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Some users of the site have religious reasons for not spelling out 'God', for example in the original version of this question:

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The title of a question has higher visibility than the body, so it may be reasonable to have one rule for one and one rule for the other.

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I think that alternate spellings of "God" shouldn't be changed. It should be up to the author to decide how he or she wants to spell words, whether in religious words or in ordinary words that have multiple possible spellings (such as American/British variants). Spellings, like the content of the posts themselves, shouldn't be forced to conform with any particular religious or academic standard.

There might be religious reasons for or against obfuscating the name. What is important is respecting the authors' chosen spellings in their posts, even if those spellings happen to be offensive to others.

I don't think the search engine is an important consideration. Language naturally allows for multiple ways to say the same thing, and "God" vs. "G-d" is only one of many ways to say the same thing: Lord, Deity, Supreme Being, The Name, not to mention Jehovah, Yahweh, Yhwh, Yhvh and any other number of spellings of it and related terms.

In principle, unusual spellings such as "G d" could be edited, like any other content of posts, for the sake of readability. However, if the spelling is intentional – and certainly if the author makes it clear that changing the spelling is against his or her wishes – then it would be inappropriate to insist on "God" or any other specific spelling.

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Yes, we should.

"G-d" or "G d" are only likely to cause momentary confusion at worst, and "God" isn't a particularly useful search term on this site. There isn't any strong reason not to defer to the author's preference.

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    While "god" on its own as a search term isn't useful, it would make a difference when searching for quoted phrases. It also makes a difference to accessibility and screen readers. – curiousdannii Jan 4 at 22:42
  • that's a good point curiousdannii – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 22:57
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Since the wording of the initial post says religious reasons, I will qualify and say I don’t speak for others and I have not stated my reasons or views

I fail to see how what is probably the most common word, namely god, on this part of the site that I’m on would be the best argument for editing the name as a search term. It is so common that you would get a hit on the majority of posts. Search terms from what I see are not limited to titles. Also isn’t that what tags are for to help search based on subjects?

Also it’s not like one is incapable of working out what is meant. It’s fairly straight forward and simple to dicipher

If you are going to use a search term you would use a far more specific term or phrase.

Also if these are the rules I’ll oblige but it’s not specified in the site rules and the fact that someone out of (whatever their reason) can edit the title or the content when it’s not against the rules is rather strong arming.

Furthermore should we edit the sacred tetragrammaton in ancient manuscripts what about the nomen sacrum or as I would put it the sacred bigrammatons or the divine bigrammatons. No we don’t change them. They were the author’s choice and the new author addressing the written manuscripts can choose whatever they want to keep it going or to use a different noun.

Just because you don’t ascribe/share a certain view, the fact that it’s not against site rules should not mean editing based on the personal preference of those in moderating power.

But what do I know? I could be completely wrong and if so, then I apologize.

