ELU attracts a number of kinds of questions that, while superficially ELU material, just don't fit for one reason or another.
I propose a set of recommendations that we can give to question askers as to where to go to get their questions answered better, all in the hopes of helping people kindly rather than just turning them away and leaving them bitter. For example:
- elementary grammar - Is it "its" or "it's"? There are plenty of online grammar sites easily found on Google that can answer most of these questions with minimal effort in searching
- 'Do people really say this?' - really, just Google for it with quotes and see if there are examples. Or, if you're an English learner and want to inquire about a natural way to say something conversationally, you can ask at our sibling site for English learners: ell.stackexchange.com
- multi-lingual questions - comparisons of English with other languages - ask on linguistics.stackexchange.com
- discussions/open-ended questions/controversies/opinion based situations - chat?
- proofreading/grammar check - "I have a passage I'm writing. Can you tell me what's wrong?"
- writing advice - "What's a good word for this?" "How can I make my passage better?"
- Single Word Requests - thesaurus, then come back to ELU for a more pointed question about nuance (many SWRs could be on-topic, but need a lot of work). Proofreading, writing advice, and SWRs have overlap, so one could be solved by the other.
- labels for code, class or variable names -
- EFL test questions
- translations - translate.google.com, readlang, babel, lots of on-line dictionaries: dict.leo.de, reverso.fr, lexilog
- questions about explaining poetry or lyrics or jokes - Plain explaining any of these is off-topic (What did they mean by 'pompatus of love'?"). There are multiple sites that handle it just fine. Parts of these questions can be converted to on-topic ones 'What exactly is the pun?', 'Is this syntax used in regular day-to-day speech?'.
- general language learning - hints on how to learn vocab, improve ones accent: go to LL or watch movies/youtube
- general linguistics - language things that are not specific to English - linguistics.stackexchange.com
- technical language - vocabulary that is peculiar to a given technical situation - often people in those areas (like math or biology) will have a much better idea of the nuances. I'm not saying I consider these off-topic for ELU, just more likely an authoritative answer somewhere else
- request for resources - these are off-topic for main but should be welcome on ELU.meta (like this very question).
Note that this is an incomplete list and, of those here, have poor explanations. I expect answers to this meta question will elaborate and give suggestions on what to do, links or references or rewrites.
There should also be something that says that some ostensibly off-topic questions (that are considered on-topic just by the culture here (maybe editing and adding to the following is enough):
- provenance of proverbs or idioms - eg "Who said 'Even the devil can quote scripture' first?"
- Closest corresponding proverb to a foreign proverb - eg "In my native language, there is a saying that goes "rem acu tetigisti" which means something like 'the needle was touched'. Is there something like this in English?"
- history of English speaking peoples - as this informs how dialects come about
- comparison of synonyms - ostensibly could be figured out by looking at a/multiple dictionary(ies). But dictionaries aren't that comprehensive.
Repository of Polite Responses - these are about being polite about poor questions (on- or off- topic), rather than addressing how to off-topic questions answered elsewhere)
What Good Reference Works On English Are Available - these are about helping to support/give references for on-topic questions