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While going through the review queue, I've seen a few word/phrase request questions being marked for closure because of being opinion based. Since English is such a rich language, almost every word/phrase request will have multiple potentially correct answers. It is entirely appropriate for these questions to be opinion based.

Would whoever is voting to close these questions as opinion based please stop?

The close queue is already overloaded, and unnecessarily adding questions to the close queue is slowing down the quality moderation of the site.

Many of these questions are asked by first time users. Arbitrarily punishing them for asking an on topic question will drive many of them away. Hopefully we still want new users, and are willing to smooth off their rough edges.

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    I won't, no. Unless I have reason to think there's one particular "answer" word that practically all users will agree is "the [one and only] right answer", I will continue to consider POB to be a valid VTC reason in such contexts. – FumbleFingers Mar 8 at 18:39
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    @FumbleFingers if you dislike them so much, why not simply ignore the tag? Why ruin the experience for a whole group of users if you're not interested in that particular part of the site? – JJJ Mar 8 at 20:50
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    @FumbleFingers How about posting an answer explaining your rationale so that we can see the ratio of people who agree with you to people who disagree with you? – CJ Dennis Mar 8 at 21:17
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    What do we care (and why should @FF care) how many people agree with him? That's the point of distinguishing personal opinions from facts. English is not a matter of voting; everybody already has their own grammar, after all. – John Lawler Mar 8 at 22:27
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    @JohnLawler Because we're discussing the site "rules", not English "rules". – CJ Dennis Mar 8 at 22:30
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    Site "rules" are like traffic signals in some places -- interpreted as vague guidelines instead of enforceable rules. As I've said before, the basic presupposition of SE's -- that there is a good answer for any question -- is simply wrong when applied to English grammar and usage, and any attempt to enforce it is doomed. There is no consistency to the answers here, and nobody can impose any, because English grammar and usage is a matter of individual knowledge and habit, and not of demonstrable facts (like programming). EU is imperfect and will remain so, and we'll do what we can with it. – John Lawler Mar 8 at 22:36
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    @JohnLawler If that's what you believe, you should VTC the whole site. I really don't know why you've brought up grammar. What does grammar have to do with the meaning of words? – CJ Dennis Mar 8 at 22:45
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    Meanings of words are also matters of individual knowledge and habit. Like grammar. Like pragmatics. Like phonology. Like all aspects of language. Dictionaries and official rules come much later and after much confusion. As we demonstrate daily. – John Lawler Mar 8 at 23:02
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    @JohnLawler The meaning of words is not subject to opinion. Otherwise, we would not be communicating. I'm sure we agree on the meaning of the twenty six unique words I used in this message. – CJ Dennis Mar 8 at 23:29
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    We certainly don't agree about the meaning of meaning; I doubt we are in agreement about communicating or word, Language is sound. Meaning is opinion. – John Lawler Mar 8 at 23:43
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    @JohnLawler: Language is sound. Meaning is opinion. I'll file that along with All language is metaphor - which I'm pretty sure I picked up from you some years back. Along with something along the lines of writing is a poor attempt to reflect real "language", which is spoken, an insight which I still consider myself fortunate to have been granted (it seems obviously true to me once it's been explicitly stated, but I often feel that many people think almost the precise opposite). – FumbleFingers Mar 9 at 17:50
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    As a general matter, whenever something is really a mater of opinion, then it is not a matter of opinion that it is a matter of opinion. If it is a matter of opinion whether the answer to some question is A or B, one can say 'It is a matter of opinion whether A or B'; that wouldn't itself be a matter of opinion. – jsw29 Mar 10 at 15:10
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    Just the comments are an example of the bitchiness and pedantry that makes this site frustrating. For the record, answers to requests for words are not, in my opinion, doomed to be opinion-based. If that were the case, then every answer here about any language question would be an opinion, because English is not Math. – user8356 Mar 12 at 17:14
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    @FumbleFingers, are you saying that POB is equivalent to there not being "one and only one answer"? In other words, more than one correct answer implies it is POB? If there were two synonyms that had dictionary definitions that fitted the question, would either answer necessarily be an opinion? – Dr Xorile Mar 13 at 13:50
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    @FumbleFingers, you said, “Unless I have reason to think there's one particular "answer" word that practically all users will agree is "the [one and only] right answer"”. So are you saying that multiple right answers means it's an opinion? Because in mathematics you have valid problems that have multiple correct answers, but are not considered opinions. So is that really the criterion you're using? Or can you clarify the condition under which you would not VTC such a question? Maybe an example each way? Note, this may not be quick so adding an answer might be better. – Dr Xorile Mar 13 at 17:11
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Let's talk about what "opinion based" actually means.

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than [on] facts, references, or specific expertise.

Note that the wording from the Help Centre and the review queue are almost identical.

When reviewing a question, this is the text you see:

This question has been flagged as:
Opinion-based This question is likely to be answered with opinions rather than facts and citations. It should be updated so it will lead to fact-based answers.

And finally this is what appears on a question closed for being opinion based:

Closed. This question is opinion-based. It is not currently accepting answers.

Update the question so it can be answered with facts and citations. This will help others answer the question. You can edit the question.

The common keywords are:

  • facts
  • references & citations

So, let's consider an example question (ignoring all quality issues except whether it's opinion based or not):

What is a word meaning "great in size"?