  • Yes, tags are really important as search terms from what I understand. – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 22:47
  • also: apologies for making assumptions about your reasons, thought I suspect the reasons may be religious for some others. – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 22:56
  • If I may ask, are you equally content to use "G-d" as "G d"? – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 23:26
  • The spelling is not an issue, I will be glad to oblige or move on. The request to stop writing God without the o while it had an element of politeness, “please stop...”, it also had an element of patronizing “God is not and cannot be offended by the letter “o”.” So at this point it was his preference over mine and there was no rules against it. Also when I search G-d the G d also show up. If search is the main or only issue a simple change in the algorithms would resolve that issue to include all three variants. But considering it’s labelled as an idiosyncrasy I doubt searching is the issue. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 5 at 3:19
  • I understand this is a Christian site, and you may do as you wish. If you don’t want to include “Jewish” viewpoints that’s your right. I am not a Jew and don’t claim to be one, I am a Christian and claim to be one. If you don’t want me to write G d but you’re fine with G-d say so. If you’re not fine with either and you’ve only just realized it, fine just say so but be consistent is all I’m asking. I also asked if it’s fine to substitute with the Hebrew equivalent instead of God and it seems that now Lord is also a problem. That sounds to me like you prefer I go away. I’m fine with that too. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 5 at 3:27
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    @MrConstantin This isn't a Christian site, and all viewpoints are acceptable. But we fix posts that are hard to read, and if you don't explain why it's so important that you not write "God" I find it hard to see why we shouldn't fix it. – curiousdannii Jan 5 at 7:20
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    "A simple change in the algorithms" is (1) not going to happen here on SE and (2) won't help users of search engines like Google. – user2672 Jan 5 at 10:23
  • This is really unfortunate from where I’m standing. I understand your position. You (all) make valid points, and I can see the benefits to your positions especially from a search perspective. I have never encountered this situation until now. It’s made me reflect. Is it a convenience? In a very very minute part yes but mostly it’s a reverence issue for me. He is so Other, I don’t fear writing God that it would take His Name in vain but He is so far above that at an early age I wrote his name G-d and later G d. He has never convicted me against it, though He has about many other things. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 5 at 11:46
  • It was hard to take that my one way that I could express in writing and convey that He is worthy of stopping and considering that this God is unlike any other was “reduced” back to the usual. I don’t know that the Jews (all of them) feared writing His Name, I am convinced that some esteemed Him so much that they wanted to convey His majesty and transmit it to the generations to come, emphasizing it in some way. But it doesn’t matter, conventions are conventions, rules are rules, what makes sense in one context doesn’t in all and I’ve annoyed too many people that it’s been counter-productive. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 5 at 11:57
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    Instead of drawing attention to Him I drew attention to myself and that was not my intention in the least. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 5 at 11:59
  • MrConstantin I can't speak for everyone, but I don't personally think you have done anything that has worried anyone or been counter-productive — all you have done is exposed an area where we have previously had no coherent or consistent policy. The whole purpose of this 'meta' site if for the community (ie all users who wish to, including you) to engage in formulating a policy for future reference. On a tiny site like this it sometimes takes a long time before there are enough votes to establish what the community as a whole thinks is correct! I hope you stay whatever the outcome. – Jack Douglas Jan 5 at 15:50
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    …based on voting so far, I think you are currently safe to continue to use your own preference. – Jack Douglas Jan 7 at 15:12
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    I don’t want to step on toes. Like I said I did it for my own reasons dedicated to Him. I could compromise with you all and avoid using G d in titles but not in responses but I’ve not decided what’s the wisest decision I should make and whether on this site I avoid it altogether and comply with the spelling God. It’s not for a religious reason after all so I’m not compelled in anyway. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 7 at 15:26
  • It seems that all the downvotes kicked in and if it had anything to do with G d spelling it certainly didn’t warrant losing the privilege to ask questions, blocking me from asking questions, based on spelling and not on content. I’m going to assume it was that I asked horrible questions (English is not my first language) but I’m not convinced and we will never know because reading through the meta site there is a chance it will never be reinstated. So to those who insisted on your spelling you won! You have partially silenced me (in titles). – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 21 at 4:13
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Here's how my thinking goes. We have two goals that will sometimes conflict:

  1. To have clear and comprehensible posts that allow the greatest number of people to learn
  2. To respect and accommodate the diverse religious beliefs and practices of our community.

So to a large extent we do want to accommodate the religious practices of our users for how they refer to the divine being. So, for example, for the Tetragrammaton, you'll see all of these in our posts:

  • YHWH
  • Yahweh
  • Jehovah
  • HaShem
  • The Lord, The Lᴏʀᴅ, The LORD

All of these are acceptable, except perhaps the use of small caps because it's using unicode and may limit the ability to search etc.

Individuals may have personal practices that differ from any of these. I know of at least one Stack Exchange user who really doesn't like using capital letters. It is appropriate that their posts be edited. Likewise idiosyncratic punctuation (for example, putting spaces around every punctuation symbol), or unintentional typos, are almost always fixed.

Some uncommon practices are acceptable. If a Muslim user on this site wrote "Jesus (PBUM)" we'd allow it, but if a Jewish user wrote "the false prophet Jesus", that wouldn't stand. These are common sense examples, and I don't think anyone would disagree.

