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A recent question, Does it look unprofessional to have my name and all the titles of my website in lower-case?, was closed as being off-topic. I myself voted to have it closed as off-topic, since I saw it as more of a design-related question.

However, in the comments, @patrick notes that "He's not asking about design (placement, position, color, font, white space, etc...); he's asking about capitalization and as Smithers pointed out, the "hi, there" is bad writing because it makes the content seem like a header."

This made me think more about the question. I still think it's design related, however in a more specific sense, it is a typography question, which makes it related to writing, and is similar in nature to questions about font colours, types of fonts, line heights, font spacing and so on.

While you could consider typography as being part of design, I struggle to understand why this question would be different to, say, asking a question about whether or not to use the Courier font for a manuscript. There are probably other questions that can be considered to be typographic in nature that have been allowed before.

The only real differentiation I can make, is that one dealt with printed media, while the closed question is to do with a webpage, but that must be a superficial distinction, surely?

What am I missing here? When do we allow one type of typographic question, but not another?

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According to their FAQ, typography questions are specifically on topic at Graphic Design.se.

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    Lots of things should naturally be on-topic at multiple sites, that's just good sense. I'm not convinced this is a typography question either. He didnt ask about font, or kerning, or spacing. His question was about the effect that the specific capitalization choice had on the meaning and readablity of his writing. Which seems on topic to writing. And maybe to Graphic Design too! Why not? – patrick Jul 22 '11 at 3:26
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The question about a font choice for a manuscript is, at root, a publishing question. Publishing is a topic that is explicitly on-topic here. The accepted answer refers to a manuscript format that writers specifically will be interested in. It's very much a writing question not because it is about typography but because it is about the act of publishing writing.

However website design may fall into Graphic Design or perhaps even Webmasters (they've got a tag for it). Not only do typography questions related to professionalism or "look and feel" fit on one of those two websites, I'd argue that they fit better.

And therefore a question such as that one should be off-topic here.

  • Putting content up on a web page is also publishing, is it not? – Craig Sefton Jul 19 '11 at 15:32
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    @Craig: If you send an unreadable manuscript (8point, single spacing), the editors will probably just throw it away. The question was about the standard what editors suspect to avoid a fast rejection. So it's a pre-step to publishing, if you want. He did not ask how to format his self-published book. – John Smithers Jul 19 '11 at 16:25
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    @Craig - the key distinction is that there is at least one if not two StackExchange sites where web design issues are better suited. There are none where traditional publishing fits better than Writers. – justkt Jul 19 '11 at 17:32
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    I think we're kind of losing focus here, aren't we? The goal is to get good answers, not to sort and classify questions. He asked writers because he wanted writers' answers and not designers' answers. I get that we want to keep the focus of the site on writing, but I don't think there's much danger of us devolving into a typography forum. – patrick Jul 22 '11 at 3:20
  • @patrick - actually, having a defined focus for a given StackExchange site is extremely valuable. Otherwise you can't have a good set of experts to answer questions because there's nothing cohesive about the site. One of the big values of a beta period is to define the on- and off-topic questions, and this is key to the site's success. This meta discussion and others like it are extremely valuable. – justkt Jul 22 '11 at 12:23
  • @justkt: Absolutely. That's why I'm here! : D – patrick Jul 22 '11 at 13:45
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I wonder if this isn't something of a gordian knot; do we really need to untie it?

Stack-exchange sites are valuable because they crate themed communities that allow for collaborative knowledgesharing. Different sites exist because splitting themes into separate sites allows users (both questioners and answerers) to focus their expertise, but there will always be some natural overlap between sites. That's fine. Classification isn't an end in itself.

To me, it seemed that the question was addressed to writers and not designers because the questioner was asking if the stylistic choice affected the clarity of the writing. AS SucH, It'S NoT SO MucH A QuestioN AbouT CapitalizatioN AS A DesigN ChoicE, It'SA QuestioN AbouT ReadabilitY. Just as questions about propercase conventions are allowed on stackoverflow.com, so should some questions about capitalization be allowed in this space.

Which is not to say that ALL questions should be allowed. If he had asked about his logo, I think that would have been a design question. But questions about whether or not a specific choice affects writing or readability should be allowed.

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