Question 6389:

How can I react better if someone confesses their identity that I have little or no knowledge of?

I changed it to

"How can I react better if someone confesses to an personality trait that I have little or no knowledge of?"

And then @apaul reverted it.

I placed a comment to him on the question, but it's been about a day, and he's been online, so I'm bringing it here, as, I want it to be changed back, but, that'd be edit warring.

So, Which is the better title, and why?

  • 4
    Well... obviously... don't start a war. It's good you chose to ask here instead. +1 to that.
    – NVZ
    Nov 18, 2017 at 6:11
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    May I add @Malandy that whichever be the better title, it is simply good etiquette for any user not to change a question title without getting the opinion of OP (who is the author of the post) unless the question got closed or heavily downvoted, with members calling the title confusing in the comments section, and OP still nowhere on the horizon 2 days later! Nov 18, 2017 at 8:34
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    @EnglishStudent I disagree with your assessment of etiquette. If you think a post that's already on the front page can be improved, improve it! Obviously if you think your edit could be controversial that's different; I'd use a comment to raise the issue and ask the OP to clarify. But people don't need to get permission to make what appear to be benign edits; if they did, there wouldn't be an "edit" link. Also, a new user's edit has to be reviewed, so at least three people thought this was fine. Nov 19, 2017 at 1:24
  • May I add that it is also good etiquette to generally accept edits made by other members that actually improve the post, @Monica Cellio! Recent meta post on this topic: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2032/381 Nov 19, 2017 at 1:37
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    Neither title is good. The vegetarian is not "confessing to an identity" nor "confessing to a personality trait". He is not confessing to anything. And vegetarianism is not a personality trait, and is an identity only in extreme cases. He is merely stating a preference. (And both titles have an English error.)
    – user1760
    Nov 22, 2017 at 19:43

3 Answers 3


I rolled back your edit because it was a 6 vs half dozen sort of thing where one is used more commonly in the context.

Being a vegetarian or LGBT+ isn't really a "personality trait" in the usual sense, and people rarely, if ever, use that term to describe themselves when they talk about those issues.


personality trait


A particular feature or characteristic of an individual's personality.




1The fact of being who or what a person or thing is. ‘he knows the identity of the bombers’ mass noun ‘she believes she is the victim of mistaken identity’

1.1 The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is. ‘he wanted to develop a more distinctive Scottish Tory identity’

  • Very true @apaul. I am vegetarian and it is not a 'personality trait'! Again, I saw no reason for the member to unilaterally and arbitrarily change the title of a question posted many days ago by another OP and well received by the community. SE says that OP is the author of the post and I strongly believe that members ought to discuss with OP before making any edits unless (quoting from my comment under the meta question here) the question got closed or heavily downvoted, with members calling the title confusing in the comments section, and OP still nowhere on the horizon 2 days later! Nov 18, 2017 at 8:45
  • @EnglishStudent User Malandy did not unilaterally edit it. They don't have the rep to do so. interpersonal.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/4673
    – NVZ
    Nov 18, 2017 at 8:52
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    Thanks for clarifying @NVZ. That puts the responsibility for making an unnecessary edit on the person(s) who approved the well-intentioned but inaccurate suggestion. (Well, I see now you did it, but echoing our favorite actor, but why? But why? Of course, no need to answer that part, I think.) Nov 18, 2017 at 8:55
  • @EnglishStudent I didn't think about it much then. But I'm waiting to see the consensus from this meta, which is why I upvoted the question here. :)
    – NVZ
    Nov 18, 2017 at 8:58
  • FWIW: here's the starting point of thise edit history battle
    – OldPadawan
    Nov 18, 2017 at 9:06
  • Thanks for the link @OldPadawan. Nov 18, 2017 at 9:36
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    I was waffling between "personality trait", "character trait", or something else ... ... ... How about "identifier"? ... Reminds me too much of barcodes... ... ... "Label"? ... ... ... Eventually, I was like, "Screw it, I'll pick something I like enough and the community can decide and edit if they want."
    – Malady
    Nov 18, 2017 at 14:20
  • @Malandy why did you feel the need to change it?
    – apaul
    Nov 18, 2017 at 15:38
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    'Cause it sounded really weird since the first meaning, of Identity is used a lot more? ... So, the question title sounded like someone going, "I'm John Smith." and then the 6389-OP not knowing who they are. ... The comment timelimit cut that off.
    – Malady
    Nov 18, 2017 at 15:54
  • Vegetarianism isn't much of an identity either (though belonging to a vegetarian community would be), but more of a lifestyle choice. Nov 20, 2017 at 0:31
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    For me, it's a trait, either it was result of your choice or not. If I want to be pedantic, In fact an my identify is nothing more than the gathering of my traits. There is no single adjective that will be my identity. Furthermore, among LGBTQ+ people specifically, some tends to dislike labels, and there is no more "labellize me" thing to say that one adjective is your "identity" as what it make you unique, oh and it doesn't by the way. In the end I don't care where you think the truth is, however if you try to resume my identity even with a word, you will hit a wall.
    – Walfrat
    Nov 20, 2017 at 13:08
  • If I recall from otherwhere, apaul is LGBTQ+, so I just wanted to weigh in as a vegetarian and say that I wouldn't describe it as a "personality trait" or "identity" either, really. Neither title is good but the original is slightly better. Dec 1, 2017 at 18:46