For the Tetragrammaton, if someone wrote "yahweh", "jehovah" or even "Hashem", most of us would probably consider them typos or lazy capitalisation, and would edit it. While many people prefer the name "Yeshua" to "Jesus", if someone was to use a very obscure transliteration or to invent their own, it would be appropriate to question their use of it in a comment.

So to the specific case asked about. Personally, I don't like either, and I find that both disrupt my reading. But "G-d" at least has a long history of use by Jews. If a Jewish adherent wanted to use it I think we'd have to allow it. "G d" does not to my knowledge have any substantial history of use, and appears to be a personal innovation. It may make break some search systems when you want to search for a quoted phrase. Google's search engine is magic, but I don't know if even it would handle this. It almost certainly would be sub-optimal for screen reader users, as it breaks one word into two, and would be read out as two single letters. Jewish screen reader users may have configured their systems to read out "G-d" as "God" but they would not have for "G d". And if a regular space is used rather than a non-breaking space then the G and d may appear on different lines (here's a real post viewed in the site's mobile version):

Example showing "G d" being broken across lines

For these reasons, I think it is acceptable to fix titles containing "G d" at least, possibly main posts too. But if there is a significant community who does this practice, that would be enough to make me reconsider.

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    +1 though google seems to return similar results for "G-d" as for "G d". Regarding "the false prophet Jesus" versus PBUM I think it would depend on the context. The key question for me is whether the question or answer as a whole "take(s) seriously the process of understanding the Biblical texts". It doesn't matter at all if the person's conclusions about Jesus are different if their reasoning is clear and built from the text in question. – Jack Douglas Jan 5 at 10:23
  • @JackDouglas That's good if Google does support it. But Google is a mysterious black box and we don't know its limitations, and other software won't share all its abilities. – curiousdannii Jan 5 at 13:04
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    It's not just Google. The Stack Exchange search also doesn't differentiate between the two spellings. G-d will also be divided into two lines just like G d – b a Jan 5 at 16:39
  • I'm not seeing Google handling this particularly well. Search for "Here we have a major issue because G-d divorced the north ten tribes" or "Here we have a major issue because God divorced the north ten tribes" and I don't see the post the above image is from. Search for "God divorced" and SE's search won't show the post. And even if Google did support it, there are other search engines. And people do data mining on the site archives. And people search in word docs or PDFs etc etc. – curiousdannii Jan 6 at 10:37
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    It's really unfortunate that personal religiosity peculiarism dominates so much here. Neither "(PBUM)" nor "false prophet" should be allowed left to stand here ––– at all. As I read Code of Conduct it cannot be nice. As I understand theology as social science it cannot be meaningful. Both epithets might have their own SEs (from what I understand). G_d isn't proper English spelling. Therefore any and every edit that attempts to fix that should be approved. Instead of "acceptable" this really should be standard policy. – LаngLаngС Jan 6 at 23:19
  • @curiousdannii By "the two spellings" I meant "G-d" and "G d" – b a Jan 7 at 9:40
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Whenever a typographical error causes wrong spelling, or inaccurate capitalisation, then it should be corrected, but correction is not necessarily the same thing as editing.

When a person chooses to write G_d instead of God, it is not a typo. Their reasons for choosing that format should be respected, whatever those reasons are.

Now, if a person wrote god but failure to capitalise the 'g' was a typo, then it should be corrected, but sometimes it is important to use lower case 'g' if this is to contrast many gods with the one God of the Bible.

Using those two examples, see now how editing would be a different matter. To change G_d to God when the person writing G_d had religious reasons for that format, would be to force your own view on the person. The editor would, in effect, be saying, "I disagree with your religious reasons and you are not being allowed to hold them here."

The second example of editing would be to change god to God when the writer had intended a 'god' to contrast with the 'God'. A minority of religious people choose to write that Jesus is "a god" but they always capitalise Jehovah God. No matter if others disagree with that, it would be wrong to go around editing their every occurrence of so using lower case and upper case 'G'. They intend it. It is not a typo.

