Due to organic nature of SE sites, both in their genesis and usage, there are and there will always be cases where there are sites that overlap in their subjects.

Classical example are all of older sites - stackoverflow, serverfault, superuser and their offspring e.g. drupal. In these cases it is fairly simple to determine where does a question really belong - the subjects are well delineated (though borderline cases can still occur).

Looking at EL&U the relatives are: literature (will soon become beta) and writers (active). These sometimes overlap in their subjects and will probably continue to do so in a way that is different from stackoverflow and superuser.

This raises two questions, one general and the other specific to this question:

  1. What should be the attitude towards ambiguous questions? Should such questions be left to see if they get good answers or immediately referred to other site?

  2. The question I referred to is one of questions tagged with a tag rhetoric. The problem is that although rhetoric deals with effective use of language in general, the names of figures (see the right pane here) are mostly known from analysis of literature (poetry and prose) and are perceived as specific for those subjects.

I am biased towards keeping rhetorics in EL&U, though have no objections to take it wherever it belongs - the primary goal here is to lower the discussion noise by making the rules easier to follow.

  • 1
    BTW, I predict that Literature.SE will fail for the same reason Atheism.SE failed: It is simply not possible to ask non-boring questions that may be satisfied by specific "correct" answers which do not involve lengthy discussion.
    – Robusto
    Jun 17, 2011 at 15:37
  • 3
    Also, where is it written that Writers.SE is only about English writing? It seems people only post questions in and about writing in English there, but the scope of the site only mentions English in the context of EL&U, that Writers doesn't want questions about "the strictly interpreted correctness of English grammar or syntax rules (please ask those on English Stack Exchange, instead)." This blurs the line even more for me.
    – Robusto
    Jun 17, 2011 at 19:09
  • @Robusto: Does StackOverflow have a language requirement? (Honest question.)
    – MrHen
    Jun 17, 2011 at 19:55
  • @MrHen: I don't know. (Honest answer.)
    – Robusto
    Jun 17, 2011 at 19:58
  • Literature is closing.
    – Hugo
    Apr 27, 2012 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


I am not actually seeing what the problem is here. Why would the linked question get sent to Writers? These are the questions I can see about rhetoric:

  • What is [form or type of rhetoric]?

  • What does rhetoric mean?

  • What rhetorical technique is used [in sentence]?

I see all of those forms as on-topic. The linked example appears to be like the last.

These types of questions are all on-topic for other styles of technique:

  • What is [type of fallacy]?

  • What fallacy is being committed [in sentence]?

And, really, the heart of the question is a classification of sentences instead of words. Sentences are still on-topic here at EL&U:

  • What is a run-on sentence?

  • What does this sentence mean?

And so on.

  • +1, one of the reasons, beside agreeing, I like your answer is that it is written in a style that can be referred to (of course, if it withstands the comments) later - with examples (though only positive).
    – Unreason
    Jun 17, 2011 at 18:25

I don't think we should be too strict in our interpretation of what does or doesn't constitute a proper question for EL&U. We run the risk of reducing our now thriving site to an empty, forbidding place full of frowning pedants whose main concern appears to the outside world to be which questions are worthy of our attention (the elect) and which questions should be cast into perdition (i.e. Writers.SE).

Rhetoric is a part of the English language, and it is also a part of writing. There is virtually nothing (save perhaps pronunciation) that falls under the topic of English that cannot also fall under the topic of writing, and vice versa. If a question is asked in such a way that it appears to be asking for instruction in how to write, I say send it to Writers.SE. But if it is merely asking how a rhetorical figure means something in English, I say we should deal with that here.

Again, much of our success may be attributed to our eclecticism. And I don't think we should try too hard to find a verbal monoculture that suits a chosen few.

  • Hear, hear! "We run the risk of reducing our now thriving site to an empty, forbidding place full of frowning pedants whose main concern appears to the outside world to be which questions are worthy of our attention (the elect) and which questions should be cast into perdition (i.e. Writers.SE)." — exactly my view. Jun 21, 2011 at 2:46

Well, you already know my opinion. If I'm allowed to rephrase a bit, if there is a better site for a question, it should go there. If some sites are more generic than others (like stackoverflow and superuser you mentioned) then the less generic one should be prioritized. In our argument the question was, in my opinion, about a literature. Although it may be proper for EL&U, there is a better site to ask it, thus I agreed with Alenanno's comment, that writers is more fit for it (I'm sorry I used stronger word "wrong forum").

  • Rephrase all you want, here on meta we can beat it to slow death :) 1) Could you give further arguments for your opinion that the question is about literature? (it would be helpful to have those as they can serve as a rule when this issue comes again; I do notice that OP over there did say 'literary technique', but I take that as not necessarily correct - to give analogy, to me it is like saying 'what is the most simple sort in java?', as the theory of sorting algorithms do not fall specifically under java)
    – Unreason
    Jun 17, 2011 at 13:43
  • 2) Re case of more generic and less generic - I agree in the cases when it is easy to distinguish. But with rhetoric you will often find it quite hard. For example writers faq does not mention where questions of English usage in this sense go and neither does EL&U faq.
    – Unreason
    Jun 17, 2011 at 13:50
  • @Unreason 1) I have to agree, that in this case distinguishing whether it is a rhetoric question or a literature one is difficult. I'm very tempted to leave it at "my gut feeling". Probably, my opinion is based on me perceiving "sacrificers and butchers" as a metaphor. I'm not event sure that this was correct interpretation, because after reading your answer I've got another one I decided should not be mentioned due to lack of context. Probably OP's using the word "literary" did have some influence on me too.
    – Philoto
    Jun 17, 2011 at 14:24
  • @Unreason 2) At first it seemed a lot easier... but I have to agree, that writers can't be considered less generic unless we are ready to admit, that stackexchange sites deal only with English language. I'm pretty sure, that on writers all questions are about writing in English language, making it safe to consider writers less generic then EL&U. This approach is arguable, but I believe something usefull can be built upon it.
    – Philoto
    Jun 17, 2011 at 14:32
  • @Unreason Oh, and your exaqmple about sorting in Java... it can be read as "what is the most simple sort already implemented in Java" which is a legitimate question :)
    – Philoto
    Jun 17, 2011 at 14:34
  • @Philoto, by that same argument "What is the most used metaphor for the Moon in English language?" falls under EL&U; or to generalize it: all application of rhetorical figures to English language fall under EL&U (or to remind you - that is why I asked over there if the question was rephrased would it be appropriate). :D I think the main point was and still is - what should be objective (or usable) criteria for determining where the question goes (phrased in a way that could go into faq)?
    – Unreason
    Jun 17, 2011 at 15:20
  • @Unreason By that same argument "What is the most used metaphor for the Moon in English language?" Again falls under writers. Can it be asked there? Yes. Is writers less generic than EL&U? Yes. (though this is arguable, see my previous comment). I'm afraid what you're asking for is impossible, especially on the forums we are talking about. It's language and literature, they can't be ruled by objective criteria!
    – Philoto
    Jun 17, 2011 at 15:31
  • @Philoto, I see your point. Well, I would settle for usable criteria :) Gut feelings will just create noise in the long run.
    – Unreason
    Jun 17, 2011 at 16:03

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