To me, it's the unanswerability of many of these questions that's the problem. They're not just subjective — they're mindreading, resembling...
- Taboo — Guess away! I've got something really specific in mind, but can't tell you any of its synonyms. That would be cheating.
- Catch Phrase — It should start with an E and have three syllables and rhyme with "aardvark," but I'm not allowed to tell you that in my initial question.
- Outburst — Let's just list everything related to a topic!
- Pictionary — You're asking for the name of a species of tree? No, definitely a kind of cloud. Fuzzy request, yet looks like words.
Examples of the confusing sort: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/27165/a-word-for-something-you-didnt-know-youd-likeA word for something you didn't know you'd like, http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/26960/alternate-words-for-paperworkhttps://english.stackexchange.com/questions/26960/alternate-words-for-paperwork, http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/3778/better-word-for-petition-when-the-request-is-a-vacationhttps://english.stackexchange.com/questions/3778/better-word-for-petition-when-the-request-is-a-vacation
What makes a good single-word-requests? I don't think it's that different from other questions:
- Well-defined, distinct concept with necessary context presented; not too limited.
- To answer will require a human, not just a reverse dictionary; an answer will need to not just list words but explain why a word or phrase is appropriate, and make associations that weren't easily searchable before.
- Doesn't ask us to do all the work; presents a practical problem showing effort at solving it (the proofreading example we don't accept, "are there any mistakes?", is a lot like "can you rewrite this idea into a coherent word or phrase for me?" in terms of a bound on effort).
What to do?
I don't know if a faq change would really help us keep some of these questions and not others, since to me it boils down to "ask good questions." We could try coaching new users with comments on borderline s-w-r questions, especially before they get downvoted or closed. Maybe something like these:
- "Could you tell us more about where you hope to use the word or phrase?"
- "For this type of question, we usually like to know a little more about the words or phrases you've considered. Can you tell us why [x] or [y] don't quite fit the meaning you're looking for?"