Update: Time to vote on answers, or post your own.

As everyone probably knows, very few people actually follow the main rule of :


Thus we have many low-quality questions, many of which get closed. I think we could prevent some of this by warning people with tag warnings (also called "tag tips", originally introduced here), which show up when asking a question and adding a tag that has a warning. It won't stop it completely, but I think that it would definitely be a help, since so many people are receptive to make the change after they're told manually by someone.

You can easily see this feature on other sites, for example with [font-identification] on Graphic Design (you don't need an account there to test this either):

If we come up with a wording most of us agree on, a CM can put this in place for the tag.

It would probably be good to include some other information such as a suggestion to check a thesaurus if relevant, or a link to the tag wiki. However, it can't be too long. I'm not sure what the maximum is (do note that RPG for example has a warning with 455 characters), but there's also a limit to what people can reasonably be expected to read.

Answers & Voting

I'm not going to give a suggestion in the question so that voting is more clear:

  • Votes on this question signal whether you are for or against a tag warning in general.
  • If you have a suggestion for the wording, post an answer. Voting on answers expresses agreement/disagreement with said wording. If you have a minor change, leave a comment on that answer.

Side note:

  • I'd like to see the tag wiki reorganized so that the information people need to see is at the top instead of at the bottom after I've already run out of patience.
  • I'm pretty sure most people correctly tag their questions with (or a synonym) when they ask it. The query below tells me that as of the last update, there were 12260 questions that started out with the tag. Checking the tags page tells me that there are 15851 questions with the tag right now. This gives ~77%, but some of those original 12260 questions that originally had the tag don't have it anymore, so it's more of an upper bound. Deleted questions would also affect the numbers. Feel free to mess around with the data, but I think what's important right now is that we get a warning on ASAP.


select postid as [Post Link], userid as [User Link], text
from posthistory
where posthistorytypeid=3 /*"inintial tags"*/ and text like '%single-word%'
  • 8
    Regarding your very last sentence, I'm afraid I've lost count of the questions I've retagged from [grammar] to SWR. We probably need to blacklist [grammar] as a tag, and I'm sure that's come up before. This is a good idea though: I haven't seen that feature before and it would be useful here. – Andrew Leach Nov 27 '18 at 22:25
  • 2
    Shameless plug for a related question on MSE – Andrew Leach Nov 27 '18 at 22:28
  • Any word on what we would need to do to get this feature implemented? – 1006a Jan 6 at 19:53
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach: If you want arguments for killing grammar – Wrzlprmft Jan 7 at 9:40
  • For clarification, what implementation is this expecting? Is it an elaboration of a current feature (like a tag description)? Or is it requesting a feature special for ELU that needs to be implemented by the SO devs? Or something else? That is, what can be done within the existing system vs what needs sofware changes? – Mitch Jan 12 at 21:35
  • @Mitch This is an existing feature so no dev work required. When we have a consensus on what the warning text should be, all we need is a community manager to activate it. For reference, here and here are examples of discussions that lead to tag warnings. – Laurel Jan 12 at 21:48
  • @Laurel Nice. Thanks. – Mitch Jan 12 at 21:55
  • I doubt that many people read anything about the rules. But maybe I am unfairly extrapolating from my own experience. I tried several times to read some of the rules, but became afflicted with boredom so intense it was an acute physical pain. I take my hat off to anyone who can read more than a line or two on the help pages without getting up to do something fun, like cleaning the oven. – ab2 Jan 12 at 23:55
  • For what it's worth, my experience on other sites (most specifically Computer Science) is that adding these tag warnings makes no noticeable difference to the rate at which rule-breaking questions get asked. A well-worded warning can't hurt but, alas, you probably shouldn't expect it to achieve anything. – David Richerby yesterday

Per Laurel's request, this is one potential wording. The answer is Community Wiki so please feel free to edit for brevity, clarity, and felicity (but if you fundamentally disagree with the listed requirements it might be better to make a comment or a different answer).

Single word request questions must include:

  • A sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used
  • What thesaurus or dictionary searches you've tried
  • Clear criteria for choosing the "best" word (e.g. register, connotations, part of speech)
  • What words you've considered, and why they don't work for you
  • Whether a compound word or phrase would be acceptable

Review our full requirements for more info.

This list is primarily taken from the tag wiki, in particular paraphrasing the "Question checklist" at the bottom. The bolded item is taken word-for-word from the main tag info.

For those who don't want to follow the links, the "thesaurus" and "dictionary" links go to the appropriate answers in our reference works Meta FAQ. The "full requirements" link is to the tag wiki (same as the link in the paragraph above).