That is my simple answer, based on whether a typographical error needs to be corrected, or if editing results in a form of censorship regarding the writer's personal views. Yes to amending typos; no to editing deliberate format that has been chosen for religious reasons.

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    The editor is not saying, "I disagree with your religious reasons", but, "we have agreed on standard nomenclature here", and not "you are not allowed to hold your religious reasons here", but, "these standards allow us to discuss in an inter-faith setting, without having to pay attention to idiosyncrasies". It is clear that some people intend to write "G-d" or "the false prophet Jesus", but a key feature of SE is that people do not own their posts and the community can make edits beyond fixing typos when it improves a post. – user2672 Jan 8 at 20:10
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    Such points are valid but I am purely looking at this from the point of view of censorship which can be necessary in extreme cases but I do not think this is extreme. If the editor does not disagree with the Asker's religious reasons for writing G-d, then to change it nevertheless indicates idiosyncrasies are being censored. The right to censor becomes abuse of power if there is not an important reason for exercising that right, eg violation of a moral principle. When we all know what G-d refers to, there is no improvement in changing it to God. – Anne Jan 10 at 10:25
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No, we should not.

Titles are highly visible on the home page search engines, and we need to prevent the titles from causing confusion to casual Google searchers.

We should edit the title to 'God', and comment, linking to this port, to suggest that the OP considers editing the title to something acceptable to them which is also less likely to cause confusion (as happened in the case linked in the question).

  • "LORD" in capitals (as in the linked questions) is equally unpleasant to read as "G d" or "G-d", and has search engine-wise little advantage. – user2672 Jan 4 at 20:42
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    If this site at least aspires to academic level, it should also follow academic conventions, and use "God", "Yahweh", or perhaps "Lord" as appropriate (they are only interchangeable if you assume a certain theological position), but not "G d", "G-d", "IEUE", "Our Saviour", or other loaded terms. – user2672 Jan 4 at 20:42
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    The site aspires to be "for anyone who wants to explore what a Biblical text means (exegesis) using techniques or rules of interpretation (hermeneutics)" and to "welcome Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other viewpoints as long as they take seriously the process of understanding the Biblical texts" so those considerations are generally more important than choosing a certain academic convention to impose. We need to decide the balance between welcoming other viewpoints (eg Jewish: thoughtco.com/jewish-spelling-of-god-2076772) and imposing clarity… – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 22:55
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    …Personally I'd normally want to err towards the former, though in this case I think there is a fine balance between the two. – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 22:55
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    I also feel there's a difference between accommodating the widespread practices of whole religious groups vs accommodating the idiosyncrasies of individuals. "G-d" and "G d" differ in this regard. – curiousdannii Jan 4 at 23:06
  • @curiousdannii that's probably worthy of another answer that can be voted on? – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 23:10
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    @LangLangC This site is only for "grown ups," which excludes as childish all of minor Christian churches, non-reformed Judaism and "unreasonable" Islam? Judge by content of post, not by sect of poster – b a Jan 7 at 9:54
  • @LangLangC our bar is not 'childishness' but 'usefullness', and whether questions/answers build from the text in a comprehensible way. – Jack Douglas Jan 7 at 10:35
  • @ba If the sect is irrelevant, as it should be here, that'd be easy. But these spelling shenanigans are another example of imposing a certain doctrinal view on readers here. Not neutral. That is actually a widespread disease in general here, so widespread as to be called 'normal', despite a few old meta-posts arguing for the opposite. What I called "childish" is also not useful as it is a spelling error. If done for 'religious' 'reasons' it also follows from that that the post belongs to another SExchange – or needs an edit. Well, ideally anyway. – LаngLаngС Jan 7 at 13:31
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    @LangLangC this has been thrashed out many times — there is no "neutral" point of view. Many people from different religions or none use this site and find it useful. Part of trying to welcome Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other viewpoints means respecting differences in style and approach where that does not conflict with respect for the text itsefl, which our highest purpose here. – Jack Douglas Jan 7 at 14:38

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