rationale: TT is an English language website. Although most readers are able to speak German, there are many who don't.

American vs. British English

The TT chat forum is used by approximately 40% American-English speakers and 40% British-English speakers, the remaining 20% being mixed. For non-significant keywords, topic titles are spelt (or spelled) according to the variant of English spoken by the topic starter. For significant keywords, the title should contain both British and American spellings - provided there is sufficient space.

For example, a topic about where to do your laundry should contain the title words "Laundromat" (American) and "Laundrette" (British). A topic containing the word "realise" could be spelt/spelled either "realise" or "realize" depending on the nationality of the topic starter.

Capitalisation

Convention: Only the initial word and proper nouns should be capitalised. This convention is known as down-style capitalisation.

In up-style capitalisation, all nouns and most other words with more than four letters are capitalised.

Down-style, and not up-style, is the preferred style for TT topic titles.

Down-style: "Powell to lead U.S. delegation to Asian tsunami region" - correct
Up-style: "Powell to Lead U.S. Delegation to Asian Tsunami Region" - incorrect

Dates

Dates should be written in the format d.Mmm.YYYY. For example: 1.May.2007 or 27.Nov.2008. This format has been chosen as the TT standard because it is the most concise format that is both Y2K compliant and is easily understandable by both UK and U.S. readers alike. Note that posted events must specify their date in this format in order to be included in the events calendar. Ranged events are tricky, but provided they don't span across different months then the format would be something like: 4-16.Jul.2012.

Swearing

Convention: Swear words should never be used in a topic title. Ever. This also applies to words which you might not consider swearing, but which are possibly considered offensive by others. This also applies to deliberately misspelt or obfuscated swear words. Forbidden words include, but are not restricted to, the following: fuck, fcuk, f*ck, cunt, wank, shit, crap, piss, cock, nigger, ass/arse, bastard, bitch, bollocks ...and all variations on those words.

As a general rule, if BBC News would never use a particular word in their article headlines, then this word shouldn't be used in a TT title either.

Copyright and trademark infringement

Incredible as it is to believe, it is not permitted to use a title which ends with the phrase "for Dummies". For example, "The German language for Dummies" would be illegal. The reason is that the "for Dummies" is a registered trademark from a book publishing company. Once there was a TT topic title containing this phrase and the publishing company sent a letter to TT demanding that it be deleted or else face legal action.

Humour

Use of humour is good and is indeed encouraged, provided the title still complies with the other conventions.

Bad examples

The world's worst possible topic title is:

"HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

This breaks every single convention except the one about swearing. Nevertheless, such topic titles are posted surprisingly often. And not only by newcomers. One has to wonder what the poster is thinking when they use the title "help!". Do they really think that this is an appropriate title? Have they not noticed that every single other title in the entire history of the website has a more descriptive title than the one they just chose? The reason is, of course, that the poster simply isn't thinking. Thumb is up the bum and the brain is in neutral.

Editing titles as an established member

Established members can edit topic titles with this button at the top of each thread:

Moderation complaints

Toytown Germany is a moderated chat forum. This means that all topic titles are subject to editing by the moderation team and established members. The titles are edited so as to comply with the guidelines above. If you find that a title of yours has been changed inappropriately, please use the report function to communicate with the moderation team with your requested title. They will then re-edit if appropriate.

Occasionally members will post a rant to the public forum, complaining that their titles have been changed. These complaints usually come from seven-year-old girls. The complaints are mostly ignored, or the members told to grow up and stop crying like a baby. See an example of an ill-advised public complaint about forum topic titles. Persistent offenders will be banned. Resistance is futile.

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