  • I didn't do any real changes with my edits, but right now this is ~560 characters. I'm not sure if there's a limit to how many characters we can have (I should find that out), but we may be able to golf it down a little if needed by using relative links. Other than that I don't see any problems with this. – Laurel Nov 29 '18 at 3:00
  • Whoops—thanks for fixing the link, Laurel! I agree, it would be very helpful to know the character limit, if any, to give us a target for cutting. – 1006a Nov 29 '18 at 4:32
  • 1
    I still don't know what the actual limit is, but there are warnings that are longer than this one so I think it's fine. – Laurel Dec 2 '18 at 3:24
  • @Laurel: Last time I ordered a tag warning, there was on technical length limit, only the consideration that shorter instructions are more likely to be read. – Wrzlprmft Jan 7 at 9:42
  • While I support the reasoning in this, the actual wording poses several problems for me in both asking and answering. "Obvious" is subjective and undefined. How to use a thesaurus or dictionary is unstated, there are many ways that could be interpreted. The requirement for answers is too heavy since English usage is an art and writer's expectations are often different from what they/we accept in the choice of final wording. The simpler, consolidated wording in the other answer solves these for me. Agree with rationale, not the restrictive while unclear wording, IMHO. – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 22:04
  • 1
    @JesseSteele I've made an edit to remove "obvious"; does that bullet make more sense to you now? The question about dictionaries and thesauruses is intentionally open-ended, since people will use those references in different ways depending on how they're coming at the problem (tip-of-the-tongue vs maybe no word exists for this fifty-word concept vs word X is almost right etc.). I'm not sure what you mean about the requirements for answers—can you say more about that? – 1006a Jan 9 at 23:26
  • @1006a That is better. I'd still consolidate thes/dict with "words considered/rejected". IMHO, I think the "search terms" compared against "top rejected results" would be more important than which thes/dict was used... BUT let mods weigh in. Mainly, I think providing information is more important than "proof of homework done". The reason for showing one's research should be to help the answerer stand on the shoulders of a giant, so to speak. – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 23:31
  • @1006a Another thing, remotely related... If I ask how to do something a specific way on Stack Overflow, say "using sed (a program)", many high-reps often answer "don't use sed, use awk (alternate program)"—and their answers are expected to be valid on that site and I have accepted their answers at times. So, I think MAYBE (I'm new) some level of flexibility should be allowed on ELU, say an answer like, "You want a one-word, but consider this phrase or sentence to achieve the same goal." In sales and product management, it also applies... – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 23:39
  • @1006a ... I THINK some adaptability to a different answer than expected should be permitted and reflected, but not loudly, in these instructions. Words like "prefer" rather than "require/expect" might help—but I wouldn't want that to interfere with mods' work. That said, knowing the importance of one-word vs phrase is will be a must in providing useful answers, even if different than expected. – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 23:39
  • @JesseSteele I was thinking that bullet (and the research requirement generally) would serve two purposes. First, as you say, to avoid repeating the OP's efforts. But also as a gentle nudge to askers to actually look in one of the resources if they haven't. I like SWRs, but I still get a little irritated when people ask for "another word for angry" and then get fifteen different answers and ultimately checkmark "mad". Would a preface like "What you've already done to look for the word, such as..." be an improvement, or just wordier? – 1006a Jan 9 at 23:40
  • @1006a I'll put on my "PM" hat here and say I get your underling concern. How's about getting people to do their homework by asking them 1. "exact words searched" and 2. "top rejected results from which source". Re-word it, please, but that idea. This achieves: A. Focus on researched results, not which search engine got them, (Google is often better than native site searches, don't tell). B. In "PM", it assumes homework was done without asking for it, a plus. C. It provides info for the answer. Clearer/helpful? – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 23:48
  • @1006a Maybe we should move to chat... But, the problem I'm seeing here is that requirements that are too heavy would eventually spill over into an FR for more fields in a question, and I don't have enough ibuprofen to imagine what that would look like on the official Meta. – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 23:50
  • 2
    @JesseSteele In terms of flexibility, lack of an "example sentence" is a close reason for SWRs, and lack of research is a close reason for any kind of question, so those really are "musts". I'd say the "clear criteria" piece is meant to avoid Primarily Opinion Based questions/answers (also a close reason), so that's also not really optional, but could potentially be reworded. The bullet about words considered could probably, as you say, be combined with the research requirement...I'll work on it, or maybe someone else will have a good suggestion. – 1006a Jan 9 at 23:51
  • @JesseSteele The bullet about whether phrases are acceptable is more because answers suggesting phrases are often downvoted (or just not posted) if the only tag is SWR, even if the OP is (secretly) OK with them. – 1006a Jan 9 at 23:52
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 23:56

I have a qualm with this, in that we need to consult a community moderator. That makes altering these rules harder if ever deemed necessary. I dislike that the contextual sentence requirement can summarily close a question, despite however much better it might than other single word requests be in other respects, and suspect that it actually lowers average question quality.