Tl;dr - I think the title should be changed to "How can I react better if someone reveals an identity that I have little or no knowledge of?"

I prefer your title because of grammar and I care a lot about grammar. "confesses their identity that" is bad English. You don't 'confess' an 'identity', nor especially do you 'confess their identity that'. You could argue that it's grammatical to 'confess to an identity', but that still feels off. At best, the original title is awkwardly phrased and at worst it's flat-out ungrammatical.

'Confess' is semantically tied with action, and although it's fair to say that 'identifying as' or 'identifying with' are actions, the noun 'identity' is not an action nor does it imply action the way that other nouns such as 'murder', 'adultery', 'ownership of' and 'preference for' do.

The most direct change would be to switch 'identity' to its verb:

How can I react better if someone confess to identifying with a group that I have little or no knowledge of?

Talking about the alternative you suggested... it seems okay but fails to match details found in the question body. OP indicates that they are concerned not just with vegetarianism, but with religious affiliation, gender orientation, and refugee status. Those just aren't personality traits (although I concede that not all of those are identities either.)

Therefore, I think both leave something to be desired... but I believe the core issue is that 'confess' is a sub-optimal word here. Try 'reveal' instead - it works better with 'identity', doesn't imply (although it allows) that the identity/status was intentionally hidden or secret, and carries no negative connotation.

How can I react better if someone reveals an identity that I have little or no knowledge of?

It does make more sense to say 'confess' when taking into account that OP says that these identities are 'considered socially unacceptable or despised', but... the full list (LGBT, Christianity, Islam, refugees, etc...) includes Christianity and Islam. In any country where vegetarianism is strange, I would think that either Christianity or Islam would be socially accepted, meaning that this modifier is not universally applicable to the question's full breadth.


Personality trait is something that defines you for example being optimistic, it's mostly constant.

Identity is more how you currently see yourself and is much more fluid for example being vegetarian, you can stop tomorrow (or become one). It doesn't mean "the whole of a person"; just something that's important to that person.

That's how I understand those two terms and based on that the title with identity is the correct one.

  • +1 for solid reasoning @Oleg! Nov 18, 2017 at 8:34
  • One can always switch from optimism to pessimism and back. :P
    – NVZ
    Nov 18, 2017 at 8:50
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    Many Stack Exchange users are optimistic when they post a question, pessimistic when it gets closed, and optimistic again when it gets reopened, @NVZ. Nov 18, 2017 at 9:00

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