Can this be answered factually? Yes. Can this be answered with references and citations? Yes. Is it a matter of opinion whether any word means "great in size"? No. If you believe as a matter of principle that all meanings are a matter of opinion, you shouldn't be voting to close these questions. Ignore them and let others handle them.

One answer could be:

From Wiktionary:

big (comparative bigger, superlative biggest)

  1. Of great size, large.

This is clearly factual, cites a reliable reference, and is therefore not opinion based.


It seems that some users think that if a question can have multiple right answers (e.g. big, large, huge, enormous, etc.) it is opinion based. The whole point of Stack Exchange is to get multiple correct answers and upvote the best ones. English is no different in this regard.

It also seems that there are a lot of users who think that all word request questions are low quality and reduce the value of the site. This has been discussed many times before and the consensus has always been that they are on topic. While they are on topic I will support them, as long as they have no other quality issues. If they ever become off topic I will assist in closing them.

I think certain users are very biased against word request questions, and are voting to close them not based on the merits of the question in question, but from their own prejudices. Please stop doing this. You don't have to like everything. Accept that these questions are on topic, ignore them, and focus on what you do like.

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This question appears to conflate a number of very different issues, so the simple answer would have to be "No". The more comprehensive answer would be "It depends".

Flagging vs voting

No one with the 3,000 rep required for close-voting should be flagging a question for closure, they should simply VTC. If the question is whether a user with less than 3,000 rep should flag a SWR as POB (don't you just love acronymic answers?), I think the benefit of having a user actively involved in community moderation far outweighs the minor downside of a few questions that might inappropriately be directed to the Review Queue.

If a close flag is inappropriately raised, one possible outcome is that it will expire after an algorithm-determined number of days. I'm not sure what the system interaction is between Review Queue votes to "Leave Open" and the original flag; it would be preferable that if sufficient Leave Open votes are cast and the question is removed from the Review Queue, this also results in the close flag being registered as "declined", because this provides a feedback mechanism for the flagger. [Can anyone confirm if this is the case? If it's not, I'll post something recommending it as a system fix.]

VTC on SWR as POB

No one should be systematically voting all SWRs as POB, as this would suggest that they're not reviewing each question on its merits. The issue is therefore whether a particular SWR could reasonably be viewed as POB. The Help Centre offers the following guidance:

Opinion-based - discussions focused on diverse opinions are great, but they just don't fit our format well.

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than on facts, references, or specific expertise.

It’s often possible to rewrite opinion-based questions to focus on a more fact-based line of questioning. If you see a way to do this, consider editing the question.

I think the correct approach is to examine the question's actual wording, and in particular assess what kind of response it's seeking. If it's likely to result in a correct, evidence-based answer, then it should not be closed as POB [but it might still warrant closure on other grounds such as being off-topic or too broad or undefined]. However, if the wording is likely to generate opinions rather than solutions, the appropriate action would be either to edit the post to "fix" it, or VTC as POB.

For example:

"I'm writing an article about using tools, and I want to capture that feeling you get when you know how to use a tool, e.g. 'When I use a tool properly, I feel _____.' Please tell me what your favourite feeling would be."

I would have no hesitation in closing such a question as POB. Compare that with a slightly reworded example...

"I'm writing an article about using tools, and I want to capture that feeling not just of satisfaction but to a degree smug superiority when someone is adept in the use of a particular tool e.g. 'There's nothing better than the _____ of being expert in one's tool selection and usage.'"

This is clearly seeking a specific word that would be the best fit for the intended usage. Users can vote the question up or down based on its usefulness, but it's a legitimate question and is unlikely to generate primarily opinion-based answers.

Voting vs closing

It's worth making one final point: the idea of requiring five votes to close a question is to ensure that any action is representative of the broader EL&U community's preferences rather than being subject to individual and subjective interpretations or sensitivities. There are plenty of questions that people have voted to close, often for an objectively sensible reason, but which never receive sufficient VTCs and therefore fall off the review queue, the votes having expired. I don't see this as a problem. If we get to the point one day that reasonable SWRs are regularly receiving the five votes required for closure as POB, we should certainly have a further discussion here on Meta. But I don't see any indication that we're heading in that direction.

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  • The flag raiser gets no immediate notification that their flag was declined. The next time they flag a post they get a message saying "Are you sure? One of your recent flags was declined." It's hard to tell which flag was declined. – CJ Dennis Mar 9 at 3:41
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    @CJDennis yes, I'm aware of that. A user can also check their flag status on their profile page, which will reveal exactly which flags have been declined and the reason given. I was more interested in whether a flag gets marked as "declined" if the question receives sufficient Leave Open votes to remove it from the review queue. I suspect it might not. – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Mar 9 at 3:50
  • @Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Your latter two examples are very telling. But I take another message from it. It seems as if a questioner requires to chant a magic spell perfectly accurately to protect the post against deletion. In both cases, the answer will be a word that the answerer favours - i.e. the same answer. I find there are various ways of asking – Greybeard Mar 12 at 10:22
  • I've updated the question. I was only asking about voting to close. – CJ Dennis Mar 16 at 4:53
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Questions meeting the criteria outlined in the tag's about page should not be flagged.

Questions almost meeting the criteria should be improved through edits and asking for clarifications in comments.

Questions that are far off should be flagged to close.

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  • Questions that are mistagged should have their tags corrected. – CJ Dennis Mar 13 at 22:32

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