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A recent question asking for a suitable "one-word menu title" has recently been closed ("off topic"). One of the reasons given in a comment is

"...because each word request needs to be set in a textual context (a sentence or a paragraph)...".

Is this an accurate interpretation of ELU guidelines - words can only be discussed on ELU if they are part of a sentence or paragraph?

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I posted the comment you’re referring to.

It’s not necessarily the case that words can only be discussed in the context of sentences or paragraphs. We can talk about the etymology of a word without much context, for example.

However, word requests are a bit of a contentious topic here. I think they can be quite interesting, but some hold the view that they should be considered off-topic, particularly when it starts to blur into “give this thing a name”. After all, there’s little difference between asking for a variable name (which is explicitly off-topic) and asking for a menu title. And the ‘best’ title might not even be an English word - it could be an icon or emoji.

The compromise is that if something is really a question about English rather than about UI etc, it should be set in a ‘literary’ context. That’s what gives rise to the request for a sentence.

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In the help center "Naming, including naming programming variables/classes" is listed as off-topic, which might lead some people to think that the "What is a one-word menu title for such a menu item?" is off-topic. That's not really the question here though - the question is "What is the English equivalent for this German word that we use in this situation. If y'all don't want it, that is perfectly on-topic on ELL.

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Good question. There is no blanket rule that questions about words are off-topic solely because the context is other than a sentence, such as a label of a menu tab.

The purpose of EL&U is to maintain the definitive list of English language frequently-answered questions (and even the long tail of infrequently-answered questions). Some basic required properties of an on-topic EL&U question are:

  1. The question is about the the English language: word meanings, pronunciation, spelling, grammar, history, etc.

    The closed question has this property.

  2. The question is about English, not about learning English (see ELL) or about this site (see ELU meta).

    The closed question has this property also.

  3. An English expert could give the question an objectively correct answer. That is, it does not merely solicit ideas, items, opinions, and discussion. When answered, the question is properly part of an English FAQ. And it is not dependent on expert knowledge of fields other than English to answer it.

    It seems the closed question can have an objectively correct answer. Essentially it wants the prevalent English word used to title the "how to get to our office" section of a website. For context, it explains that in German, there is such a word, "Anreise".

    The question could be improved by changing the last sentence, which currently makes it more of a German translation question (and therefore dependent on expert knowledge of German to answer it).

    On the other hand, if the asker really does have a subjective question that is looking for ideas, items, opinions, and discussion, great! A welcoming place for that discussion is our English Language & Usage Chat. Refer them there.

  4. The asker has already done the research preliminaries and is not using the site to avoid making an effort.

    The closed question is weak in this area, but looks like it could be reopened with not much work.

    The question already mentions the words "arrival", "journey", and "location", but has not explained why they were rejected. "Sound odd" and "only one I can think of" is not enough. Otherwise the question did a pretty good job of giving the context. It should also point to the specific reference works consulted.

In my experience, adding constructive comments asking for the missing information often turns a question around.

In the case of a word request, you can refer the asker to the single-word-request tag wiki, which details the information needed. What we want on any word request is research details, especially solutions already rejected, and why, plus the desired connotation, register (formality), part of speech, and exact context in which it is to be used, including the exact enclosing sentence or passage (in this case, not applicable). This is the information that can make a word request clear and narrow enough to be answered objectively, not just responded to with ideas, items, or opinions.

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    The tag wiki doesn't require the "exact context in which [the word] is to be used", rather it says "YOU MUST INCLUDE A SAMPLE SENTENCE demonstrating how the word would be used" (emphasis in the original). I have always taken that to mean that if the asker doesn't have a particular contextual sentence in mind, they need to make up something appropriate (as a shortcut to describing required register, part of speech, etc.). In this case, maybe something like I'd like to visit, but I need ___ to your office or What is your office's real world ___? – 1006a Nov 15 '18 at 19:05
  • @1006a Network wide, "you should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." Also expressed as "not a real question ... unless the asker has demonstrated a practical reason they need to find this", and questions must be "more than just mindless social fun". The SWR tag wiki currently calls for a sample sentence, but the underlying principle is that there must be a practical problem to solve, which must be made clear in the question. For most SWRs that means giving the exact sentence being written, but there are exceptional situations, such as this one. – MetaEd Nov 16 '18 at 16:48

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