However, that would not be so much of a problem if we had higher compliance in the first place, so I do offer my tentative support for this plan of action. I have my doubts that it will work though: The how to ask sidebar has not really seemed to help us get people to consult dictionaries for questions.

Speaking of dictionaries, the normal sort do not really help somebody to find a word, unless you expect questioners to go through the bother of reading every word contained within one and reverse dictionaries are of questionable value, so I advise against the mention of those.

Similarly, the contextual sentence requirement exists so we can determine a word's register, part of speech and the such so I do not think we should bother the questioner with that responsibility.

Also, we have a separate tags for and to indicate which the questioner would prefer.

I would prefer to keep this restricted to common reasons a Single Word Request might actually be closed.

As for how to phrase it, I like this:

All Single Word Requests must include:

  • An illustrative fill-in-the-blank context, showing how the word might be used

  • A detailed description of the word's desired meaning and use

  • Consultation with a cited thesaurus, and why its suggestions were rejected, if requesting a synonym or antonym.

I think removing the extraneous details makes it easier to parse, and more likely to be read in full. It also helps it to fit if we have character or list item limitations.

  • Could we have both? Since I've gotten "reviewer power", I've been noticing a lot more poor asked single word requests. Since I'm limited to 11 flags per day, I usually just comment and ask for improvements. If we have the pop-up with requirements for the tag, it might help cut down on the need for revisions. – miltonaut Dec 1 '18 at 18:28
  • @miltonaut I'm not sure what you mean. I am mostly just proposing an alternative wording, albeit with some cautions. I don't think the pop-up could be written two different ways. – Tonepoet Dec 1 '18 at 22:26
  • I thought you were proposing language for closing poorly written SWRs instead of the SWR requirement dialogue. – miltonaut Dec 1 '18 at 22:30
  • @Miltonaut I wish the closure reason could be that detailed, but they all seem to be two sentences long at the most suggesting that this is the limit. I think that is why we defer to the tag info for the full list of requirements. – Tonepoet Dec 1 '18 at 23:18
  • 1
    @miltonaut and Tonepoet. Actually, the size limit for off-topic close reasons is 400 characters (source), so this isn't too long for that. – Laurel Dec 2 '18 at 3:28
  • I like this wording because it leans on being open-ended, less subjective, more clear, and remains useful. – Jesse Steele Jan 9 at 21:57
  • The only thing I would add to your phrasing would be a link to an exemplar. The only thing I would remove is “fill-in-the-blank”, simply because the highest voted SWRs don’t have that, they describe the nuances with text. I think that might actually be better than posing the question like it’s a quiz. – ColleenV Jan 10 at 14:41
  • Don't worry about "summarily close". A better way to think of it is "quickly pause answer-adding until the question has been edited to provide the missing material." That's how on hold and close work and precisely what they are for. – Kate Gregory 2 days ago

The message needs to be short and easy enough for less competent speakers to understand

To get the best answers, please include the following:

  • A sample sentence showing how the word would be used
  • Provide as much detail and context as you can
  • Tell us which words were discarded after using a thesaurus or a dictionary, and why.
  • If the word you're looking for is an adjective/noun/pejorative/slang, etc.

(1) Description of a circumstance that could benefit by taking

(2)"an exact string of words" and reducing it to a single one. Then provide

(3) an example sentence containing either a [blank] or "that exact string of words" to be replaced.

Problem > Overly wordy idea > Box your solution has to fit in.

Provide a description of a circumstance that could benefit by taking "an exact string of words" and reducing it to a single one. Then provide an example sentence containing either a [blank] or "that exact string of words" to be replaced.

Your question has to meet those three criteria. A description, "a reverse definition", and a place to put the imaginary word.

  • I can't help but find this confusing/bizarre. It's not worded like a warning (part of it's a sentence fragment) and I can't figure out the significance of the numbers. – Laurel yesterday
  • @Laurel - SWRs fail when they only have either a sentence with a blank, or "a reverse definition". A sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used can be either of those. We need both. – Mazura yesterday
  • You must provide a sample sentence with a blank, and provide your most concise overly wordy idea within a set of quotation marks. Ideally within a sentence with surrounding context. – Mazura yesterday
  • This question almost gets it right, but it wasn't specific enough (rather it was too specific) and now its answers are fail. – Mazura yesterday

I think an available option should be no action. I don't perceive any sort of problem with the current flow of SWR questions.

  • I agree with the first part (as one reasonable option) but not necessarily the second. The current close labels and the ability to comment asking for clarification may well be sufficient. – Mitch Jan 12 at 21:30
  • "No action" is an available option, and it can be upvoted if people want it, or downvoted if people think it's unconscionable and action must be taken. – Andrew Leach Jan 13 at 8:48
  • @AndrewLeach it can be upvoted if people find it noble, and just, and wise, and it can be downvoted if people feel that their baser instincts should prevail! – jlovegren Jan 13 at 16:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .