I am writing an article that explains when to use X instead of Y, and when to use Y instead of X, that is the relative advantages/disadvantages of using one over the other given the situation. Now which one of the following sentences would be the best title for my article?

  1. When should you use X and when should you use Y?
  2. When should you use X and Y?
  3. When should you use X or Y?
  4. When should you use X vs. Y?

1 seems correct to me, but verbose. I have seen both 2 and 3 in many writings, and 4 only sometimes if at all. Which of them suits best as my article title?

I will happily accept any other smarter alternative, even if that completely changes the sentence construct.

2 Answers 2


1 is clear and correct, but rather long.

2 suggests that you're going describe 'X and Y' as things to use together, rather than alternatives. Using actual things instead of 'X and Y' will clarify what you mean, but the ambiguity isn't a good thing.

3 beats 2, by removing that ambiguity. 4 is basically the same as 3, but kind of informal.

If I were choosing the title, though, I'd go with 'X or Y -- Which should I use?'.

[Note: In titles, it's common to flip things around to put the important thing right at the beginning. In any other situation, I'd write 'which should I use: X or Y?']

  • Thanks for your answer, but you got it a little wrong. "X or Y -- which should I use?" explicitly means that you can only choose one, either X, or Y. But that is not the case for me. In my case, both X and Y has their own advantages in different situations. So the title you suggested will not work for me. Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 13:16
  • 1
    The first sentence of your question seemed like you were describing a situation where you can only choose one. [ the phrases 'X instead of Y'; and 'either X or Y' both specifically refer to that case.] If 'both' is an option, then the 'when ... or' sentence is the most appropriate. Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 5:08
  • Not exactly the whole of first sentence, but only the part in bracket is a little confusing, I agree (I have edited now). Can you edit your answer to include this? Thanks! BTW, aren't you supposed to be dead ? :D Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 5:40

#4 is the best choice for your title. #1 is just as clear but longer than it needs to be. #2 suggests use will use both X and Y at the same time. #3 suggests you will tell people when they shouldn't use either X or Y, and that you will also tell them when it is ok to use at least one of them.

#3 should be a good choice but English has this unfortunate problem of using "or" for both the logical "or" and the logical "xor" so the use of 'or' without context can be confusing.

  • Please edit your 4th sentence. It sounds confusing. Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 4:41

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